What is GIS and what industries use it?

When I tell my friends that I am a GIS Analyst, I see that blank look on their faces (which I take as a signal to explain further what I actually mean 🙂

This is what I tell them:

I manipulate geographical, environmental and demographic data in order to produce analyses and maps that will help our clients, usually public organizations like cities, counties or states, understand where to best plan for bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure in their communities.

Now, I work for an active transportation firm, and bicycle and pedestrian plans are the bread and butter of what we do. It’s important to keep in mind that there’s so much more you can do with GIS!

More broadly, GIS can be described as the following:

“A geographic information system (GIS) is a system designed to capture, store, manipulate, analyze, manage, and present all types of geographical data.  The key word to this technology is Geography – this means that some portion of the data is spatial.  In other words, data that is in some way referenced to locations on the earth. (UW Madison Libraries Research Guides).”

GIS tools are the actual software that allows us to import all the data and manipulate it to produce analyses crucial for many industries. You can work on paid software developed by Esri (www.esri.com), the ArcGIS suite, or open-sourced software like QGIS (https://qgis.org/en/site/).

Here is a list of industries that utilize GIS as part of their operations:

  • Insurance
  • Retail
  • Manufacturing
  • Real Estate
  • Banking
  • Media & Entertainment
  • Supply Chain
  • Community Development
  • Defense
  • Earth Sciences
  • Elected and Appointed Officials
  • Elections
  • Intelligence
  • Land Administration
  • National Mapping and Charting
  • Official Statistics
  • Public Work
  • Agriculture
  • Climate, Weather, and Atmosphere
  • Conservation
  • Environmental Management
  • Forestry
  • Mining
  • Oceans
  • Petroleum
  • Water Resources
  • Emergency Call-Taking, CAD, and RMS
  • Emergency/Disaster Management
  • Fire and Emergency Services
  • Homeland/National Security
  • Airports & Aviation
  • Highways
  • Ports & Maritime
  • Public Transport
  • Railways
  • Law Enforcement
  • Electric
  • Gas
  • Pipeline
  • Telecommunications
  • Water Utilities
  • Education
  • Health & Human Services
  • Sustainable Development
  • Survey
  • Mining
  • Non-profits
  • Urban Planning
  • Landscape Architecture

It is safe to say GIS is all around us and making tremendous behind-the-scenes contributions to the economy, laws, conservation, planning, and development around us!

Keep mapping along,
Emilie

* Can you list any other industries that utilize GIS? If yes, please leave a comment below!

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