“What is GIS? Things to know about Geographical Information Systems”

Who needs it, how is it used, and what are the benefits?

GIS -Brandywine CAD - Geographic Information Systems
Brandywine CAD – Geographic Information Systems

What is GIS?

A geographic information system (GIS) is a system that creates, manages, analyzes, and maps all types of data. This technology connects data to a map. A key function of GIS is that it integrates location data with other types of descriptive information. Basically it takes the location (where things are) and gives you the details (what things in that location are like). This is a far more advanced method than the previous mapping systems because you can include very specific details. 

Almost every industry uses mapping systems, but geographic information systems allow you to better understand patterns and geographic context. This results in creating better foundations for relationships between items, locations and ideas in your design. 

GIS helps you to improve your efficiency and allows you to make more informed decisions. It helps overall communication, which leads to saving time, energy and money. Using Geographic Information Systems, is a great way to stand out from the competition by being more organized, thorough and precise. 

Who is it for & who needs to use it?

There are thousands of applications GIS can be used for, and hundreds of industries that use it. Chances are, if you have been researching GIS at all, you fall into one of the categories I’m about to mention. While almost any industry could benefit from the use of Geographical Information Systems, we tend to see it utilized most often in the following fields:

  • Science
  • Medical
  • Biology
  • Geology
  • Architecture
  • Agriculture
  • Security
  • Water Supply & systems
  • City & Government Planning
  • Astronomy
  • Aviation
  • Archaeology

These are just a few of the more common applications we see. GIS is an incredibly versatile tool, and has revolutionized many industries.

How is GIS used?

There are way too many applications of GIS to cover here, but we wanted to include an example to illustrate one of the ways that we utilize it here at B-CAD (Brandywine CAD). 

B-CAD provides GIS support to a large public water and wastewater utility operating in eight states. We are primarily responsible for creating and maintaining water and wastewater infrastructure (pipes, valves, hydrants, etc.) in this system.  Most of the system infrastructure updates are because of water main replacement projects. 

B-CAD receives as-built plans and updates GIS so that the “retired” mains, valves & hydrants are no longer displayed in the viewer application, and the new mains, valves & hydrants are displayed in the viewer application. The GIS update also includes important data attributes, e.g., Project Name, county, municipality, installed date, water main material and diameter, valve type, valve open direction, etc.

Are all GIS plans the same?

Not all GIS plans are the same. Some system updates are a little more complicated because they include storage tanks, boosters, pressure reducing valves, check valves or pressure zone changes. B-CAD takes great care to ensure these more complicated updates are displayed correctly, and requests engineering review as needed.

In support of water main replacement projects, B-CAD also exports GIS data (aerial imagery, elevation contours, soils, parcels, etc.) to AutoCAD in the appropriate state plane coordinate system; so that engineering and engineering support staff can design the water main replacement projects in AutoCAD.

B-CAD also prepares and exports data to GIS shape-files, for import to hydraulic modeling software. Our goal is to ensure that the exported data is error free and includes all the necessary attributes for the hydraulic modeling engineer.

What are the benefits of using Geographical Information Systems?

The benefits of use are endless. Here is a list of the top 10 reasons we at B-CAD love using them:

  1. Enhanced details (zoom in and out)
  2. Data-driven mapping styles
  3. Intuitive analysis tools
  4. Location intelligence 
  5. Easy collaboration process
  6. Cloud based software
  7. Secure & private
  8. Enterprise ready
  9. Great results for our clients every time
  10. Easy to update and customize for long-term projects

Again, the list here could go on and on. The simple fact is that our clients love the results we get for them when using Geographical Information Systems. The system gives us smart management processes, predictable outcomes, and up to date planning abilities. The results are easy to read and understand due to the intuitive updating process.

Is this technology right for your project?

By now, you’re probably leaning towards trying GIS for your next project. There are so many possible uses for this system, that it is best to speak to a professional to make sure it is the right option for your specific needs. We are here to guide you through the process and give you all of the additional information you need to move forward on your project. 

B-CAD can supplement in-house personnel with GIS editing of changes to the water and wastewater infrastructure, mapping services including publication of maps, and exporting data for hydraulic modeling.

Can I use GIS myself?

Yes, you can use public/ open source GIS for yourself. The learning curve is different for everyone, and there are some great free resources available. 

At B-CAD, we help with commercial projects that are private and personal sourced systems. 

 We specialize in offering “done for you” services including GIS, CAD BIM production, field surveys & 3-D laser scanning, consulting & printing and more. However, if you are looking to learn the professional way to complete and offer these services yourself, we also offer extensive training through Autodesk for those in the architectural, engineering, and construction industries who want to learn how to use GIS.

We would love to help take your project to the next level. For more information, please reach out and contact us here.

If you are interested in learning more about Geographic Information Systems and how they can be utilized in your business visit our GIS information page here