Integrating multi-source big data to infer building functions

Ning Niu, Xiaoping Liu, He Jin, Xinyue Ye, Yu Liu, Xia Li, Yimin Chen, Shaoying Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

91 Scopus citations


Information about the functions of urban buildings is helpful not only for developing a better understanding of how cities work, but also for establishing a basis for policy makers to evaluate and improve the effectiveness of urban planning. Despite these advantages, however, and perhaps simply due to a lack of available data, few academic studies to date have succeeded in integrating multi-source ‘big data’ to examine urban land use at the building level. Responding to this deficiency, this study integrated multi-source big data (WeChat users’ real-time location records, taxi GPS trajectories data, Points of Interest (POI) data, and building footprint data from high-resolution Quickbird images), and applied the proposed density-based method to infer the functions of urban buildings in Tianhe District, Guangzhou, China. The results of the study conformed to an overall detection rate of 72.22%. When results were verified against ground-truth investigation data, the accuracy rate remained above 65%. Two important conclusions can be drawn from our analysis: 1.The use of WeChat data delivers better inference results than those obtained using taxi data when used to identify residential buildings, offices, and urban villages. Conversely, shopping centers, hotels, and hospitals, were more easily identified using taxi data. 2. The use of integrated multi-source big data is more effective than single-source big data in revealing the relation between human dynamics and urban complexes at the building scale.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1871-1890
Number of pages20
JournalInternational Journal of Geographical Information Science
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2 2017
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Information Systems
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Library and Information Sciences


  • Multi-source big data
  • building functions
  • density-based method


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