Foursquare Data Viz Shows The Pulse Of New York, London, Tokyo

The startup turns its data into fascinating visualizations of urban ebbs and flows.

The secret sauce of Foursquare is the massive amount of location data it collects: 4.5 billion check-ins shared by its 40 million users. For non-MIT graduates, however, it's often hard to grasp why such data—or any Big Data, for that matter—is even valuable, especially given the unwieldy cache of information Foursquare has gathered. But a new set of data-viz videos produced by the startup turns its data from an intangible mess to a fascinating visual feast.

Released today, the data visualizations show the pulse of the most popular cities on Foursquare. According to a company spokesperson, the company "took a year of check-ins and condensed them to show what each city looks like on an average day." The company has done similar things before, but it's fun to see this sort of eye candy captured in cities ranging from Chicago to London and Tokyo. It gives a better sense of why Foursquare's trove of data is such a treasure: It not only indicates where people are but, more significantly, how, when, and why they're going there.


Color-coded signals show at what times of day and by what means users travel to various locations. In New York, for example, you can see yellow streaks of light zoom into Manhattan as users commute to work, and then slip away as they head home; at night, the city lights up in blue as more users head to nightlife spots.

New York:

It's certainly sexy—the color streaks resemble what I imagine an eagle-eye, time-lapsed view of the world of Tron would look like—but it's also informative, giving a strong overview of what makes cities tick during the day. "The cities light up a little differently: You can see constant travel between airports in Chicago and ferries crossing the Bosphorus in Istanbul," the Foursquare spokesperson says. "In San Francisco, we zoomed in, so you can actually see individual streets light up throughout the day."

Check out more of the videos below.


San Francisco:



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  • Kuldeep Janardan Dhole


    Can you please guide me how to create exactly similar data visualization for other data?

    Please tell what data input is needed, what format, what API, what tool, wtc

  • t.vincent

    Meanwhile, I'd REALLY like to get in depth in some of these cities, see how things change by block, by neighborhood, through the day.  Otherwise, NYC is a chaotic mess.  Accurate as that may be, it could be saying more to architects, urban planners and designers.

  • JohnS

    While this is a very intriguing idea, as a Chicago resident I can say without a doubt after viewing the Chicago map, that these representations are phony. For example, any Chicago-area resident could tell you in seconds that none of the busy "travel" paths depicted represent anything close to reality. (I and everyone else who gets to O'Hare on the Kennedy Expressway would love to know this fantastic straight, diagonal route through Chicago's residential neighborhoods!) It also shows busy travel paths...over Lake Michigan; can you check-in while flying? Nice try, but I'd love to see something truly derived from check-in data.

  • GEOpdx

    Yes, you can check in while flying.  The strait lines you see are most likely air corridors. In some cases they are also rail lines.  

  • t.vincent

    It is derived from checkin data, drawing a straight line between places that people check in...