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5 Questions Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Can Answer

Those of us who work with Geographic Information Systems (GIS), no strangers to terms like spatial data or coordinate reference systems and know our way around a map, realize the value that this field can offer. For those who are unfamiliar or are just now getting a glimpse of the tip of this scientific iceberg, it can be challenging to grasp its full potential. To help gain more perspective on the value of this technology, let’s explore the key types of questions it can answer.

What is "GIS"?

When we apply GIS here at Integrated, we are typically referring to Geographic Information Systems. These “systems” refer to computer-based tools that analyze, store, manipulate, and visualize geographic information. This is primarily done in a map, whether it be paper, digital, or web-based.

Common GIS applications for industry professionals are software platforms like ArcGIS and QGIS; companies like Tableau are even gaining traction in this arena with new mapping capabilities. For everyday use, many people are already familiar with GIS without even realizing it. Resources like Google Maps, Apple Maps, and the old school Mapquest visualizes spatial data without requiring end-users to be highly trained in mapping and analysis.

Another reference for GIS includes the term Geographic Information Science, or GIScience. While Geographic Information Systems allow us to analyze and visualize spatial data, GIScience is the reason we are able to do this in the first place. It is the how behind the what and where. The science conceptualizes how to store spatial information, collect data, and analyze it. Disciplines like remote sending, surveying, mathematics, programming, and geography all fall within the realm of GIScience.

In other words, Geographic Information Science (GIScience) is the platform on which the applications of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) are built.