What is a Geographic Information System (GIS)?

May 9, 2022

What is GIS?

Technology continues to ascend to new heights and enable greater capabilities in the way we live, interact with others, and solve problems. With the emergence of a new technology, there are often complementary applications built in accordance that solve problems across multiple disciplines. One technology that has emerged over the last twenty years as a centerpiece for innovation is the Geographic Information System (GIS).

A Geographic Information System is defined as the use of spatial and geographic data to solve problems. While it may be broad in the overall scope of uses and applications, GIS is centered around integrating many types of information with geographic data to analyze trends, create visualizations, or make predictions.

Visualization, Mapping, and Location-Based Services

An introduction to GIS usually focuses on the geographic services that many would first assume. GIS technologies leverage spatial data mixed with other metadata such as imagery or topographical data to build maps and 2D or 3D visualizations. Some examples of this would be vegetation maps, topographical readings used to analyze ideal placement for a distribution center, or street mapping for urban development.

GIS systems can leverage geographic data to fulfill multiple duties even within one platform. One example is by LaPraim, who implemented a GIS system that enabled asset management of critical assets across a gas pipeline, supported operational needs by providing key insight in consequence areas, and provided visualizations allowing fast analysis.

Applications like this are endless, and the location-based data that GIS provides can be combined with virtually any attribute data to provide insight. However, the surface has barely been scratched, as there are many more advanced solutions being built that leverage GIS.

Networks and Trend Analysis

One of the key fundamentals of GIS is the flexibility to pair spatial data with extremely large and diverse data sets. Businesses across numerous industries use the combination of data to build networks and identify patterns in behavior. For example, location coordinates can be paired with a drone network system to determine optimal hub or technician locations for an autonomous delivery service.

GIS systems enable businesses and professionals to gain advanced insight from their data. When spatial data is paired with detailed attribute data, it can be used for comprehensive analysis like predictive analysis on consumer patterns, examining popularity of businesses using heat maps, and determining optimal driving paths.

It does not end here. In addition to pattern identification and trend analysis, GIS provides a medium for businesses to take action on their findings with simulation and real-time monitoring using remote sensing IoT products. This leads to another major collaborative touchpoint for the technology.

GIS with Artificial Intelligence

GIS is often combined with artificial intelligence and machine learning programs to help solve some of the world’s most complex problems. When artificial intelligence is used for a specific purpose, such as image recognition, it can be paired with spatial data to predict where an accident may be prone to happen on a roadway or even to aid in humanitarian projects.

Businesses are constantly expanding the services that leverage GIS, some even on public repositories leveraging services like Quantum GIS that provide open-source spatial data.

GIS is undoubtedly prevalent today, and it will be continuously built upon in the future. Where do you expect to see GIS next?

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