Monday, May 27, 2013

What is GIS?

A geographic information system (GIS) integrates hardware, software, and data for capturing, managing, analyzing, and displaying all forms of geographically referenced information.

GIS allows us to view, understand, question, interpret, and visualize data in many ways that reveal relationships, patterns, and trends in the form of maps, globes, reports, and charts.

A GIS helps you answer questions and solve problems by looking at your data in a way that is quickly understood and easily shared.

GIS technology can be integrated into any enterprise information system framework. (http://www.esri.com)

Top Five Benefits of GIS

GIS benefits organizations of all sizes and in almost every industry. There is a growing awareness of the economic and strategic value of GIS. The benefits of GIS generally fall into five basic categories:

1. Cost Savings and Increased Efficiency

GIS is widely used to optimize maintenance schedules and daily fleet movements. Typical implementations can result in a savings of 10 to 30 percent in operational expenses through reduction in fuel use and staff
time, improved customer service, and more efficient scheduling.

2. Better Decision Making

GIS is the go-to technology for making better decisions about location. Common examples include real estate, site selection, route/corridor selection, evacuation planning, conservation,
natural resource extraction, etc.
Making correct decisions about
location is critical to the success of an organization.

3. Improved Communication

GIS-based maps and visualizations greatly assist in understanding situations and in storytelling. They are a type of language that improves communication between different teams, departments, disciplines,professional fields, organizations,and the public.

4. Better Recordkeeping

Many organizations have a primary responsibility of maintaining authoritative records about the status and change of geography. GIS provides a strong framework for managing these types of records with full transaction support and reporting
tools.

5. Managing Geographically

GIS is becoming essential to understanding what is happening and what will happen in geographic space. Once we understand, we can prescribe action. This new approach to management managing geographically is transforming the way that organizations operate.

What Can You Do with GIS?

GIS gives us a new way to look at the world around us. With GIS you can:

1. Map Where Things Are

Mapping where things are lets you find places that have the features you're looking for and to see patterns.

2. Map Quantities

People map quantities to find places that meet their criteria and take action. A children's clothing company might want to find ZIP Codes with many young families with relatively high income. Public health officials might want to map the numbers of physicians
per 1,000 people in each census tract to identify which areas are adequately served, and which are not.

3. Map Densities

A density map lets you measure the number of features using a uniform areal unit so you can clearly see the distribution. This is especially useful when mapping areas, such as census tracts or counties, which vary greatly in size. On maps showing the number of people per census tract, the larger tracts might have more people than smaller ones. But some smaller tracts might have more people per square
mile a higher density.

4. Find What's Inside

Use GIS to monitor what's happening and to take specific action by mapping what's inside a specific area. For example, a district attorney would monitor drug-related arrests to find out
if an arrest is within 1,000 feet of a school if so, stiffer penalties apply.

5. Find What's Nearby

GIS can help you find out what's
occurring within a set distance of a
feature by mapping what's nearby.

6. Map Change

Map the change in an area to anticipate future conditions, decide on a course of action, or to evaluate the results of an action or policy. By mapping where and how things move over a period of
time, you can gain insight into how
they behave. For example, a
meteorologist might study the paths of hurricanes to predict where and when they might occur in the future.

The Geographic Approach

Geography is the science of our world. Coupled with GIS, geography is helping us to better understand the earth and apply
geographic knowledge to a host of human activities.

OThe outcome is the emergence of The Geographic Approach a new way of thinking and problem solving that integrates geographic information into how we understand and manage our planet. This approach allows us to create geographic knowledge by measuring the earth, organizing this data, and analyzing and modeling various processes and their relationships.

The Geographic Approach also
allows us to apply this knowledge to the way we design, plan, and change our world.

Step 1: Ask

Frame the Question;
Approaching a problem geographically involves framing the question from a location-based perspective. What is the
problem you are trying to solve or
analyze, and where is it located? Being as specific as possible about the question you're trying to answer will help you with the later stages of The Geographic Approach, when you're faced with deciding how to structure the analysis, which analytic methods to
use, and how to present the results to the target audience.

Step 2: Acquire

Find Data;
After clearly defining the problem, it is necessary to determine the data needed to complete your analysis and
ascertain where that data can be found or generated. The type of data and the geographic scope of your project will help direct your methods of collecting data and conducting the analysis. If the method of analysis requires detailed and/or high-level information, it may be necessary to create or calculate the new data. Creating new data may simply mean calculating new values in the data table or obtaining new map layers or attributes but may also require geoprocessing.

Step 3: Examine

Examine the Data;
You will not know for certain whether the data you have acquired is appropriate for your study until you thoroughly examine it. This includes visual inspection, as well as investigating how the data is organized (its schema), how well the data
corresponds to other datasets and the rules of the physical world (its
topology), and the story of where the data came from (its metadata).

Step 4: Analyze

Analyze the Data;
The data is processed and analyzed
based on the method of examination or analysis you choose, which is dependent on the results you hope to achieve. Do not underestimate the power of "eyeballing" the data. Looking
at the results can help you decide
whether the information is valid or useful, or whether you should rerun the analysis using different parameters or even a different method. GIS modeling tools make it relatively easy to make these changes and create new output.

Step 5: Act

Share Your Results;
The results and presentation of the analysis are important parts of The Geographic Approach. The results can be shared through reports, maps, tables, and charts and delivered in printed form or digitally over a network or on
the Web. You need to decide on the best means for presenting your analysis. You can compare the results from different analyses and see which method presents the information most
accurately. And you can tailor the
results for different audiences. For example, one audience might require a conventional report that summarizes the analyses and conveys recommendations or comparable alternatives. Another audience may need an interactive format that allows them to ask what-if questions or pursue additional analysis.

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