International GIS Day: What is GIS?

International GIS Day. Roger Tomlinson, today is your day. Unless you are a geo-geek like me, however, Roger Tomlinson’s name, much less his far-sighted invention of the Geographic Information System (GIS) may not even blip on your radar. It all started in the age of the Space Race and Flower Power,

The  1960s were a time of great change, growth, and development. From  The Beatles to Motown, Woodstock to Vietnam,  the world was in a state of drastic changes. At the same time, technology was beginning its leap forward with the advent of minicomputers and supercomputers. Roger Tomlinson, the Father of GIS, took advantage of this and invented a method of representing, storing, and relating information using location as the key relational factor.

If you think about it, almost every piece of data can be considered geospatial data. Sales Tax: Which store collected it? Geospatial data. Rainfall amounts: Where is it excessive, where is it deficient? Geographic information. Even the picture of that amazingly decadent dessert you took and posted to social media was geotagged.

It’s a common misunderstanding that geography is the study of maps (properly, cartography), or of where things are. In reality, geography is the study of how location impacts the ways in which things relate to each other. A GIS is the mechanism for relating all of these things to one another. By mapping, storing, and analyzing the patterns in this data, we can open up fresh understandings about the world and the people who live on the earth.

Many companies, Intergraph, ERDAS, and Hexagon Geospatial among them, have made it our mission to figure out new and innovative ways to utilize the power of GIS to help you change the world for the better. We believe that intelligent change begins with understanding the world around you, a world that is continually changing. That is why we want to help you make sense of that change.

The world is continuing to change at unprecedented rates. With the ubiquity of tablets and phones which contain GPS within their DNA, we are seeing an explosion of location-based data. This explosion is providing petabytes of data every data, most of which is geotagged. What di we do with all of this data? What understanding about the world can we glean from all this data? How can we harness it?

The really awesome thing about the world that is emerging is that we can take the traditional GIS—which is stuck in a computer lab or server room—and bring it to into the wider world. Not only that, but we can break it out of the traditional GIS silo and start using location-based analysis to inform decisions in industries which have not been traditional consumers of GIS data.

We are celebrating International GIS Day with a booth at Brisbane, Australia.

On this International GIS Day, while we mourn the passing of Roger Tomlinson, how are YOU are making a difference?

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