What is GIS or Geographic Information System?

What is GIS or Geographic Information System?

Rare is the day that we do not read a news item that talks about the different advances in technology: in science, in mobile technology, or in the development of smart cities, our field of action. Did you know that precisely in the evolution of smart cities, Geographic Information Systems have an essential relevance?

But let’s start at the beginning, solving some doubts that will help you to understand this concept correctly. First of all, we need to understand what GIS is.

Geographic Information Systems
Technology is advancing by leaps and bounds, and GIS is no exception

A Geographic Information System (GIS) is a computer tool that allows the collection, management and analysis of spatially referenced data in order to facilitate more efficient decision making.

We know it can be a complicated term to understand and you may be asking yourself questions such as:

  • What does a GIS look like?
  • How does it work?
  • What is it used for?
  • What are its advantages?

Don’t worry, we’ll tell you all about it in detail below.

Functioning and main components of a GIS

The next thing you need to know to become familiar with a GIS system is what they look like, and that is that they are maps, with a large amount of information divided into layers, to make them easier to understand. Why do you think it is becoming more and more common to find them in the media? Because cartography has a power: that of helping us to visually understand an infinite number of phenomena.

So how does GIS work? It is a long and complex process in which, first and foremost, the need that the company or public administration needs to address is assessed and the strategy to be followed is outlined.

Then, we start the collection, data collection and integration into a complete inventory, updating the geographical database available to the client and including, through georeferencing, the new information. And that’s it? That would be all with GIS software?

No, because now the next stage begins, that of analysing the data obtained to draw valuable conclusions that help to save resources in the management of smart cities.

Project GIS
Using a GIS is a complex process that requires specialised professionals

What are the components of a GIS to make this process possible? A Geographic Information System can be divided into 5 main elements:

  • Hardware: it is the equipment, the physical support, on which the technicians work the GIS, being able to be computers, or even servers.
  • Software: this is the computer programme, which performs the operations and data manipulation, in order to subsequently carry out precise analyses with the geographic information collected.
  • Geographic data: the main ingredient for the GIS to work is the georeferenced information, which can be generated by technicians or acquired from third parties.
  • Analysis: this is the set of functions that GIS have to carry out spatial studies, from attribute queries, geoprocessing operations, density analysis, surface analysis, geostatistics, 3D modelling, map algebra, etc.
  • Human resources: GIS technology is of no use if there are no technicians specialised in this technique, such as professionals who participate in the design and implementation of GIS, those involved in the data capture phase in the field, or those who analyse, interpret and digitise the images obtained.

The importance of GIS today

And we continue to resolve doubts, on this occasion, highlighting the infinite number of applications and uses that Geographic Information Systems provide in our daily lives.

Nowadays, GIS are a very complete tool that allows us to create thematic cartography with which to analyse and interpret a multitude of environmental and socioeconomic aspects that take place on the earth’s surface.

This is how, for example, we can carry out urban planning in newly built cities or optimise efficient, fast and less polluting routes when using public transport, plan logistics and distribution strategies or offer residents and tourists smart tourism alternatives.

But not only that, what about nature? The work carried out to care for nature is particularly important, through the development of plans that help prevent natural disasters, species monitoring initiatives, or the fight against fires, floods, pandemics, etc.

smart city
The management of urban services has found the perfect ally in GIS

Free and open source GIS

Now that we are clear on all the concepts related to GIS, it is time to make a choice: open source or proprietary GIS?

It is true that each model has its advantages, we are not going to deny it, but there are many reasons why we consider the benefits offered by the open source gis format to be a great advantage.

Firstly, the technological independence they offer, as they are not conditioned by the agreements and contracts of the different commercial proprietary licenses that exist in the market. Secondly, and really important, is the economic issue, due to the savings for public administrations and companies in the use of a free and open GIS. And finally, thirdly, the undeniable contribution to the community, thanks to the development and improvement of the programme in its constant updates.

How has Fisotec evolved over the last few years with regard to GIS technology?

In recent years, Fisotec’s evolution has been unstoppable. Thanks to Geographic Information Systems, the inventory of High Technical Qualification urban data has become the cornerstone of our services.

And all this, after the first evolutionary leap that took place in 2012, going from making inventories practically «with pencil and paper» to automating geographic data through the development of a customised GIS plugin.

Years of advances that left aside the manual dumping and processing of the data collected, to synchronise the information instantaneously, with the development of one of our star projects: the Data Processing Centre and the concept of Real Time.

This is how, day by day, we help consultancies, engineering firms and public administrations to efficiently and accurately manage the lighting, green areas, sewage and drinking water networks, mobility and urban waste collection that make up the urban fabric of cities and municipalities.

Fisotec technician
For Fisotec, field data collection by specialised technicians is essential

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