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The truth about GIS

The truth is GIS is a subset of Geospatial

let’s start off by defining GIS

Depending on how you view the world GIS can either mean Geographic Information Systems or Geographic Information Science (GIScience)

Geographic Information Systems

Here the focus is on the system, the infrastructure that is designed to capture, store, manipulate, analyze, manage, and present all types of geographical data.

Geographic Information Systems has consisted of the following components.

  1. Hardware: This includes computers, servers, and other equipment used to process and store data.
  2. Software: This includes the GIS software itself, as well as other programs used to input, analyze, and display data.
  3. Data: This includes both spatial data (data that has a geographic location, such as a street map) and attribute data (data that describes the characteristics of an object or feature, such as population data).
  4. People: This includes the individuals who use and maintain the GIS, as well as those who create and manage the data.
  5. Methods: This includes the procedures and techniques used to collect, process, analyze, and display data.
  6. Applications: These are the specific projects and tasks that the GIS is used for, such as environmental impact assessments, land use planning, and emergency response

Geographic Information Science

Geographic Information Science (GIScience) is the scientific field that studies the design, development, and use of geographic information systems.

It involves the application of techniques from computer science, statistics, and related fields to the management, analysis, and visualization of spatial data. GIScience also includes the study of the social and cultural impacts of GIS and related technologies.

GIScience encompasses a wide range of topics, including spatial data modeling and analysis, spatial databases, spatial statistics, cartography, spatial cognition and perception, geovisualization, and geographic ontology.

It also includes the development and application of new technologies and methods for collecting, managing, and analyzing spatial data, such as remote sensing, spatial data mining, and spatial machine learning.

GIScience is an interdisciplinary field, and professionals in the field often have backgrounds in geography, computer science, statistics, engineering, or other related fields. They may work in academia, government agencies, private industry, or non-profit organizations.

The key takeaway here is that Geographic Information Systems are the infrastructure and Geographic Information Science is how that infrastructure is developed and applied.

What does Geospatial mean?

Geospatial refers to the use of spatial data, technologies, and techniques to describe, analyze, and visualize the Earth and its features. It includes a wide range of activities, such as mapping, surveying, satellite imagery, and location-based services.

Spatial data is data that has a geographic location, such as a map or a satellite image. Geospatial technologies are tools and methods used to collect, analyze, and visualize spatial data.

These technologies include geographic information systems (GIS), remote sensing, and global positioning systems (GPS) which are often used and developed by Geographic Information Scientists (GIScience).

Geospatial technologies are used in a variety of fields, including geography, geology, environmental science, urban planning, and military and intelligence operations. They are used to solve problems, make decisions, and support a wide range of applications, such as mapping, land use planning, disaster response, and location-based services.

About the Author
I'm Daniel O'Donohue, the voice and creator behind The MapScaping Podcast ( A podcast for the geospatial community ). With a professional background as a geospatial specialist, I've spent years harnessing the power of spatial to unravel the complexities of our world, one layer at a time.