A geographic information system (GIS) is a software program that collects, stores and analyzes geographically referenced data. It is a powerful analytical and decision-making tool used in many industries including commercial, educational and government. The various types of GIS applications are almost limitless. It has been used for everything from mapping wildlife habitat to tracking climate change and providing firefighters with the quickest route to a blaze.
A neighborhood planned using GIS applications.
In the field of transportation, GIS applications can help people study traffic patterns and plan street construction or repairs. These apps are particularly useful in helping drivers find the fastest routes, whether for package delivery or to assist with emergency and fire services response. There are GIS applications that help trucking companies or regional delivery companies manage their vehicle fleet and provide the best and most efficient vehicle routes.
Some GIS apps are used to help manage wetlands.
Regional and urban planning is one of the most common types of GIS applications. Planners can use GIS to study roads and traffic patterns, education and other public facility locations, utility and waterway infrastructure, and zoning and housing areas. Combining this data with mapping data helps them analyze needs and plan for future development. In the commercial sector, business planners can use demographic data, business location data, zoning data, and transportation and utility data to determine the best location for a planned new business.
In the mining and petroleum industry, the process of locating and extracting petroleum and mineral deposits is often benefited by the use of GIS technology. Geologists and mining professionals can analyze the topography, geology, vegetation and hydrology around the mining operation to mitigate environmental impact. This can also help mining companies operate more efficiently and safely.
GIS has hundreds of uses in the field of environmental management. It is used to study forestry practices, land use and cover, wetland management and environmental phenomena. It is also used to study groundwater purity, air quality, and the effects of air and water pollution. An important application of GIS in environmental management is tracking wildfires to better coordinate firefighting efforts.
In the fields of agriculture and agriculture, GIS professionals can use technology to examine agricultural records and area hydrography to study water and irrigation needs. It can also analyze soil types and weather patterns. This can help to better determine fertilizer and pesticide needs, as well as fertilizer and pesticide runoff into adjacent waterways.
GIS applications in the field of disaster preparedness and recovery help researchers and planners study environmental phenomena such as earthquakes and faults, hurricanes and tornadoes, floodplains and other potential emergencies to identify potential hazards and vulnerabilities. An example of how GIS can benefit disaster recovery is oil spill mitigation. By combining satellite imagery, aerial and underwater photography, weather patterns and ocean currents, scientists can track and predict the spread of spilled oil. With this information, disaster recovery personnel can better prepare and respond to the crisis.
GIS data is often used to respond to disasters like oil spills.