GIS (acronym for Geographic Information System) is an advanced computer system which helps to integrate, store, analyze, manage, share and present geographical data for informed decision making. GIS is a system which helps in managing spatial data depending on jurisdiction, purpose or application. In most cases, GIS is customized for a particular organization.
The most general application of GIS, which general public is increasingly using these days, is generating routes and driving directions from one point to another. Now assume that this system is provided with real time data of traffic congestions in the city, then the system can provide the total time required to reach a destination from source. Further, if the GIS system is integrated with the time schedule of local transportation, then the user would be able to plan his/her travel using public transportation.
Anyone and everyone can use GIS. From general public to government agencies and from small companies to multinational corporations, every entity in this world can use GIS for some application, purpose or objective.
A logistics company can use GIS to find the most optimized route for pickup and delivery of consignments, at the beginning of the day. When integrated with the real time information about the current location (using GPS devices) of various delivery vehicles, the GIS system can help the logistics provider to cater to emergency pickups and deliveries. Without a GIS application, managers in the logistics company would be browsing through spreadsheets with many records about consignments at various ports. With a GIS application, they can view the same status easily in a graphical manner on the map. This would enable them to make better decisions efficiently.
A Local Government agency can use GIS applications to provide information regarding various public services, like parks, recreation activities, trash cleanup, buses and schools in the neighborhood. GIS applications enable tourist departments of various cities/states/nations to provide information to tourists graphically on a map and helping them plan their daily itinerary. Additionally, GIS applications for local government can enhance interaction between the local government officials and members of general public. For example, using GIS application, members of general public can report to municipal authorities graffiti, road blocks etc easily by clicking on the map.
For Public Safety departments, GIS applications can help in disaster management. In case of disasters, the public safety officials can direct affected people to the nearest hospital by providing the best route to the point of incident. If the same GIS application is integrated with real time vacant bed status at each hospital, then the victims of the disasters can be sent to the nearest hospital without spending much time. This would, in turn, save precious minutes and therefore might lead to saving more lives. Moreover, public safety applications can help the officials to issue alerts or evacuation notifications to general public in affected areas more efficiently.
For various companies, especially the small ones which are growing at fast pace and want to set up new sales outlets or production units etc, GIS applications can provide location data on a map in a graphical manner. This enables the decision makers to analyze potential areas for setting up sales outlets or production units. Combined with the demographic data of the region and the transportation facilities, the decision makers can come up with potential sales volumes, costs and hence the final profits from that location.