Tuesday, March 15, 2005

GIS & IT - Brothers in Arms

GIS (Geographic Information System) is a discipline which throws light on how the location component (Latitude, Longiude, Altitude) can be used in conjunction with IT (Information Technology) to make human lives easier. A misconception is that whenever we say CAD/CAM it's GIS. Actually it is not so!. GIS is a much broader field which uses CAD/CAM only as a basic level tool to provide solutions to nagging challenges in the areas of Environment, Agriculture, Telecommunications, Transportation and Logistics, Power, Water, Traffic Telematics & Navigation, Municipal & Government operations and many more. GIS can be used in busines of retailing to map a district and have an idea of the density of population for setting up a new retail outlet. It can be used by Transport companies for fleet tracking solutions (with the help of GPS). It can be used by the local government for making 3D city models and for further planning. Telecom companies use it for line of sight solutions, new connections, maintenance, mapping networks and many more. Power companies use GIS in conjunction with power analysis softwares to attain network efficiency. Many such uses can be found. In order to have a GIS system in place, one needs to have the base map, the geodatabase, the necessary map display engine and on top of it the customized solution to make the whole system work. The range of functions that come within GIS are Digitization, Photogrammetry and Image Processing, Network creation and Maintenance (with Geo referencing), custom application development, creation of Digital Elevation and Terrain maps, Automated Mapping / Facilities Management and many more. How is IT related to GIS? Well! most GIS applications sit on the platforms developed and marketed by ESRI, Mapinfo, Bentley, Intergraph, GE Smallworld and AutoDesk and their licensed partners/resellers. These companies continuously develop applications/platforms suited for every industry where ever there is a possibility of using GIS. And then there are other companies that develop custom applications on these platforms. The comparison can be made to that of a software company developing a banking application on the .NET platform. And again the GIS system of an organization can be integrated with many of the enterprise applications already implemented. GIS can be integrated with the SCADA (Supervisory Control & Data Acquisition) system where real time information has to be continuously mapped on the transmission or distribution network of a power company. It could be integrated with the CRM & billing solution or SAP/ERP systems for various objectives. It can be integrated with the OSS (Operation Suport Systems) like the inventory system to have an idea of the inventory in each location. The basic example of GIS in use could be the online mapping tools. Just have a look at the yahoo maps or also google maps. What you will see is the use of GIS in the basic level. The next blog will focus on how GIS plays an important role in the navigation systems used in vehicles and also how GIS helps in fleet management. Ravi.

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