Hey! We’re back and we’re finished with the history lesson. You know the old saying, you can’t go forward without knowing where you’ve been—or something along those lines. Thanks for taking that trip through the past with us. Having learned where GIS has come from, let’s talk about GIS in the world as it is today.

But First! Lingering Questions

“Are you going to actually answer those questions from your first post?” That’s a reaction I got from one of my friends. Well, Rich, I guess I can. As a recap, here is the first one.

Haven’t we mapped everything already?

 

No, we definitely haven’t. There are easy examples I can point out, like MRCTR mapping the topography of the moon. However, what that question is really referring to is our own planet. To which, I’ll say again, no. There are so many areas of this world that are not mapped, and typically those belong to the poorest and most at-risk peoples. As a global community, we are making progress each day. Initiatives such as HOT OSM, are quite literally changing the world. Normal folks like you and I can use OpenStreetMap interface to help map out at-risk communities for prevention and emergency response. Seriously, dear reader, you can help. All you need is some spare time, a computer, and a mouse. Recently, the United Nations recognized OpenStreetMap as “foundational” to disaster risk reduction. With this in mind, GISinc Employee Owners participated in a volunteer map-in to map at-risk communities with HOT last year. We’re proud to say this will now be an annual event.

Are you like Google Maps?

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I hope by now that this question has been answered, but stay buckled in. We’re about to explore areas far from standard navigation.

Location, Location, Location…

Can you believe this is the third post and the first time I’ve said that? The idiom has never been truer. Today, that little computer in your pocket is partly responsible for the 463 EB (that’s exabytes) that are expected to be created daily by 2025. So much of this data we are generating is tied to location, not only past – but current. Location has never been more important in driving our daily decision making.

So, where is GIS Today? Truly, everywhere around you. Knowing your location and its relationship to your interests, customers, product and so on is more important than ever. Let’s look at just a few examples of GIS today.

Smart Cities

Smart Cities is a term that’s being used more and more frequently. It’s a term used for cities taking advantage of information and communication technology to enhance the quality of life for its citizens. Typically, this revolves around improving utilities, transportation, and growth of the city. 

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I believe this can be, and has, extended to the county level. Counties such as Oakland County, MI, and Opelika, AL are using GIS to the fullest. Oakland County has created a collaborative asset management system where cities, villages and townships can converge on multi-jurisdictional projects. Taking advantage of Cityworks, Oakland County now manages an incredible amount of assets in an intelligent way. Sometimes pipelines, electric lines, or roads don’t stop because they get to a border drawn on a map.

In Opelika, AL they took a multifaceted approach to solving an issue of finding dead meters. Opelika Utilities converted the manual process of identifying dead meters within their service area into an enterprise GIS platform. They converted their paper and pencil data and it ended up saving them an estimated $300,000 per year. Using the data associated with points on their map, they were able to identify specific models of faulty meters allowing them to correct the issue. A textbook example of the advantages of GIS.

With summer approaching in the northern hemisphere, you can bet your BBQ that you’ll have to deal with mosquitos. Outside of the official summer season, we’re already seeing cases of mosquito-borne illness. This is an area that GIS has been implemented to address an issue. Hillsborough County Public Works in Florida converted another paper-driven process into a digital solution. They were able to not just plan nightly spraying activities but collect metrics and visually track progress in the fight against mosquito-borne illness. This allows the county to be responsive to new needs and expand where needed.

Come, Fly With Me

If there is one place that would be a microcosm of a city, it would be an airport. These concrete expanses have everything that cities offer and probably twice the amount of problems. Aside from juggling the actual transit of airplanes, there is non-flight transportation, parking, dining, shopping, and other amenities to manage. All of those services need to be managed and this excludes the thousands of patrons that make their way through each day.

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If you’re reading this blog, you already know my answer to these problems is GIS. The internet of things (IoT), or sensor-based information, is leading the way in many of these solutions. Airports are now taking advantage of indoor mapping to provide a their customers with better information about their surroundings. Airports are using sensor technology to provide their customers with real time parking availability. Others are employing their own mobile applications to provide a ‘curb to gate’ experience; navigating customers from check-in, to a restaurant or shopping, and finally to their departure gate. All of this while updating the patron on their boarding time.

Want to Get Involved Today?

Inspired and convinced in the importance of mapping and GIS? During last winter's government shutdown our team volunteered at a variety of non-profit and other agencies. Two of those efforts were Open Street Maps (https://www.openstreetmap.org) and Missing Maps (https://www.missingmaps.org). Through these agencies you join in fixing street areas in communities or leveraging Missing Maps Tasking Manager to help projects in need. Here are some examples:

  • Mapping for Rural First Responders: Rural Fort Qu'Appelle South (Central Canada)
  • Flooding in Kerala India 
  • Mapping Anchorage, Girdwood, and Eagle River State Park Areas 
  • Mapping buildings in Tanzania for emergency response/disease control
  • And MANY more 

GIS Tomorrow

As you can see, GIS is all around us and has been for some time. But where is it going? In some areas, that’s still up for debate. Regardless, we’ll discuss that next time. Here’s a hint you probably don’t need, it’s going to involve real-time data. See you then.

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Enjoy this blog? Check out the other posts in my "What is GIS?" series: 
What is GIS and What Do GIS Professionals Do? 
Where Does GIS Come From?