Geographic Information Systems or GIS as it’s more commonly known, is a product which is used to capture, store, analyse and manage mapping data. Other terms used to describe GIS Services include spatial, location based or geographic information. This is primarily because the data and attributes that it stores are spatially referenced to the locations on Earth. GIS systems map these locations which a combination of software solutions and spatial applications. Now a widely used and essential business requirement, GIS is most commonly used to view imagery, then to analyse, revise and enrich spatial data which is often integrated with geo–databases enabling users to search, store and manage large spatial datasets and image collections. Unlike plain textual information databases, the geo–databases used by GIS can store data which is linked geographic coordinates with a latitude and longitude reference, or with map references.
The power of GIS is that information stored in its geo-databases can be queried and analysed for a host of purposes. One of the most popular uses enables business to optimise their services to clients by managing their information and data records. These real value comes through knowing key information about the distance or location of clients from a businesses nearest service engineer, the relevant products or spare parts, and it’s depots, traffic routes and work schedules.
Some great examples of GIS software applications include the management of land and natural resources, road networks, transport systems … even communities. You will most likely have used a GIS based online mapping tool in your car, on your mobile phone or in a marine vehicle, where street maps, shipping lanes and levels of traffic can be viewed in real time whilst journeying from A to B.
To describe it’s fundamental benefit, GIS mapping provides a more efficient way to manage and manipulate data, and by combining it with other services such as cable mapping, utility mapping or road network mapping, it allows people and organisations to better understand the behaviours of your clients, workers, transport, assets and to better protect their interests and serve their needs. The analysis of GIS data can help to identify patterns and to assess information. Buyer behaviour patterns in response to localised advertising when a customer views connected data, address information and corresponding geographic data, demographic information, census data, residential information, and countless other applications … there are myriad applications and benefits.
By way of illustration, topological modelling enables the analysis of topological relationships between geometric entities to determine such things as proximity and containment. Topographic mapping and three-dimensional GIS data of both natural and man-made environments enables decision makers to confidently make informed decisions and consult communities and their constituents.
Hydrological modelling provides a spatial element data that has traditionally been lacking. Variable factors such as slope, aspect and watershed enable terrain to be more effectively analysed. This capability is fundamental to hydrology because water always flows downward. Variable factors such as slope and aspect can help to determine the direction of surface runoff and water flow accumulation.
Geometric networks are linear object networks which represent interconnected features; they’re connected at junction points, similar to graphs in mathematics and can be used to perform special spatial analysis. Exactly like graphs, networks can have both weight and flow, which can be used to represent road networks, traffic flow, hold ups and public passenger networks.
Cartographic modelling concerns the process of developing several artificial or thematic layers which are then produced and processed, enabling analysis to support and improve simulation or optimization models.
Almost everyone has used a GIS map and spatial information product at some stage in their lives; from the now simple task of finding out the times of the next bus online, or choosing which restaurant to dine at in the immediate area from a list of options presented by a Google search. GIS services and spatial information uptake is rapidly increasing and the realisation of its benefits is attracting new users and greater applications to utilise the benefits of location based information.