What is GIS

A Geographic Information System (GIS) is a computer system for capturing, storing, analyzing and displaying data related to locations on the Earth’s surface. GIS enables users to display different kinds of data on a single map. This helps people to easily visualize, analyze, and understand patterns and relationships between various sets of data. GIS can use any information that includes location, and such data are referred to as spatial data. The location can be expressed in many ways, such as latitude and longitude, address, or ZIP code. Different types of spatial information can be compared and analyzed using GIS.

Spatial data

A Geographic Information System is a combination of software, hardware, and real-world data. Modern GIS technologies use digital information, for which various digitized data creation methods are used. The most common way to create data is through digitization. This involves converting a paper map or survey plan into a digital format through geo-referencing. Nowadays, ortho-rectified images from satellites, aircraft, and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are widely available. As a result, digitizing, which involves extracting geographic data directly from these images, is becoming the primary method for creating spatial data. In GIS, data is added in the form of layers, which refer to the individual datasets or information that are organized and stacked on top of each other to create a composite map or spatial representation. Each layer represents a specific type of geographic data, such as roads, buildings, rivers, land use, elevation, or any other feature or attribute that can be represented spatially. The two most used desktop GIS programs by far are ArcGIS and QGIS.

Mapping and visualization

As discussed above, GIS technology allows for overlaying different types of information on a single map, by combining desired data layers. Layers can be overlapped to analyze relationships between features, making map updating easier by simply adding new data to the existing GIS program. This eliminates the time-consuming and expensive process of manually drawing maps. In GIS, there are two fundamental data sets: vector layer and raster layer. Vector data represent discrete points, lines, and polygons using geometric coordinates and attribute data. It excels in precise spatial analysis, network analysis, and accurate mapping. Raster data represents spatial information as a grid of cells or pixels, suitable for continuous phenomena like elevation or satellite imagery. Both vector and raster data have their own attributes, and the choice depends on the nature of the data and the goals of the particular GIS project.

Now, let us take an example to understand how this works. Suppose you are working on a project which involves the study of Land Use and Land Cover patterns. The following steps are to be followed to achieve the results:

  • Acquire land data: Obtain reliable land cover data from credible sources. This data may include satellite imagery, aerial photographs, or digital maps.
  • Import and visualize the data: Import the forest cover data into a GIS software or platform. Visualize the data on a map to gain an initial understanding of the land cover distribution. Adjust the symbology and colours to clearly represent different land cover types or classes.
  • Conduct spatial analysis: Use GIS tools and functions to perform spatial analysis on the land cover data. Explore spatial patterns, fragmentation, connectivity, or changes in land cover over time.
  • Integrate additional data: Incorporate relevant spatial data layers into your analysis. This integration can provide insights into the factors influencing the land cover distribution and help understand the relationships between various variables.
  • Record findings: Document and communicate your findings from the study of the maps thus created. Highlight any notable trends, areas of concern, or significant findings.


By following these steps, you can gain insights into land cover distribution, changes, and the factors influencing classification. GIS provides powerful tools to analyze and visualize data, enabling effective decision-making.

Role today

GIS is attached to many operations and has many applications related to engineering, planning and management in Transport, Utilities, Telecommunications, Land Management and Navigation. With GIS technology, researchers can also look at changes occurring over time. They can use satellite data to study changes in various patterns and trends, add location attributes to features and visualize the world around us better.

Future scope

The future of GIS is filled with potential for innovation, enhanced decision-making, and addressing societal challenges through the utilization of spatial data and emerging technologies. With the integration of emerging technologies, GIS will be used to enhance virtually every field. Cloud-based GIS will provide scalability and accessibility, enabling easy storage, management, and sharing of large geospatial datasets. Additionally, the utilization of real-time analytics in GIS will extract valuable insights, aiding decision-making in various domains.

In addition to these trends, the integration of 3D modeling with GIS will create immersive geospatial environments, enhancing visualization and analysis. Furthermore, mobile GIS applications will continue to thrive, providing personalized and location-specific information through features like real-time navigation, geotagging and location-based information.

AABSyS is a leading provider of GIS technology services for the past several years. Please click here to explore more details about how AABSyS can help you with GIS and also some interesting case studies of how customers in different segments have benefitted from AABSyS GIS services.