A Guide to Geospatial Data

Geospatial tech is integrated into our daily lives with a growing number of applications. We’re tapping into geospatial data when we check weather apps, consult Google Maps for traffic information, or geotag social media posts. 

Using this data to drive business decisions that lead to long-term growth and give a competitive edge is becoming increasingly important. There are more opportunities than ever for businesses and organizations to gather geospatial data from the general public – their customers. 

Standard geospatial technology tools include:

  • Remote Sensing
  • Space or airborne cameras
  • Geographic Information System (GIS)
  • Software that can map a specific geographic location anywhere on Earth
  • Global Positioning System (GPS)
  • Internet Mapping Technologies
  • Google Earth and Microsoft Virtual Earth

But what exactly is geospatial data? Our experts have created a quick-read guide to help you better understand geospatial data and GIS tools and how you can become an integral part of the innovation in this industry.

The Origins of Geospatial Data

Although geospatial data debuted to a mass audience in 2005 with the launch of Google Maps, the foundation was built as early as 1832. During a cholera outbreak in Paris, French cartographer Charles Picquet created a heatmap to track the spread of the illness. In 1854, cholera hit London and physician John Snow used Picquet’s work to identify contaminated water sources and show the connection to the disease.

In the early 20th century, a form of map printing called photozincography was invented, allowing for the creation of maps through several layers representing data. Years later, satellite images helped to shape the concept of Geographic Information Systems, which include GIS maps that can contain an unlimited amount of data. This helps users get a comprehensive visualization and analysis to understand patterns and trends better. Further refinement resulted in Google Maps’ 2005 moment.

How to Define Geospatial

Here’s the straightforward definition: “Geospatial analytics gathers, manipulates, and displays geographic information system (GIS) data and imagery including GPS and satellite photographs. Geospatial data analytics rely on geographic coordinates and specific identifiers such as street address and zip code. They are used to create geographic models and data visualizations for more accurate modeling and predictions of trends.” 

More simply, geospatial data marks a spatial identifier on land — like a building or geographical reference point (mountains, lakes, etc.) You can tie geographic data to customer location, behavior, movement patterns, and shopping behaviors on a business level.

Geospatial data can be visualized in two ways. Vector data applies geometric shapes to show the location and shape of geographic features. Points and lines represent features like cities, roads, and waterways. This method is scalable, offers smaller file sizes, and is a great way to depict boundaries on maps. Raster data uses a scanned digital image or aerial and satellite images and leverages stair stepping (a cell-based format) to report data as pixels or grids over an image.

Geospatial Career Options

Geospatial data and GIS tools have become the foundation of smart city initiatives and can provide location-specific information hyper granular and contextualized. These systems offer a visual way to convey complex data to those involved in the planning process at all levels of technical knowledge and allow emergency response managers to predict and track elements like extreme weather and natural disasters.

Government officials also use GIS technology for health and human service initiatives, land administration, and tax assessment and create citizen-accessible tools that allow easy viewing and analyzing of mapped-out government geospatial data. IT experts use GIS tools to encrypt and secure highly sensitive, back-end data needed for classified discussions.

Putting your geospatial skills to use means you’ll have the chance to help make life better for your community. If you want to make an impact, you can solve public and social challenges using geospatial expertise.

Tap Into Geospatial Data Today

Ultimately, geospatial data is quickly becoming a ubiquitous tool across all industries. When it’s time to establish a geospatial data strategy for your organization, it’s important to work closely with a partner that has a long history of experience working with organizations and cities that need efficient solutions for security, big data management, sustainable mobility, and much more. 

Reach out to learn more about our team — we focus on developing data platforms and related applications using open-source technology. We work with agile software development and can provide technology as a licensed or cloud solution.