Geographic Information Systems…..

For my team’s Technology Briefing, we proposed to cover the Applications of GIS with regard to Oil Exploration.  In light of that decision, I decided to look for information to education myself on the subject of GIS.  From the GIS.com website:  “GIS allows us to view, understand, question, interpret, and visualize data in many ways that reveal relationships, patterns, and trends in the form of maps, globes, reports, and charts.  A GIS helps you answer questions and solve problems by looking at your data in a way that is quickly understood and easily shared.  GIS technology can be integrated into any enterprise information system framework.  A GIS is most often associated with a map.  A map, however, is only one way you can work with geographic data in a GIS, and only one type of product generated by a GIS.  A GIS can provide a great deal more problem-solving capabilities than using a simple mapping program or adding data to an online mapping tool.”

GIS is a rapidly developing technology which combines mapping applications, computer modeling, and geographic data to greatly enhance our ability to understand the world in which we live.  It allows us to better map quanities, changes, densities, shifts, etc., in both populations and the geography of our world.

Satellite Image of Houston
Satellite Image of Houston

The capabilities of GIS are a far cry from the simple beginnings of computer cartography. At the simplest level, GIS can be thought of as a high-tech equivalent of a map. However, not only can paper maps be produced far quicker and more efficiently, the storage of data in an easily accessible digital format enables complex analysis and modeling not previously possible. The reach of GIS expands into all disciplines and has been used for such widely ranged problems as prioritizing sensitive species habitat to determining optimal real estate locations for new businesses.

The key word to this technology is Geography – this usually means that the data (or at least some proportion of the data) is spatial, in other words, data that is in some way referenced to locations on the earth. Coupled with this data is usually tabular data known as attribute data.  Attribute data generally defined as additional information about each of the features, which can then be tied to spatial data.  An example of this would be schools. The actual location of the schools is the spatial data.  Additional data such as the school name, level of education taught, school capacity would make up the attribute data.  It is the partnership of these two data types that enables GIS to be such an effective problem solving tool through spatial analysis.

For more information:  GIS.com, GISLounge.com, OpenStreetMap, and of course Google Earth.

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~ by jeffdgarrison on February 7, 2009.

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