Geographic Information System (GIS) is an opportunity for a new look at the world around us. It is essentially a modern computer technology for mapping and analyzing objects and events taking place on the planet. The technology provides unique opportunities for its application in a wide range of tasks related to the analysis and forecasting of phenomena and events in the surrounding world, with understanding and highlighting the main factors and causes, as well as their possible consequences.
Various types of data can be compared and contrasted with the help of GIS. Be it the information about people (population, income, education level, etc) landscape (location of different natural and construction objects), vegetation and soil.
Of course, mapping and geographic analysis is nothing revolutionary in the modern world thanks to the long availability of images of earth from satellites. However, GIS technology provides a new, more efficient, convenient, and faster approach to analyzing and solving issues facing humanity in general, and a specific organization or group of people in particular. Ultimately, it automates the analysis and forecasting process.
Currently, GIS is a huge, multi-million dollar industry, employing thousands of people globally. This technology is used in almost all spheres of human activity, whether it is the analysis of such world-scale and acute problems as fast growing Earth population, environment pollution, deforestation, severe natural disasters, and the solution of particular tasks, such as finding the best routes for logistics, choosing the optimal location for a new facility, laying a pipeline, and much more.
Before jumping into the ways GIS data is reimagining the ways we interact with the information about the world around us, let’s break down what sources of GIS data are actually used for information collection and analysis.
Sources of GIS Data
The main sources of data for GIS include:
- Cartographic materials (topographic and general geographic maps, maps of administrative divisions, cadastral plans, etc.) used in the form of a geodetic coordinate system and flat rectangular coordinates of cartographic projections of source materials, geodetic coordinates and projections of the created base maps, on the basis of which construction of digital models in GIS and practically all their tasks are realized.
- Satellites images retrieved and transmitted to the Earth from the carriers of imaging equipment located in different Earth orbits. The obtained GIS imagery differs in a level of visibility and detailing of displaying objects in several ranges of the electromagnetic spectrum (visible, near infrared, etc), which allows solving a wide range of environmental problems.
- Geodetic measurements, performed by theodolites, electronic tachometers, GPS receivers, etc.
- Statistical services for precise data on various sectors of the national economy, as well as data from stationary measuring stations of observations (hydrological and meteorological data, information on environmental pollution, etc.).
Now, moving on to how we use all this data and how it helps to make our lives easier and more convenient.
Ways GIS Data is Used
Maps hold a special place in GIS technology. The GIS mapping process is much simpler and more flexible than traditional manual or automated mapping methods. It starts by creating a database. As a source of obtaining the initial data, you can also use the digitization of conventional paper maps. GIS-based cartographic databases can be continuous (without division into separate sheets and regions) and not associated with a specific scale.
Based on such databases, it is possible to create maps (in electronic form or as hard copies) for any territory, of any scale, with the necessary load, with its selection and display with the required symbols. At any time, the database can be replenished with new data (for example, from other databases), and the existing data can be corrected if needed. In large organizations, the created topographic database can be used as a basis by other departments and divisions, while data can be quickly copied and sent over local and global networks. Read more about GIS mapping here.
Utility Networks Planning
The possibility of joint use and the database that is constantly growing and corrected by different structural divisions makes it possible to increase the efficiency of the work of each division and the organization as a whole. So, a company engaged in engineering utility networks can clearly plan repair or maintenance work, starting with obtaining complete information and displaying on a computer screen (or on paper copies) of the relevant areas, For example, planning a water supply system, ending with the automatic identification of residents who will be affected by these worksand, notifying them of the timing of the shutdown or interruptions in the water supply.
Disaster Management and Mitigation
Geographic Information Systems are widely used at all stages of the disaster management cycle that to data from a large number of sources such as: Earth observation satellites
(remote sensing), communication satellites, navigation satellites, and surveillance systems. GIS provides an environment for analyzing and synthesizing data from all these sources, and offers specific solutions for disaster mitigation, prevention, readiness and response to disasters.
GIS technologies are increasingly combined with web apps via the Internet creating the so-called web mapping (WebGIS). Internet applications allow for storing, sharing, visualizing data, and making decisions through all phases of disaster management. For example, here is how wildfire preventive monitoring based on remote sensing works.
Taking into account operational data on the traffic situation when planning routes allows transportation companies to plan the time of the vehicle’s movement precisely. In this case, the use of data from the relevant publicly available web services does not always provide reliable information.
GIS-powered systems enable large and medium-sized enterprises to deliver goods to customers or transport goods to retail outlets and warehouses, automate delivery management and route planning, optimize the load of the entire fleet of vehicles, ensure timely delivery of products to customers, and effectively monitor the work of drivers.
Overall, GIS is still a very promising technology that is actively developing. Without the use of its opportunities, it is already impossible to imagine the work of specialists in many fields.