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Challenge / Goal

A sustainable future in smart cities and districts requires behavioural change. In order to design for this change, current behaviours as well as drivers and barriers for more sustainable choices need to be understood in their actual context. Simultaneously, behaviours are challenging to study, especially in the dynamic context of mobility.

Mobile probing offers an interactive method for understanding citizens' behaviours and related challenges and opportunities. By designing solutions for actual citizen needs in collaboration with citizens, more socially and environmentally sustainable behaviour change and living in future cities can be achieved.


Mobile probing is a self-documentation based method. It enables studying citizens (mobility) behaviours in an interactive manner through their own eyes in real-time. The method was further developed and applied in Espoo, Finland. In the Espoo case, an 8-week mobile probing study was conducted with 10 Espoo citizens as following: 

1.) Participants were recruited through a digital survey shared in mobility-related social media forums in Facebook and a consent form was signed for ensuring transparent data management.

2.) Pre-interviews were conducted for achieving a general understanding of participants' life situation and mobility context.

3.) An 8-week mobile probing study was conducted through WhatsApp. Participants documented their mobility-related choices and behaviours through WhatsApp based on weekly tasks/questions sent by the researcher on WhatsApp.

4.) Participants were interviewed based on their self-documentation material for gaining a deeper understanding of their behaviour and factors affecting these behaviours.

5.) Sustainable mobility challenges were identified from the research material by two researchers. 

6.) A workshop was organised for presenting the identified challenges and co-designing solutions for these challenges.

7.) Feedback was collected related to the quality of the aforementioned citizen engagement process.

Finally, the identified challenges and ideated solutions were further developed and validated in a holistic manner with various stakeholders, thus involving also the provider and enabler aspect to developing smart city solutions.

As an outcome of the mobile probing, it is possible to get insights on citizens' daily mobility habits and recognise common behavioural patterns in the city context to design new mobility solutions. The method provides background knowledge for designing new solutions based on user needs and it can be applied also in other fields than just mobility.

Citizen participation

The mobile probing study was designed, piloted, and successfully utilized with 10 Espoo citizens.


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Time period

Planning time: Less than 6 months

Implementation time: Less than 6 months

End users

All Citizens

    Main benefits

  • Facilitating citizen engagement

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