In simple terms, GIS is a computer system that collects and analyses data, with specific relation to locations on the Earth’s surface, and give deeper understanding to spatial patterns. Often this data is displayed on maps to help analysts visualise the relationships between data and location.

There are many types of software that can do this, but the best of breed and most used platforms include ArcGIS, ArcGIS PRO, QGIS and GvSIG, often integrated with WEB GIS programming environments such as Python, ArcPy, ArcGIS server, GeoServer, ArcObjects and so on.

Make spatial connections that have never been seen before

GIS technology relies on location, and overlays data on top of that for comparison and analysis. Location can be expressed in many ways, as long as it indicates a fixed spot on the earth’s surface. For example, latitude and longitude is often used. Or alternatively postal address or postal code/ zip code.

Only be layering information over a location can the patterns and relationships become apparent. This could be information about people, such as population density or socio-demographic data – increasingly used in marketing for geographic targeting and market sizing.

It could also include data in relation to the natural environment. Soil types, mineral deposits, vegetation and water.

Another type of data could be the location and frequency of amenities and man made structures and services, to help with planning of those services, perhaps even in relation to population or population growth.

The possibilities are almost endless, as long as the data can be attributed to a location.

What industries can benefit from GIS

GIS can benefit almost any industry or service, whether public or private.

For example, local governments can use GIS to review services provided by location in comparison to people in the locality who could use that service. This will help planning budget allocation for those services in order to meet demand.

It can also be used for crime mapping, to understand which areas may require increased police presence.

In planning for development, say in housing, it can be used to inform where basic amenities will need to go, such as a road network or waste management solutions. Or even where to build new schools and doctor surgeries.

And we’ve already mentioned it’s application in the field of marketing to target potential customers and geographical market reach and share. This type of information can inform where a business may wish to invest in a new premises for example, and where not to.

How to hone your GIS skills

As with any specialist skill or analytical approach, good quality training and certification is key.

Find a Gis course that offers the most up to date training, on the latest versions of the best software. Even if you have a good knowledge of GIS, or even years of experience in the field, technology is innovating all the time with new approaches and functionality. It is important to keep those skills fresh and up to date with the latest trends and usage of GIS.

Pick a training company that offers courses that suit your level, whether beginner or advanced, and one that can specialise in training across different fields and disciplines with extensive experience in geomatic-related matters.

Some of the most comprehensive and relevant courses are now exclusively available online, through platforms such as Moodle. They are highly flexible and offer access to resources and support – even face to face with teaching staff.

Because this type of learning is accessible 24 hours a day, learning can take place at a time to suit you, and around your daily commitments. With different modules to complete, students can download training materials, complete practical tasks and undergo assessments to check understanding and progress throughout, for a much more reasonable price than for classroom based learning.