Comparing the Global Positioning System with Geographic Information Systems

Some might wonder why anyone should consider investing in both a global positioning system (GPS) and a geographic information system (GIS). That is like wondering why it pays to obtain an atlas, after buying a map and compass. The GPS system has been designed to let a man or woman know where he or she needs to go. The GIS provides the person who uses that software with facts about a much larger region.

Today, the driver of a new car rapidly develops a real dependence on that vehicle’s GPS. It receives input from 24 satellites, four of them in each of six different orbits, with each orbit at a designated level above the earth’s surface. The satellites send messages to control and monitoring stations, which are owned and operated by the Department of Defense. The monitoring stations send out signals, which are picked- up by receivers, devices in the hands of either civilians or military personnel.

The person who follows the directions provided by a GPS system views a map, one that contains what is supposed to represent the ideal route to a particular location. However, experience has shown that a GPS system lacks some of the data that can be obtained from a geographic information system (GIS). For example, it fails to consider whether or not safety has been ensured to the person who takes the system’s suggested route.

The GIS system serves as a way to analyze, interpret, question, picture and understand related objects, and to do so at a scientific level. It encourages an exploration of spatial relationships, of patterns and of trends. It facilitates an analysis of the processes that are at the root of biological, demographic, economic, geopolitical and physical phenomena.

The man or woman who has access to a GIS can integrate the information provided by data from existing hardware and software. He or she enjoys the ability to capture, study, and arrange all types of geographic information. He or she can design maps, utilize a geo-database or process a collection of spatial data. In addition, he or she can analyze and attribute that same data.

Ultimately, the analysis of such data is apt to motivate the formation of a concept. The person who has a GIS system can share that concept with others. That concept will be especially meaningful, because it can be backed-up with various pieces of collected information.

The sharing of such information calls attention to one of the most important implementations that can be carried out, using a GIS. Such an implementation would be impossible in the absence of present-day hardware and software, along with the data collected, by using such technology. The processes that can be completed by the user of a GIS also strengthen the value of the available implementations. However, one further element is needed, in order to ensure the witnessing of a successful implementation.

That final element/component is a human being. Humans manage to ensure and heighten the relevance of the GIS. Humans guarantee the maintenance of such relevance for an extended period of time. A man or woman can file the accumulated data and make it available to others, those who have a computer and Internet access.

The software that is part of a GIS can be applied to a long list of tasks. Therefore, it becomes a useful tool for those employed in a wide variety of occupations. For example, it makes it easier to carry-out the duties of a city or regional planner. By the same token, it facilitates an effort aimed at completing a construction project or leading a session on community planning. Specialists in economic development appreciate the features associated with geographic information systems; experts in environmental studies welcome their access to the same features.

Educators too, applaud the added features in GIS. A part of that software has been designed for use in the classroom. In classrooms where students and teachers have access to that tool, those children and adults can study and analyze data, thus learning how to think like someone in charge of project management. Grouped into teams, the students can discover how easy it is to collaborate with others, using this special tool.

That does not complete the list of endeavors that have been made easier by introduction of geographic information systems. Housing and property evaluation requires less time and effort, thanks to the availability of such software. Transit and transportation issues, land use questions and studies of historical areas have all benefited from the introduction of GIS-based implementations.

Crime analysis and policing, emergency management, population studies and public works projects have all been made a bit easier by the availability of added data. That data was more than a set of directions. It was the product of an implementation, one that aided the analysis and interpretation of data, and one that has thus become a wonderful support and planning tool.

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