Geospatial FAQs

What Is Geospatial?

Geospatial is the overarching term for all data related to and conveyed on a map and can be visualized in two ways. Vector data applies geometric shapes for location, and points and lines represent the outline of geographic 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 scanned digital or aerial and satellite images and leverages stair-stepping (a cell-based format) to report data as pixels or grids over an image. Geospatial technology includes GIS, GPS, remote sensing, and beacon technology.

What Is the History of Geospatial?

Although geospatial data debuted to a mass audience in 2005 with the launch of Google Maps, the concept was formed as early as 1832 during a cholera outbreak in Paris. French cartographer Charles Picquet created a heatmap to track the spread of 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.

When it comes to geospatial evolution, in particular, there are a handful of women that we should acknowledge and the roles that their skills played in creating what we know to be geospatial today. Showcasing these pivotal women also helps motivate women in geospatial who are looking to take the next step in their careers, something our team can help with.

How Is Geospatial Used In Different Industries?

Transit and transportation systems in metropolitan cities all over the country use geospatial intelligence systems and technology to monitor the condition and progress of thousands of miles of underground and above-ground subway tracks. Drones with GPS capabilities are also used to check all conditions instead of manual inspectors traveling dangerous trails.

The list of geospatial applications is endless for retail businesses, banks, insurance companies, and smart city planning. Your new smartphone even uses a common geospatial tool, LiDAR, which has been around since the 1960s. There have been several applications of LiDAR over the years, and it has emerged recently as a valuable tool to optimize geospatial data collection and analysis.

How Can I Start and Grow a Career in Geospatial?

You can go to school and learn the highly technical field of GIS, which is essential — but that’s not all you need to grow professionally. As you gain on-the-job experience, also look for opportunities to sharpen these skills, both hard and soft.

As GIS is applied to more and more industries, there are a variety of ways GIS professionals can approach a career. Along with developing technical skills, it’s crucial for your personal and professional growth to consider building non-technical and soft skills. Start by becoming a member of industry organizations like URISA or GITA to take advantage of their tools and networking opportunities.

What Role Does the NGA Play in the Evolution of Geospatial Tools?

Although mapping for defense and intelligence has long been a practice, several government agencies formed to support GEOINT work across industries and break down barriers between private and public-sector organizations that need GEOINT to thrive.  

While it’s true that the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) was officially formed in 2004, you’d have to travel far back in time to understand the complete history of the NGA — which is also part of the history of GEOINT. During World War II, aerial photography became the preferred method to collect intelligence and visual data, which evolved into modern mapmaking as we know it today.

Who Can Help My Organization Harness the Power of Geospatial Data?

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 with 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 provide technology as a licensed or cloud solution.