A collective term for modern tools that map and analyse the earth and most things on it, geospatial technology is making huge advances. These technologies help us to understand spaces, monitor changes and patterns in landscapes, cities and even societies.
So, what is geospatial technology?
What Does Geospatial Mean?
To understand what geospatial technologies are, we must start with an understanding of the word ‘geospatial’. In simple terms, geospatial refers to location-specific data. Geospatial information relates to features on the surface of the earth and their geographic locations.
So when it comes to what geospatial means, it’s really anything relating to a location.
What is Geospatial Data?
Geospatial data is any data that has a geographic component to it. It can describe features, objects, or even events that have a specific location. Geospatial data will combine information about the location and attributes of an object. Location information can be either dynamic or static.
Such data can be collected in a variety of ways. Using remote sensing, geospatial data can be collected without close proximity to the area. For example, vast amounts of information can be gathered using unmanned aerial vehicles which makes gathering this information fast and effective.
Examples of Geospatial Data
Geospatial technologies can be used to collect data, but this information is represented in different ways depending on the technology chosen. Here are some examples of different types of geospatial data:
Point Cloud Data
Using remote sensing, laser scanners like our ZEB family collect a huge amount of tiny points within an environment. All these points together are called a point cloud. Each point has a location coordinate, and the set of points can be interpreted to create a 3D model of an area or object. Find out more in our article on point clouds.
Vectors consist of points, lines and polygons. Each point has a coordinate, and lines and polygons are formed by connecting these. These elements represent real-world features in any given environment. Each feature will have text or numerical attributes to describe them.
High-resolution satellite imagery is a type of geospatial data too. Satellites can help to view our world from a distance, showing us a much bigger picture.
When census data is linked to a geographic area, it becomes a type of geospatial data too. For example, city planners will use population data from a Census to plan where they might build new roads, schools or hospitals.
Who uses Geospatial Data?
There are a whole host of uses for geospatial data, which means a wide range of groups, companies, and people use it. Some examples of these are:
Logistics and transportation
This data can be used for analysis, modelling, simulation and more. Geographic information is vast and rich. It can be really powerful when used effectively.
So, What is Geospatial Technology?
Now that we’ve explained what geospatial means and geospatial data is, it’s time to consider how this translates into technology. Geospatial technology is used to collect and analyse geospatial data. It’s a collective term for the various modern tools and systems that help us to map the earth’s surface, understand societies and interpret spatial patterns.
Examples of Geospatial Technologies
The term ‘geospatial technology’ is broad and covers a whole host of different things. Here are some examples of commonly used geospatial technologies:
LiDAR (light detection and ranging) is a popular method of collecting spatial data using remote sensing. You can find out more about this type of laser scanning and how it works in our dedicated article: What is lidar?
A global positioning system (GPS) is a type of geospatial technology that most people have heard of and used. GPS data is collected by satellites and is used globally for navigation and geolocation. Global positioning systems have been fully operational since 1993. All modern smartphones contain GPS so you can see where you, or somebody else is on a map in near real time.
Geographic information systems (GIS) combine maps with a database of other descriptive information. Geographical information systems allow the management and analysis of location information. This type of spatial analysis has provided so much insight, it really has changed the way the world works.
A base map can be layered with other data sources to create a powerful visualization. GIS information might include things like satellite imagery, aerial photography, point cloud or vector data. Digital software brings all this information together.
As internet mapping technologies like Google Earth and Microsoft Virtual Earth become more accessible, it’s much easier for the average person to visualize data from a geographic information system.
Why is Geospatial Technology Important?
Geospatial technology enables the collection of geospatial information, and this data collection is extremely valuable. It’s so important because it can inform us about so many different things. From improving national security to urban planning, biodiversity conservation, providing humanitarian relief and even forest fire suppression, geospatial data science has so many applications. Take a look at our detailed blog covering why geospatial information is so important for more information.
Where is Geospatial Analysis Used?
In short, geospatial analysis touches every aspect of our lives. It’s used by scientists, decision-makers, conservationists, governments, urban planners, businesses and healthcare professionals amongst many more.
Geospatial information is often used for research and development. It can be used in modelling and simulations, which can inform future decisions. It gives people the ability to create a virtual world that can be tested and simulated to measure effects, so decisions can be made more safely. Geospatial analysis enriches our understanding of the world around us and has opened up so many possibilities.
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