What is GIS?

geographic information system (GIS)geographical information system, or geospatial information system is a system that captures, stores, analyzes, manages and presents data with reference to geographic location data.
Means that 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.

A Framework for GIS Analysis

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.  The 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 tocreate 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.

Who Uses GIS?

Thousands of organizations use GIS to solve problems and improve processes. Learn best practices and get ideas on how you can implement GIS in your organization or community.
See how businesses, governments, educators and scientists,environmental and conservation organizations, natural resourcegroups, and utilities benefit from using GIS.



Financial analysts employ GIS for targeting their markets by visualizing service needs. Companies including Metropolitan Life and Chase Manhattan Bank rely on GIS software to help them improve operational excellence and profitability. 


Many insurance companies have made GIS a central component of their business, using it to visualize, analyze, and distribute risk. Companies such as CHUBB Insurance use GIS software for portfolio risk management. 


GIS is used by media bureaus for everything from analyzing circulation and attracting advertisers to creating the maps used in the material itself. The Associated Press (AP), USA TODAY, and National Geographic Society use GIS software to create accurate maps quickly for magazines, newspapers, and online news services. GIS maps can help the media keep the public informed about street closures or openings and other emergency services, as in this map of lower Manhattan from the AP. 


Power Management

The process of routing energy is highly dependent on geographic information. From network design to outage management, more than 80 percent of utility data management contains spatial components. Many utility companies combine their gas and electric service to customers. Jiangsu Provincial Power Company of China maps four kinds of data in its GIS: the base city map data, the geoschematic of the network, facilities data, and real-time data. 


PPL, listed as a Fortune 500 company, has used GIS for almost 30 years to leverage facilities management (FM). PPL uses its electric facilities database (EFD) for responding to storm-caused outages. The dispatcher clicks on a pole, and the EFD shows all the attachments to that pole, whether they are from a cable company or utility company. The companies can be notified of the outage and quickly restore services. 


Gas source and physical pipeline management depend on GIS for every detail from stations and pipe pressures to valves and pipe diameter. METROGAS, the largest natural gas distributor in Chile, uses FM GIS applications for outage management, emergency response, gas distribution, network operation, planning and research, sales, engineering, and construction. 


GIS provides telecommunication businesses with many solutions such as analyzing relationships among signal coverage, test results, trouble tickets, customer inquiries, revenues, and gap analysis.Velocom de Argentina uses GIS for geocoding antennas, analyzing service areas, geocoding clients, and correlating equipment requirements to service area demand. 

Water and Wastewater

The Colorado Springs Utility Water Resources Department'shigh-resolution maps detail the location of its underground pipelines, watersheds, reservoirs, and hydroelectric facilities. Its database of information gained at its raw water treatment complex will help the department assess possible expansion capabilities. 

Education and Science


GIS is an ideal tool to help researchers model the real world, classify and observe phenomena, and predict changes over time. Ready-made data models make it easy to work with layers of data to observe relationships and explore new methods to represent the world around us. Dawn Wright of Oregon State University uses the ArcGIS Marine Data Model as a development tool in the lab.

Libraries and Museums

GIS creates interactive maps for museum exhibits that help visitors explore people, places, and events. GIS is also a valuable research tool used by museum scientists and researchers to increase people's understanding of natural systems and human cultures from anthropology to zoology. A researcher at the American Museum of Natural History in New York uses the museum's GIS to study the algae levels in the Gulf of Mexico. 

K-12 Education

GIS helps learners of all ages grasp the ways in which geography matters. GIS helps students and teachers engage in studies that require and promote critical thinking, integrated learning, and multiple intelligences at any grade level.

Natural Resources

Oil and gas exploration, hydrology harnessing, timber management, and mining operations require sound assessment to steer growth into areas that can support it while preventing contamination of rivers or destruction of resources. The delicate balance between industrial development and environmental conservation requires sophisticated modeling and spatial analytical tools. Companies and organizations, including The Nature Conservancy, the Environmental Protection Agency, Borax, and the Department of Fish and Wildlife, rely on GIS for resource analysis.


GIS provides the analytical capabilities that form the hub of a successful precision agriculture system. GIS lets farmers perform site-specific spatial analyses of agronomic data. The United States Department of Agriculture uses GIS to map a nation's farms not only by property lines but also by crop and yield. A farmer uses GIS to forecast crop yields and determine fertilizer spread. 


Ireland's forestry service, Coillte Teoranta, uses GIS as a key component in managing its timber resources and maintaining sustainable forest management. Coillte Teoranta leverages GIS functionality for applications as diverse as land valuation, timber market analysis, harvest route planning, and landscape visualization.


Terrain and ore body modeling, exploration, drilling, mine planning, reclamation, and rehabilitation are important digital mapping elements in mining. The Kaiser Jamaica Bauxite Company creates GIS-based mine planning and operations applications.


Esri (pronounced /ˈɛsriː/) is a software development and services company providing Geographic Information System (GIS) software and geodatabase management applications. The headquarters of Esri is in Redlands, California.
The company was founded as Environmental Systems Research Institute in 1969 as a land-use consulting firm. Esri products (particularly ArcGIS Desktop) have one-third of the global market share. In 2009 Esri had approximately a 30 percent share of the GIS software market worldwide, more than any other vendor. Other sources estimate that about seventy percent of the current GIS users make use of Esri products.

Desktop GIS

As of September 2010 Esri's current desktop GIS suite is version 10.0. ArcGIS Desktop software products allow users to author, analyze, map, manage, share, and publish geographic information. ArcGIS Desktop ships in three levels of licensing: ArcView, ArcEditor and ArcInfo. ArcView provides a robust set of GIS capabilities suitable for many GIS applications. ArcEditor, at added cost, expands the desktop capabilities to allow more extensive data editing and manipulation, including server geodatabase editing. ArcInfo is at the high end and provides full, advanced analysis and data management capabilities, including geostatistical and topological analysis tools. At all levels of licensing, ArcMap, ArcCatalog and ArcToolbox are the names of the applications comprising the desktop package.

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