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A GIS or geographic information system allows for both temporal and spatial data to be stored, retrieved, manipulated and analysed using databases. GIS has drastically changed the way we live. Today, we can access terabytes of geographical information – much of it in 3D – from virtually any device. The GIS market is currently estimated to be at approximately $30 billion per year. And yet, the number of GIS-based smartphone apps is surprisingly low.
It’s true that several telecom companies place high value on GIS. Some have plans to make GIS technology as ubiquitous as email has become. Once users can both fix their locations and can share those coordinates, the possibilities become virtually endless. In fact, this is well under way today. However, there are still limiting factors preventing the creation and proliferation of GIS-based smartphone apps.
Efficient Handling of Data
The way a GIS collects and inputs data, as well has how it converts that data from various forms into a usable format can be a barrier to the development of usable applications. Although much of today’s geographical information exists in digital format it is made up of comparatively large data files which are hard for small devices to process.
A Common Data Standard
In addition to the efficient handling of data, some type of standard for the way its spatial relationships are expressed must be defined in order for data to be usable. Unless this occurs, it is simply not possible for all of the information associated with all spatial relationship possibilities to be stored, shared and viewed by everyone.
It remains a huge expense to convert data to one that a GIS can use. As well, it is a time-consuming and often difficult endeavour. What makes it harder is when the data comes from a various array of sources, each with a different reliability and geographic scale. Today’s technology is generating data in digital form. However, an immense amount of past data exists which is still awaiting conversion.
Data management is yet another limiting factor to GIS-based app development. Applications must be able to store and retrieve information from the database. However, if the quantity of data is too large to be handled in this way, there is no option but to handle it manually or use another information management system to manage it. Unfortunately, using other methods or doing so manually may simply not be able to be handled efficiently.
Of course, once data can be input into a GIS, it then becomes incredibly easy to manipulate and analysed, and in cost-effective and time-efficient ways that other methods simply cannot match. Today’s GIS technology is considered by many to now be entering the mainstream of information management, being much more affordable and user-friendly than they used to be. Recent years have seen much expansion of the types and number of GIS applications and this expansion is set to continue. It is likely that soon, technology will no longer be a barrier to the creation of GIS-based applications.