Geographic Information Systems (GIS)


What is GIS?

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) is an interdisciplinary field of study closely linked with geography, cartography, spatial analysis, and information technology. In reality, GIS is now a part of an incredible variety of industries and government interests.

GIS is everywhere around us now.

It is almost impossible to think of a field that does not use mapping or spatial analysis. Not only do businesses and public agencies of all kinds use GIS, indeed almost everyone today uses GIS throughout their daily lives - often without even thinking about it. Do you have a navigation system in your car? Have you looked for a gas station or restaurant on your cell phone? Ever search for an address or directions on an internet site?

GIS is used to create all of those convenient tools -and many others as well. In fact, GIS is a very powerful set of tools that uses location information and mapping to make maps dynamic, intelligent, interactive, and profitable.

Finding our house or a coffee shop is one thing, but with a GIS, we can ask many deeper, more complex, and much more valuable questions of our lives, our planet and its resources, our business interests and assets, our government concerns and all of their assets, and so on. Anything whatsoever on Earth that you can represent digitally (and that also has a bit of geo-location information attached to it) can be combined and compared with countless other people, places, and other things to plan, predict, measure, evaluate and do many other productive, useful functions.

GIS has become an indispensable tool for spatial display and analysis and is used in many disciplines. Here are just a few:

  • public health – monitoring water quality or disease outbreaks
  • business – new site locations and customer analysis
  • emergency services – planning ambulance routes or fire monitoring
  • public works – monitoring the condition of bridges and roads
  • real estate – identifying properties for clients
  • environmental concerns – mapping wildlife habitats
  • architecture, engineering, and construction - design and build
  • mapping/GPS and location-based services companies
  • military, defense industry - geospatial intelligence
  • utilities - gas/electric/water, etc. - resources, distribution, customers, and asset management
  • urban planning - land use, community services, social services
  • telecommunications - location-based distribution
  • transportation - network and routing analysis
  • resource management - forest services, geology, and agriculture
  • government agencies - census, state department, USGS/NASA/CIA
  • volunteer organizations, non-profits, special interest groups
  • politics and law - district analysis and management
  • travel & tourism - marketing, public relations, airline & cruise ship routing, destinations
  • online content and service providers - Google, Microsoft, and many internet service providers

...and there are many more -the list can get extensive!

If you'd like a quick, but a bit more in-depth description, here's the GIS page on WIkipedia.



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