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A geographic information system, or GIS, integrates hardware, software and both spatial and tabular data. Together those components are used for capturing, managing, analyzing and displaying all forms of geographically referenced information. GIS provides a framework for gathering and organizing spatial data and related information so that it can be displayed and easily analyzed.
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GIS allows us to view, understand, question, interpret, and visualize data in many ways that reveal relationships, patterns, and trends in the form of maps, globes, reports and charts. Patterns and relationships are not always obvious in tabular data. However, when this data is viewed spatially these patterns begin to emerge and new types of analysis can be preformed.
Maps can be created to show change over time and location and to help predict those changes in order to become more prepared for planning efforts. GIS can be used as an information porthole to combine disparate information sources into a single map that otherwise would have to be viewed individually.
While there are countless benefits, they fall into 5 basic categories: