GIS Basics

What is GIS?

A GIS is a collection of computer hardware, software, and database for capturing, storing, updating, manipulating, analyzing, and displaying all forms of spatially referenced data, commonly referred to as geospatial data.

There are two types of geospatial data:

  • Vector Data: A data structure used to represent linear geographic features. Features are made of ordered lists of x,y coordinates and represented by points, lines, or polygons. Attributes are associated with each feature.
  • Raster Data: A spatial data model of rows and columns of grid cells. Each cell contains an attribute value and location coordinates. Group of cells that share the same value represent geographic features

What does GIS do and what are the benefits of using GIS?

A GIS provides three distinct but interrelated functions to turn geospatial data into information to help understand the world in a spatial context. It provides a framework to manage geospatial data efficiently, an analytic tool to interpret relationships, patterns or trends in data, and a capacity to visualize the analysis through maps. With these function, a GIS provides benefits such as:

  • Database Management: GIS data management shares many of the same concepts and characteristics with standard information technology architectures and enables an organization to achieve enhanced and efficient centralized geospatial database management.
  • Problem Solving: GIS analytic capabilities provide tools to answer specific questions toward solving a problem based on various geospatial databases that are linked and related and applying appropriate analytical methods.
  • Communication Mechanism: GIS provides opportunities to share information in a non-traditional fashion. A GIS provides a capacity not only to generate a static map of information but also to interact with various geospatial data through an interactive map.