Web-Based Maps No Match for Real GIS
While web-based mapping applications like Google Earth may grab the attention, they can't come close to the power of "old school" Geographic Information System programs produced by companies such as ESRI and MapInfo. So says Patrick Marshall in a recent article on Government Computer News:
To do more in-depth geospatial analysis, you’re going to need a full-fledged geographic information system, or GIS.Among the varied uses for GIS Mr. Marshall cites are:
GIS solutions offer more than just map displays. They combine the analytical power of databases with the geographic capabilities of maps. As a result, they can produce reports that show at a glance anything from demographic trends to the most appropriate site for a new hospital.
GIS programs have long been used by engineers, transportation planners and other specialists to track and analyze geographically oriented data, from the location and age of utility lines to deforestation trends.
The snag was that buying a GIS solution meant spending many thousands of dollars on software and thousands more on high-end workstations and training. In recent years, however, GIS programs have gotten both less expensive and easier to use, encouraging broader use in government for a variety of purposes.
- Track the incidence and location of gang crimes to help prioritize resources.
- Analyze demographic data to select optimal sites for neighborhood service centers or new elementary schools.
- Analyze accident data to select the best site for an emergency room.
- Track the location of emergency-response vehicles to help speed their dispatch.