GEOGRAMA - Geographic Information Systems (GIS), what are they and what are they used for?

Geographic Information Systems (GIS), what are they and what are they used for?

Have you noticed that the use of maps is more and more frequent around you? Maps that are also becoming highly interactive. That’s because the geographic context helps understanding reality. Concepts such as Geographic Information Systems (GIS) are more valued nowadays thanks to technological improvements. Do you know GIS fundamentals and why they are so useful? We tell you everything about it.

What are Geographic Information Systems (GIS)

Geographic Information System or GIS is a computerized tool used to work with geolocated information. Thanks to GIS, it’s possible to collect, store, process, visualize and, generally, manage this data.

Geographic Information Systems stand out for their great versatility and ability to suit different environments since the geographic component influences many types of different activities and sectors.

A GIS is defined by 5 main elements, which are:

  • Equipment or hardware: the machine or machines GIS works on. These can be personal computers or servers and may work in a network or individually.
  • Software: these solutions provide the required functionalities for the Geographic Information System to work. Good GIS software should contain components for:
    • The reception and treatment of data input.
    • A system that allows database management, which is known as SGBD (Database Management System).
    • Tools for searching, analyzing, and visualizing geographic information.
    • A graphical interface that facilitates usability for any kind of user.
  • Geographic Data: the fuel of GIS. They can be generated by the user himself or acquired from third parties.
  • Human resources: no matter how digitized information is, it must be managed by highly specialized profiles. From surveyors, topographers and geographers to programmers, along with many others.
  • Work methodology: the procedures that structure the operation of GIS. They are adjusted to each company or user.

How the necessary information for a Geographic Information System is collected

A Geographic Information System without quality data is not very useful. That’s why it must be nurtured with updated and valuable information. To achieve this goal there are various methodologies used.

One of the most traditional ways to do this is by scanning and digitizing maps and other documents. However, with the evolution of technology, other data reception systems have been developed.

There is also the possibility of entering topographic measurements directly into the GIS, as well as data from positioning systems such as GPS.

Geographic Information Systems also use the information measured by sensors, cameras, and scanners in different environments like Smart Cities.

Another way to collect information is using images taken from the air and satellites.

GEOGRAMA - Geographic Information Systems

How geographic information is represented in a GIS

Data visualization is a fundamental part as we have just stated before as it greatly eases data understanding. It allows a more detailed and contextualized analysis, being able to combine different types of information by working with overlapping layers.

In a Geographic Information System, data can be represented in 2 basic formats: vector and raster:

  • Vector format: based on vectors, the geometry of the entities are defined. This can be in the form of points, lines or polygons.
  • Raster or grid format: Information is represented graphically using meshes. That means that space is divided into cells that are assigned a unique value.

The choice of one type of data or another will largely depend on the project we are working on and the conclusions we want to obtain. In principle, a raster model is easier to apply than a vector one. Still, in some cases, it will be the best option to apply the vector model.

GIS applications

Geographic Information Systems can be applied to a multitude of environments. Using them we can have a deep understanding of the world. Many of this data is available for the general public.

As it is impossible to refer to all the uses of GIS, those are some of the most common ones:

  • Traffic management, both planning and real-time decision making. Historical vehicles speed, density by zones, flows, and travel times are some of the data we can obtain.
  • Urban planning. It allows a detailed analysis of the city growth, different services location, resident population by neighborhoods, etc.
  • Public transport administration services for a better user experience.
  • Socio Demographic studies of population.
  • Defining marketing actions depending on location. This way, a more appropriate location of advertising facilities is achieved, as well as getting the right message to your target audience.
  • Cadastral data consultation.
  • Studies of environmental aspects, such as pollution levels.
  • Improved roadside assistance, locating incidents more precisely.
  • Optimization of logistics and freight transport.
  • Design and maintenance of electrical networks, as well as help define the location of renewable energy facilities.

To all these uses of Geographic Information Systems, we must add some applications for the current situation. They also collaborate intensely in the development of tools oriented to health care.

An example of these applications is the de-escalation phases during the pandemic. Thanks to precise topographic measurements provided by techniques such as Mobile Mapping we have valuable information about the configuration of the streets.

This way, it’s easier to ensure that social distancing can be maintained through pedestrianization or other measures. In addition, these measurements can be published in order to promote teleworking.

On the other hand, geographical solutions have also been developed to make the life of citizens much easier. Geograma developed, in collaboration with Carto, a tool called “Calcula tu kilómetro” where you can check how far you could travel in a radius of one km, according to the rules set for covid de-escalating measures.

It is clear that Geographic Information Systems are on the rise. That is why at Geograma we work permanently to be able to take full advantage of its operation. Thus, we help companies, citizens and Public Administrations in their daily activity, contributing our grain of sand towards the advancement of society.

Do you want to get even more value from your geospatial data with a GIS? Tell us about your situation and we will offer you solutions for it!