Geographic information system
A geographic information system (GIS) is a type of database containing geographic data (that is, descriptions of phenomena for which location is relevant), combined with software tools for managing, analyzing, and visualizing those data. In a broader sense, one may consider such a system to also include human users and support staff, procedures and workflows, body of knowledge of relevant concepts and methods, and institutional organizations.
The uncounted plural, geographic information systems, also abbreviated GIS, is the most common term for the industry and profession concerned with these systems. It is roughly synonymous with geoinformatics and part of the broader geospatial field, which also includes GPS, remote sensing, etc. Geographic information science, the academic discipline that studies these systems and their underlying geographic principles, may also be abbreviated as GIS, but the unambiguous GIScience is more common. GIScience is often considered a subdiscipline of geography within the branch of technical geography.
Geographic information systems are utilized in multiple technologies, processes, techniques and methods. They are attached to various operations and numerous applications, that relate to: engineering, planning, management, transport/logistics, insurance, telecommunications, and business. For this reason, GIS and location intelligence applications are at the foundation of location-enabled services, which rely on geographic analysis and visualization.
GIS provides the capability to relate previously unrelated information, through the use of location as the "key index variable". Locations and extents that are found in the Earth's spacetime are able to be recorded through the date and time of occurrence, along with x, y, and z coordinates; representing, longitude (x), latitude (y), and elevation (z). All Earth-based, spatial–temporal, location and extent references should be relatable to one another, and ultimately, to a "real" physical location or extent. This key characteristic of GIS has begun to open new avenues of scientific inquiry and studies.