Recent decades have seen a boom in the use of maps, and it is connected with the emergence of Geographical Information Systems (GIS), which embodied a fundamentally new approach to working with spatial data. GIS is a modern computer technology for mapping and analysis of real-world objects and events, taking place on our planet, in our life and work.
In other words, these are the tools that allow users to search, analyze and edit maps in digital format. Maps created with the help of GIS, can be considered a new generation of maps. Using GIS maps, we can put on them not only geographical, but also statistical, demographic, technological and many other types of data and to supplement them with a variety of analytical operations. But, even with the appearance of global positioning systems, the value of maps has not diminished, but only slightly changed. Maps have become electronic, and GPS receivers are often used as a convenient addition to the usual paper map.
Mapping is one of the most ancient branches of human knowledge – its origins are from a distant past. It has evolved in conjunction with geography, whose mandate was to image the Earth’s surface in the drawing.
The study of the history of cartography allows you to understand its current state and tasks, to see more clearly the prospects for its future development. Presentation of the history of cartography is constructed in accordance with the general historical periodization, as the development of cartography is always determined by the needs of life and demands of production in different socio-economic systems.
GIS or Geographic Information System
GIS or Geographic Information System is a computer system, designed for the effective work with spatially distributed data.
Spatially-distributed information – is something, what people use almost every day, regardless of the type of their activities. This can be a subway map or building plan, topographic map or chart of the company offices, road atlas or a contour map and more. GIS makes it possible to collect and analyze relevant information, to quickly find the information you need and display it in a convenient form. Using the GIS technology can dramatically increase the efficiency and quality of work with distributed information, compared to traditional mapping techniques. To put it simply, GIS systems are created to automate the processing of spatially distributed information, using advanced computer techniques.
The main difference of GIS
The main difference of GIS, from other informational and analytical systems, lies in the specifics of processed and analyzed data – it is spatial data. Information about these spatial digital data is called Geo.
Geospatial – a kind of space, characterized by length, dynamics, structure and continuity.
Geo – coordinated geospatial information with objects in a digital computer-perceivable form, designed as a starting material for the modeling of geo-space.
Based on the above we can give another definition of GIS:
GIS – a modern computer technology for mapping and analysis of real-world objects and events taking place on our planet, in our life and work.
GIS technology combines traditional operations, during operation with databases, such as query and statistical analysis, with the advantages of a complete visualization and geographic (spatial) analysis. Visualization and spatial analysis distinguish the GIS from other information systems and provides unique opportunities for its use in a wide range of tasks. These problems are related to the analysis and prediction of things and events in the world, with understanding and highlighting the main factors and causes, and their possible implications in the planning of strategic decisions and the current effect of actions.
The main functions of the GIS are:
- Geospatial analysis of special and general geographic data;
- Geo-space modeling – creating models of geo-space;
- collection and processing of information – to provide baseline data for modeling;
- Visualization – is required for the control and perception of the results of spatial analysis.
An integral part of the GIS is a database – GIS has the ability to process the data using all the functions provided by the database management system (DBMS). When using a GIS the database query can be refined by introducing additional parameters, which makes the search faster and more convenient.
Thus, the use of GIS increases the efficiency of many companies, and government agencies, helps to save significant financial and time resources.
Three main periods of development of GIS
The authors of current literature on geographic information technologies identify three main periods of development of GIS software and hardware: pioneering, government initiatives and commercial.
The Pioneering period
The Pioneering period: late 50’s – early 70’s of the last century. During this period, began the research of information technology on the new features of cartography, using computer technology. This period is characterized by the development of cartography in connection with the rapid development of computer technology: the creation and use of computers as printers, large graphic displays, surface analyzers and other peripheral devices.
Were also important the scientific and theoretical works on the assessment of spatial relationships between geo-sites in geography and cartography; the study of quantitative methods in geography in the following countries: the U.S., Canada, England and Sweden.
A breakthrough in the field of geographic information systems and the beginning of Geo-informatics started with development and creation of a Geographic Information System of Canada (Canada Geographic Information System, CGIS). History of which begins in late 60’s of the last century and continues till the present day, this large-scale geographic information system continues to develop. Leading developer of the GIS in Canada, or as they call it at home the Father of GIS, is Roger Tomlinson. His conceptual ideas and technological developments have been successfully implemented in GIS.
The GIS of Canada
The GIS of Canada was designed for:
First of all, to study and analyze large amounts of data that were available to the Canadian land registry service (Canada Land Inventory);
Secondly, to obtain statistics on the ground for the further use of these data in the development of land management plans for large land areas destined mainly for agriculture and forestry.
In order to solve these challenges, the programmers of GIS needed to classify the land areas that are cultivated in agricultural, recreational, environmental and forest industry, and show the use of the land, according to their affiliation to the users and owners.
At this stage of development they needed to find a solution of how to enter the original mapping and thematic geo-data into the system. Therefore, they had to develop and explore a completely new technology that would allow users to work with large sets of mapping and user data. And users should be able to manage data and perform calculations.
The work with large-format maps was performed by using a specially designed and developed scanning device.
The developers have made a completely new step in technology – sharing map information into thematic sections, with a record of information in tables of attribute data. This concept laid the foundation for the separation of geo-information about the location of objects and information about these objects, with the creation of a coherent file system. Canadian scientists have developed algorithms and functions of overlay operations with polygons, calculation of areas and other measures required in handling with map information.
Harvard Laboratory for Computer Graphics & Spatial Analysis in Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) also studied the field of GIS and had great conceptual and practical experience in the field of geo-information technologies. GIS software products, made in the laboratory at Harvard, have proliferated in the world and helped to lay the platform for the development of various GIS applications. During this period, in the laboratory, Dana Tomlin has developed the basic cartographic algebra, in parallel she also developed and substantiated the possibility of using software Map Analysis Package – MAP, PMAP, aMAP. OSU-MAP is a freeware GIS software product, created by scientists and researchers at the Harvard lab.
Perseverance and great results in the study of GIS enabled Harvard laboratory to become a leader in the field of information and cartography. Cartographic data models, mapping method of research, methods of working with mapping and user information, which were developed in the laboratory at Harvard, are used at present in the development of modern GIS.
The Period of government initiatives
The period of government initiatives is characteristic of the period from the 70’s to early 80’s. This period is characterized by the creation and development of large GIS projects under the auspices of the state, which corresponds to the name of the period.
The number of public institutions in the field of geographic information technologies is increasing, while the role and achievements of individual investigators and small groups is reducing.
In the U.S., the scientific community of the time actively discussed the use of GIS for data processing and presentation of the National Census (US Census Data).
The specialists were to develop a technique that allows making a geographical binding of data on census. The main conceptual problem was the translation of residential addresses of citizens, specified in the questionnaire, into geographic coordinates, for the subsequent formation of an electronic map of the country, with the population census.
In this regard, the National Bureau of the U.S. Census (US Census Bureau) raises the question of development of an entirely new approach to the census, according to the geographical residence of citizens.
The result of this work was the census of the U.S. population in 1970, which was conducted with the use of GIS.
The specialists have developed a special format for map data called DIME (Dual Independent Map Encoding), which included the rectangular coordinates of intersections, where the streets were separated into individual cartographic fields. Algorithms for processing and presentation of spatial data have been taken from Canada and the GIS laboratory at Harvard, and presented in the form of a software product – POLYVRT. It allowed converting the addresses of citizens into coordinates, represented graphically as a segment of a street.
The development and testing of results and upgrade of DIME-files, have increased the growth of research activities in the field of GIS, which was based on databases of street networks.
Beside the use of GIS in Agriculture and Census, the navigation system with mapping support for urban transport management and other applications that require precise binding object to the map data, are being developed.
Using GIS for the census in the United States helped to create atlases of several major U.S. cities and simplified electronic maps for trade and transport companies.
Custom (commercial) period
Custom (commercial) period: from 1981 to the present time.
This period is characterized by massive commercial exploitation of software and GIS applications.
Using GIS and data bases in view of application networking technologies and navigation, allowed the market to release a large number of custom GIS software products that supported the individual work with map data on PC. These products were also used in governmental and commercial organizations. The rapid development of computing and personal computers has made software, hardware and network information resources, available for a wide range of specialists.
A striking example is the development of GIS software – ARC / INFO by The Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI Inc).
The program of ARC / INFO included geometric rules of separate presentation (mapping) and attribute data (Milson & Alibrandi, 2008). The storage and handling of attribute information was carried out in the form of tables (INFO), and the arc technology was used to store and work with graphics (ARC).
The developers ARC / INFO were able to create the first GIS software product that can be effectively used on PCs and is available for different technical platforms and operating systems.
Another example of excellent commercial implementation in the field of hardware and software for GIS was, and still is, the Intergraph Corp. The company’s success, in the application of GIS, has been associated with the implementation of (in the interest of the U.S.) military missile guidance systems in real time. The merit of the Intergraph Corp. Company is also the creation of interactive cartography system to control the territory.
Currently, the period of Custom (commercial) GIS development is continuing actively. Global sales in the GIS field are estimated at more than $ 9 billion per year. GIS technologies are indispensable tools for research in various fields of human activity.
Because of the unique ability of GIS to work with data of the geographical surface, it is being used in the study of outer space.
Currently, the GIS systems for mass consumption are widely used, for example:
- Electronic city plans;
- Master plans of plants;
- Schemes of engineering systems and communications;
- Traffic schemes.
According to some estimates, up to 80-90% of the information, with which we usually deal, may be in the form of GIS. It can be concluded that the geographic information systems have a tremendous potential, and they can brings good dividends.
In general, we can say that the GIS industry is actively changing and evolving, which indicates the great potential of the industry. Based on this, it is hoped that in the near future geographic information systems will not lose the momentum in its development and will provide its users with more and more new opportunities.