The Complete Beginner’s Guide to GIS

By LandCentral

map of the United States


GIS stands for Geographic Information System. Yep, it’s a mouthful. It’s also something you use every day without even realizing it. So what is it? Simply put, it’s a mapping technology that helps us puny humans make sense of the world around us. Since the dawn of civilization, maps have been used to help humans navigate their domain. From the Vikings to Columbus, maps have helped us keep track of where we’ve been and where we’re going. Today’s exploration happens less on the physical map and more through the virtual realm. That’s where GIS comes in. So get ready for The Complete Beginner’s Guide to GIS:

What is GIS, really?

The techy version describes it as “a business information management system that helps capture, analyze, and interpret data in visual ways to reveal relationships and patterns which help us make better decisions.” Phew.

Now that we got that out of the way, on to the short version: GIS looks at the patterns of a geographic space and places the data in an easy to use map.

What does GIS do for you?

Now that you know what it is, let’s find out how it impacts your daily life. Ever use Waze or Google Maps to navigate out of a traffic jam? Yep, you can thank it for that. Check out these other ways GIS helps:

Retailers –  helps pinpoint the best location for a new store based on data gathered in that specific geographic area.

Utilities – helps determine where power outages occur, helping them respond more efficiently.

Police Departments – helps discover patterns of criminal activity, thus helping police create strategic plans to keep areas safe.

City Planners – helps City Planners determine the best location for a new park, school, or hospital based on data gathered, ensuring they’re built in the area with the most need.

Meteorologists – assists scientists in studying the path of hurricanes to predict where they will occur in the future.

How does GIS work?

GIS software runs on computers, ranging from the most powerful server to a basic smart phone. Information about the real world is stored in a collection of layers linked by geography. Each layer contains similar features such as streets, rivers or landmarks. People then analyze graphic data using these tools and then visualize geographic data as maps, graphs or charts. Patterns and trends are easily identified, making information that was once buried in a spreadsheet come to life.

So there you have it, The Complete Beginner’s Guide to GIS. From alternate traffic routes to saving lives, millions of decisions are powered by GIS. If you’re looking for the perfect piece of property to finally open that business or build that housing development in an area of suspected growth, then GIS can help. And so can LandCentral. We sell land after all, so geography’s kind of our thing.

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