Geographic Information Systems

Geographic information systems, also known as geoinformation systems or abbreviated GIS, are software programs that are used to record, process, analyze, present and organize spatial data. In a broader sense, they include not only the software used and the application programs, but also the hardware used and the geographical data.

Geographic information systems are used in a wide variety of areas, such as geography, cartography, archaeology, urban planning, marketing, industry, telecommunications, energy supply, insurance, forestry, agriculture, raw material extraction, environmental protection, police, military, logistics and healthcare.

A central element of geoinformation systems is generally a digital map in which the geodata is visualized. A distinction is made between vector and raster data. The vector data are, for example, points, lines and polygons with which individual objects are represented on the map. Raster data is image data, such as the image tiles of a background map or an aerial image.

Whereas in the past, geodata was usually stored and saved on a file basis, nowadays it is often managed in databases (such as Oracle) due to the often very large volumes of data.

There are numerous commercial providers of geographic information systems, as well as various freeware and open source GIS programs such as QGIS. The programs differ in their range of functions and therefore the choice of suitable GIS software also depends on your own requirements.

In addition to traditional desktop GIS programs, there is also GIS software that provides map services on the server side, which can then be used in browser-based web applications. There are also cloud-based GIS platforms that provide GIS services that can be used in web applications or apps on mobile devices. There are special apps and APIs for smartphones and tablets that enable GIS functionality to be used on the go.

Geographic information systems often also offer APIs and programming interfaces for software developers. This allows the existing functionality of the GIS software to be extended with your own functions, widgets or GUI elements.