Geospatial Technology

November 18, 2019 2 min read

Geospatial Technology

What is geospatial technology

Geospatial technology refers to a combination of skills, processes, hardware and software that are used when processing, analysing or visualizing geospatial data. The reason the geo in geospatial is important is because it refers to data that is related to a place on the earth. 

The reason I mention this is because there are other kinds of spatial data that does necessary have anything to do with the real world. If we think about video games for example, the world programmers build inside these games is based on objects that have a spatial relationship to each other but have no relationship to any position on earth. So they are spatial objects, built using spatial relationships but not geospatial data.

So, I great example of geospatial technology hardware is The GPS receiver you have in your phone. This receiver, positions your phone at a location on the surface of the earth based on the relative positions of the satellites that it can see. 

Every position the GPS receiver calculates is then geospatial data. This data is geospatial because it contains  an X,Y,Z coordinate that positions it somewhere on the earth.

Software designed to process and analyze geospatial data needs to understand models that are commonly used to represent the earth. The surface of the earth is a very complex shape so these models are often a compromise between maximizing the efficiency of mathematical calculations and minimizing errors. Some times these models consider the entire earth and other times they are designed for certain geographic areas. Having a model of the earth means that spatial relationships between objects in a geospatial dataset can be visualised and analysed. 

A typical output of geospatial technology is a map.I realise this sounds rather baic but if you think about it a map is a combination of the hardware that was used to collect the data that was then processed using software that understands the geospatial relationships and enables geospatial data to be visualised.

Long before the geospatial technologies that we use in our everyday lives existed we still used maps to explain the relationships between objects on the earth. The accuracy of these maps might not have been up to par with what we are able to produce today but the basic idea that objects had a certain spatial relationship to each other was the same. Geospatial technologies are all based around the idea of representing geographic relationships between and among objects that can be located on the earth. 

Tobler's first law of geography states that “All objects are related to all other objects but near objects are more related than distant objects” 

Geospatial technologies are tools and methods that seek to collect and analyze data about the geographic locations of objects and the relationships between them.