What is GIS?
A Geographic Information System (GIS) captures, manipulates, stores, analyzes, and manages data. It is an extension of cartography — the science of making maps — and allows individuals to visualize, analyze, question, and interpret data.
A GIS is like a cartographic document in the sense they both contain examples of a base map, where additional data is added as necessary. There is no limit to the amount of data that can be added to a GIS map, which capitalizes on analysis and presents data in support of arguments.
GIS is used to better understand relationships, trends, and patterns. In this post, we will take a look at GIS history to learn how it developed and how it is used today in business and everyday life.
- By Daniele Masi [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons
The Beginnings of Spatial Analysis
Geographer Charles Picquet first applied the concept of spatial analysis in 1832 by creating a map that showed cholera outbreaks across 48 Paris districts. This map was an early version of a heat map, which would later revolutionize several industries.
Inspired by Picquet, John Snow adopted the same principle to depict cholera deaths in London in 1854. He evolved the concept by presenting an argument developed from a spatial analysis of data.
In the early 20th century, a printing technique called photozincography was introduced, which allowed users to separate layers from a map. This meant different themes could be printed, but this did not represent a full GIS since there was no opportunity to analyze mapped data.
When was the term GIS first used?
In the early 20th century, a printing technique called photozincography was introduced, which allowed users to separate layers from a map. This technology meant different themes could be printed, but it did not represent a full GIS since there was no opportunity to analyze mapped data.
When was the term GIS first used?
The concept of GIS was first introduced in the early 1960s, and it was subsequently researched and developed as a new discipline. GIS history views Roger Tomlinson as a pioneer of the concept, when he implemented the first iteration to store, collate, and analyze data on land usage in Canada.
The second phase of development in GIS history took place in the 1970s. By the 1980s, the concept progressed as national agencies adopted GIS and invested parties began determining best practices. By the late 1980s, there was a focus on improving the usability of the technology and facilitating a more user-centric method.
Those pursuing development in the field of GIS had different goals, meaning there was no set direction for research to follow. A single path finally surfaced when GIS became the focus of commercial activity with satellite imaging technology. Mass applications were thus initiated for business and private use.
As the system continuously advanced in Canada throughout the 1970s and 1980s, by the 1990s it was driven by mainframe hardware, with data sets from the entire Canadian landmass.
Desktop GIS & Widespread Adoption
Throughout the 1990s, software company Esri released ArcView, a desktop solution for mapping systems. The influx of the Internet saw widespread adoption of GIS heading into the millennium, and the technology reached governmental authorities.
Many companies, such as Nobel Systems, adopted the technology to provide services to cities, municipalities and private organizations to manage assets in the field, gather business intelligence, and quickly send data to the company headquarters to analyze.
The focus shifted to sharing data across multiple platforms. If the history of GIS is anything to go by, the industry will continue to debate how to resolve problems arising from data ownership.
Businesses are less inclined to share data, deterred because their data might provide a commercial advantage to others.
Why is GIS Important in Urban Planning?
GIS technology is commonly used in urban planning, and dramatically impacts the people who live in areas where it is used.
Multiple factors provide significant benefits, which help with the development of an efficient and organized city. It allows for multilayered mapping, where each layer includes a different type of information.
Water companies, utilities, and municipalities use GIS to manage and operate assets. Water line breaks are more easily identified and reported via GIS systems, such as Nobel Systems GeoViewer. Cities publish GIS maps for the public to access information about shutdowns and upcoming energy line or water line work.
The City of Hesperia uses Public View, a GIS application, for the community to identify bus stops, parks, bike routes, and local schools.
GIS can also be used to observe agricultural land, flood frequency, and erodible land, helping planners make informed decisions.
Insurance companies can use information extracted from a GIS to determine premiums for flood-risk areas.
Businesses can also use GIS as a tool to decide whether they should open up shop in a given location. Customer-provided data can help companies to determine where prospective consumers will come from, a distinct application throughout GIS history.
The Future of GIS
4D mapping is a logical step for GIS, and this will help with urban planning.
Geographic information systems are powerful tools used in modeling, analysis, and various other applications.
Not only is GIS essential for developing an urban area, but it is also necessary for today’s fast-moving, technological landscape.
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