What Is a Geospatial Information System ?

A geospatial information system (GIS), or sometimes referred to as a geographic information system, is a system for capturing, storing, analyzing, and managing geographic data and associated attributes which are spatially referenced to the earth. In the strictest sense, it is a computer system capable of integrating, storing, editing, analyzing, sharing, and displaying geographically referenced information. In a more generic sense, GIS is a tool that allows users to create interactive queries (user created searches), analyze the spatial information, edit data, and present the results of all these operations. 

A GIS is an organized collection of computer hardware, software, geographic data, and personnel designed to efficiently capture, store, update, manipulate, analyze, and display all forms of geographically referenced information.  GIS technology integrates common database operations, such as query and statistical analysis, with the unique visualization and geographic analysis benefits offered by maps.

The database information (attribute data) is tied to spatial data (feature layers).  An example of this would be schools.  The actual location of the schools is the spatial data. Additional data such as the school name, school ID, and school type would make up the attribute data.  It is the partnership of these two data types that enables GIS to be such an effective problem-solving tool.  By querying the database associated to the layers, the GIS allows users to perform "why" and "what if" scenarios and creates a resulting map depicting a visual analysis.

Geographic information system technology can be used for scientific investigations, resource management, asset management, Environmental Impact Assessment, Urban planning, cartography, criminology, history, sales, marketing, and route planning. For example, a GIS might allow emergency planners to easily calculate emergency response times in the event of a natural disaster, a GIS might be used to find wetlands that need protection from pollution, or a GIS can be used by a company to find new potential customers similar to the ones they already have and project sales due to expanding into that market.

Engage with ARC Advisory Group

Representative End User Clients