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GIS - Geographic Information System

written by: Kristina Dems•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 6/8/2010

GIS or Geographic Information System provides significant information to different technologies in need of geographical location. This article provides detailed information about GIS, its components, restrictions and more about it that you should know.

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    What is a GIS or Geographic Information System?

    A geographic information system, also known as GIS and geographical information system, collects, stores, analyzes, organizes, modifies and presents data that are related to location. Simply put, a geographic information system merges database technology and cartography. This means geographic information systems are used in GPS & navigation, remote sensing, utility management, land surveying, photogrammetry, geography, cartography, urban planning, localized search engines and emergency management. Any kind of service that needs organized and accessible location data can request a geographic information system to provide them the necessary information.

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    Geographic Information System Restrictions

    Since a geographic information system has a lot of applications, it is natural that GIS systems specifically developed for a certain task, purpose or jurisdiction may not be interoperable with other GIS systems. This is due to the fact that different GIS systems have varying specifications whether it be hardware, software or design.

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    Components of a Geographic Information System

    GIS hardware include different devices including the central piece of system equipment, the workstations. This is the main commanding hardware of the entire system. All connections to equipment that collect data, devices that interpret or convert data and the system software are managed in the central workstation. Web servers are also integral pieces of equipment in GIS systems due to the emergence of web applications that use GIS system data. Software makes up a third of the GIS system. it is mainly responsible in handling, creating, modifying and analyzing data. Other features that do specific tasks for specific applications can be added via software add-ons. The last third of the GIS system's component trinity is the data itself. This is the heart and soul of geographic information systems. It includes geographic and vector data, the lifeblood of the entire GIS ecosystem.

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    Where Can We Use Geographic Information Systems?

    GIS systems can be utilized in different fields of study and services including scientific investigations, asset management, resource management, archaeology, urban planning, environmental impact assessment, criminology, cartography, marketing, prospectivity mapping and logistics. GIS systems is basically a universal tool for all applications that require geographic concepts and data whether it's a scientific study or a practical application.

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    How Do GIS Systems Handle Data?

    The most common way for GIS systems to handle data is to have it digitized. Hard copies of data will be digitized, allowing the system to modify, organize, analyze and copy data to be easily accessed by multiple services at any time. Digitized data makes it easy for users to overlay several map views such as in Google Maps into one multilayer map. GIS systems present location data that includes representation of roads, elevation, land mass and bodies of water using different graphic modes including 3D color images. It uses simple geometric shapes like straight lines and curves to represent direction, boundaries and certain landmarks.

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    What's in Store for GIS Systems in The Future?

    GIS systems have already inspired an entirely new scientific field with its own research base that is called geographic information sciences. Developments in this field will lead to a wider application in more fields within businesses, government agencies and industrial manufacturing companies.