Geographic Information System
What started as a simple method to track the spread of cholera in 1854 in London has now become a critical tool for researchers, managers, and scientists. When John Snow, a British physician, mapped the streets, houses, and water lines on a map, he noticed the power of spatial analysis in drilling down to the source of the epidemic. With the invention of computers, Roger Tomlinson coined the term Geographic Information System (GIS), which has several use cases in a range of industries today.
What is a geographic information system?
Research and strategy-building teams cannot process data extensively without its geographical relevance, spatial relationships, patterns, and trends. GIS integrate all types of data with a map showing location information. It helps businesses understand patterns and relationships in the geographical context.
What is geospatial data?
Time-based information that is connected to a specific location on the surface of the Earth is known as geospatial data. It can highlight patterns and trends and shed light on how different factors relate to one another. GIS is the storage, analysis, and visualisation of data using geographic software that combines spatial and non-spatial data. On the other hand, the term ‘geospatial’ describes the environment in which data is linked to a specific place or geographic point.
While every geospatial technology is a type of GIS, not all geospatial technology is a form of GIS. More technically, the term ‘geospatial’ refers to a wide range of geographic mapping and imaging technologies, of which GIS is one.
What is GIS mapping?
GIS mapping parses and visualises geospatial information at four levels:
- Create geographic data.
- Manage the data.
- Analyse the data to find patterns.
- Display the findings on a map.
Some real-life examples of GIS mapping are reporting power outages, studying crime patterns, routing vehicles, finding new store locations, isolating the source of disease, and forecasting weather changes.
How does a geographic information system work?
Geospatial mapping technology provides actionable insights based on intelligence from all types of data.
- Mapping: Geographic containers for layers and analytics that you can easily share or embed in apps for device-agnostic and global access
- Data collection: Includes information such as imagery, features, and base maps that link to tables and spreadsheets
- Data analysis: Evaluating, estimating, predicting, interpreting, and understanding using spatial analysis for better decision-making
- Platform-agnostic access: Usage of GIS applications on mobile phones, desktops, laptops, or tablets
What are the components that make it possible?
- Hardware: This comprises a workstation that runs GIS software and is attached to ancillary equipment. Mobile GIS systems provide the necessary technology in the field.
- Software: This includes cloud-based GIS software that creates, edits, and analyses spatial and attribute data.
- People: This refers to well-trained and skilled GIS professionals who are key to getting the GIS job right.
- Data: Vector and raster are two types of data that a GIS system uses to reference locations on Earth. While vector data represent lines, points, and polygons, raster data is cell-based and comprise digital elevation models and aerial imagery.
- Environment conservation: Monitoring climate change, performing impact assessment, and studying groundwater usage
- Defence: Gathering location-based intelligence and managing military satellites and logistics
- Agriculture: Applications in soil mapping, precision farming, and crop productivity
- Forestry: Managing timber, tracking deforestation, and monitoring forest inventory
- Real estate: Useful in market analysis, zoning, and house valuations
- Emergency response services: Indicating the spread of diseases and pandemics, disaster response, and public health requirements
Some of the other applications of GIS are in education, manufacturing, telecommunications, healthcare, petroleum and other natural resource mining, electric and gas utilities, insurance, and government.