Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Now & Future: Question & Answer

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Now & Future: Question & Answer
May 5, 2009 Mike Tully

In today’s day and age, geospatial tools have become ubiquitous in our society. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) are now commonplace in many communities and organizations. This said, questions still remain in GIS and non-GIS circles. How do you explain what GIS is to the uninitiated? What barriers still remain to further GIS adoption? What is the future of GIS?

To help answer some of these questions, Aerial Services asked their friends at Midland GIS Solutions (http://www.midlandgis.com) to address current issues in GIS and provide readers some ammo when explaining GIS’ role & importance. Matt Sorensen, Midland GIS’ Vice President, offered his views on a variety of issues posed by Aerial Services’ Marketing Manager, Joshua McNary.


Joshua McNary, Aerial Services (ASI):
If Martians landed in your parking lot and asked “what is GIS,” how would you explain it to them? Many in local government and elsewhere need a concise and non-technical definition.

Matt Sorensen, Midland GIS Solutions (MGIS):
GIS, or Geographic Information Systems, provide detailed information about individual places, objects and features on the Earth’s surface. GIS provides knowledge about where something is and what is at a given location.

ASI:
For those just getting started, what are the largest barriers to creating a new GIS?

MGIS:
Typical barriers include cost. Cost is always at the forefront of the decision-making process to develop a GIS program. It is our goal to show potential clients the real value of GIS and how, when developed properly, their GIS program can increase their overall efficiency and end up saving them money.

Another common barrier is the leap from existing paper and ink mapping, or no mapping program at all, to a fully functioning GIS program. For many it is a big step to accept and embrace the new technology.

ASI:
For established users, what are the greatest challenges to reinventing/growing their GIS?

MGIS:
For established users, the biggest challenge I can see is staying on the forefront of the newest GIS technology. It is important to remain properly trained to implement and maintain new GIS software and databases.

ASI:
Most of our readers use GIS for at least basic asset management, but what other kind of infrastructure and resources can be tracked? What “outside the box” uses have you have seen?

MGIS:
GIS is a very powerful application that can be used to analyze any type of data. Cities will use GIS for capital improvement planning, economic development, and planning and zoning. Counties can quickly identify comparable properties and graphically display land values to determine fair assessment practices.

ASI:
Who are some of the typical end-users of GIS ? What are the most unique end-users of systems you have seen?

MGIS:
End users include mappers (typically in counties), utility superintendents and public works departments. One of the most unique end users has been the St. Joseph, MO school district superintendent for the purpose of tracking student movement within school districts and using the GIS for site analysis and selection to find a location for a new school.

ASI:
Talk about spatial accuracy in GIS. Why is it important and what are the key elements within the system to ensure it?

MGIS:
Spatial accuracy in a GIS mapping program is extremely important, especially when you’re working with property boundaries and utility locations. Many GIS programs reference digital Orthophotography as the base layer for all other subsequent data layers. If the spatial accuracy of the Orthophotography is off, it can seriously affect the accuracy of other data layers in the GIS. Mapping and survey grade GPS units can also assist with ensuring spatial accuracy in GIS.

ASI:
Professional aerial photo firms historically have had certified Photogrammetrists to ensure accuracy, should GIS professional also have a parallel certification structure to ensure quality services?

MGIS:
GIS technology is becoming more widely used and implemented across the world. Certification for GIS professionals would be an excellent way to ensure a standard of quality services for the end users.

[Editor’s note: Read information a current initiative to certify GIS professionals and read about Aerial Services’ staff recently certified.]

ASI:
With GPS-enabled devices showing up in everything from mobile phones to dog collars, how do you see GIS being integrated with the ever-growing GPS market?

MGIS:
On one hand, GIS will continue to grow with the GPS market as people with GPS capabilities need a way to graphically display their collected data. On the other hand, accuracy is the cornerstone of developing a successful GIS program. An accurate GIS program that displays GPS collected data is only as accurate as the data that is collected.

ASI:
What forthcoming developments in GIS technologies and software we should be aware of?

MGIS:
The implementation of server-based GIS allows GIS users to share their data to any number of users through the internet. Web-based GIS is becoming widely used and not only allows the end-user quick and easy access to the GIS data, but also to the public.

ASI:
Web GIS tools have become more popular in recent years, what are their current advantages and limitations?

MGIS:
Web-based GIS is playing a big part in the future of sharing GIS data. Web-based GIS allows any number of people, with limited GIS knowledge, access to GIS information over the Internet. It provides access to GIS data 24 hours a day from any computer with an Internet connection. There are currently limited editing capabilities with web-based GIS. However, this is quickly changing with the introduction of server-based web applications.

ASI:
Do you have any closing thoughts regarding GIS? What else should our readers be aware of?

MGIS:
GIS is a very powerful tool for mapping, asset management and analysis of geographical features and locations. It is important to be sure that your GIS program is developed with the future in mind. Using the proper methods and research to develop your GIS will ensure that the program has a solid foundation to evolve with your growing community or organization.


Have more questions? Even if you don’t have a current need for a consultant, both Aerial Services and Midland GIS experts can assist you with your comments, concerns, or questions. Feel free to contact them at http://www.AerialServicesInc.com and http://www.midlandgis.com.

0 Comments

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*