A Geographic Information System, or GIS, is a system designed to store, visualize, and analyze spatial data. Spatial data is data about things that exist in the real world. Anything you can think of that has a location and takes up space, like buildings, roads, rivers, or even the Earth's surface, can be represented in a GIS. The GIS stores the location and shape of the object along with information about the object, such as ownership, age, flow rate, or elevation, in datasets called layers. These layers can be laid on top of each other within the GIS to build a visual model of the real world.
All of this real world data is represented with essentially two types of data, vector and raster. Vector data uses points, lines, and polygons to represent objects in the real world. This data type is commonly used to represent things like signs, roads, and buildings. Raster data consists of a grid of pixels (or cells) that each contain a single value that represent some quality of the area covered by that pixel. The most common use of raster data is imagery, where each pixel is a color value, but it can also be used to show data like temperature or elevation variation over an area. Another common use of raster data is classification. The raster model in the image to the left classifies an area into different land cover types.
With GIS, we're able to store and visualize a wide variety of spatial data. It can be helpful in creating a city map or showing temperature in different locations, but GIS can do so much more than that. With GIS we can determine the best route to take on a trip; see how the average income has changed over time in different neighborhoods; manage timber harvest for sustainability; determine the most suitable location for a wind farm; discover potential sources of water pollution; coordinate relief efforts after a natural disaster; and the list goes on. If you or your company has a problem, chances are GIS can help you visualize, analyze, manage, and even solve it! To get a better idea of what we can do for you, check out our projects page.