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GIS data management: from digital maps to landscape realities

December 27, 2023

Geography influences a vast array of business, government, and personal decisions. The “how” and “why” of processes and developments often come down to the particulars of place. The physical realities of a location are important, obviously, but so are the social specifics. The environmental context is also vital. Understanding not only what all those attributes are but also how they interrelate requires a thorough collection of geospatial GIS data.

Types of geospatial data

According to Merriam-Webster, geospatial data is any information derived from or related to specific locations. Data can be static, like items of inventory, or dynamic, such as migratory or traffic patterns. The range of geospatial data available to us is immense, and we collect it from a variety of sources.

Census data

Census data offers in-depth evidence of social metrics and trends. Regularly updated census data provides an on-the-ground human perspective. We can examine population density and changes over time, as well as more complex subjects like longevity, health, and economic status.

Point cloud data

Remote sensors use lasers to scan a location. Those scans collect millions of individual data points about the physical realities of the location and its environment. Each point contains a location coordinate. Together, those coordinates create a cloud from which we can create a 3D model of the area. The more points in each scan, the denser the cloud, and the more thorough and accurate the model.

Satellite data and images

Satellite technology provides intricately detailed views of specific locations. With satellites, we gain incredibly accurate images from very remote distances, which informs a wider, broader perspective.


Vectors represent actual features in a particular location with a textual or numeric attribute. Together, they embody physical features in the real world.

  • Points are coordinates, representing the exact location of a feature or asset
  • Lines are connections between points
  • Polygons are connected lines, representing regions or areas

Worker performing field inspection at wind farm - visualization of GIS data management from digital maps to landscape realities

Building maps and understanding

Data quantity offers unique and important perspectives. We can now collect a hugely diverse spectrum of geospatial data. We use that data to build different kinds of maps. GIS software layers these maps on top of one another. Melding datasets together makes for incredibly accurate and precise geospatial analysis.

GIS combines maps containing information about the physical attributes of a location with other, more descriptive datasets. Those sets can contain data about anything: population drift, environmental trends, weather events, and more. This allows GIS users to relate human and environmental data to specific geographic contexts. With GIS, we understand not only where or how objects are situated but also what the surrounding context is like. In addition to recognizing patterns, we can also begin to understand relationships between datasets.

Today’s technology solutions mean the physical characteristics of a location can be incorporated with social attributes. Environmental directions can be merged with political platforms. GIS data can also accurately measure changes over time. For instance, with GIS, organizations can immediately assess damage after major events like earthquakes. The current condition of assets and resources can be measured in real time, which can also be used to anticipate future needs.
The quantity of geospatial data makes GIS applications possible and numerous. The quality of the data, however, decides how successful those applications will be.

Collaborative collection

It is no exaggeration to say that GIS data is vital. Agriculture, disaster management, epidemiology, logistics, manufacturing, telecommunications, and urban planning: all these sectors rely on GIS data. Indeed, industries use GIS to analyze past conditions, model future outcomes, and predict potential needs and risks. Given those stakes, maintaining data quality is paramount.

The Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) establishes standards for geospatial data at the national level. The National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI) plan outlines the FGDC’s strategy for establishing and maintaining essential geospatial infrastructure. But in essence, a key feature of GIS is that data is a collaborative effort rather than a top-down resource.

The ubiquity of cell phones means billions of users have access to GIS-boosted information in their hands every day. Up-to-the-minute local traffic reports, for example, rely on GIS data. Drones and satellites offer immediate views of streets, neighborhoods, and other physical terrain. The Internet of Things collects, records, and networks data at previously unimaginable levels. GIS makes it possible for users to collect and exchange data with systems all around the world.

We can not only rapidly collect GIS data, but also immediately share it. Consequently, communication allows for continuous updates. To maximize utility, we need GIS data collection to happen on agnostic platforms capable of frictionless integration with Esri ArcGIS, email, SMS, and other programs. When we can input and verify data on multiple axes, and instantly share it between teams and organizations, we accelerate rapid development.

Making it count

The digital age has profoundly transformed the nature of geospatial understanding. The advancements in GIS Data enable us to visualize, analyze, and interpret the world’s patterns and relationships with unprecedented precision. GIS technology’s advanced capabilities surface accurate, data-driven insights. These insights allow organizations to make impactful, informed decisions. Equally importantly, companies can improve services while increasing competitiveness.

As we move away from manual to digital data collection, we must maintain an eye on quality. A GIS-integrated data collection platform like Fulcrum is essential for transforming real-world landscapes into accurate, detailed digital maps.

In summary, the evolution of GIS Data Management is pivotal in transforming our understanding of the world. By merging digital maps with real-world landscapes, we gain a comprehensive view of geography’s influence on various sectors. This integration is crucial for informed decision-making in business, government, and personal contexts. The interplay of physical, social, and environmental factors, captured through diverse geospatial data, empowers us to comprehend the complexities of our world. As we continue to harness this technology, it’s imperative to focus on the quality of data collected. This ensures that the insights derived are not only accurate but also meaningful in addressing challenges – both those we’re facing now, and those that are yet to come.

GIS data is at the core of insightful, actionable business decisions. Contact a Fulcrum expert today and get a personalized demo to explore how our technology can standardize your field data collection practices.