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GIS is an information system designed to work with data referenced by spatial or geographical coordinates. It can also be explained as the computer based tool for collecting, capturing, storing and retrieving data and to digitally represent and analyze the geographic features present on the Earth' surface and the events that taking place on it. It provides different capabilities to handle the geo reference data and has the ability to carry out spatial operations and linking data set together (Murchasin, 2007).
GIS was invented to help the geographers analyze and model Earth to deal with issues such as soil erosion, deforestation, disease management, poverty, hunger and many other problems. It is very unique software that can explain events, predict the outcome and it also assists with decision making and management of attributes that need to be analyzed spatial. GIS can give you the power to create maps integrate information, visualize scenarios, solve complicated problems, present powerful ideas and develop effective solution. It is commonly used everywhere by individuals, organizations, schools, government, mining companies and businesses finding a way to solve their problem (Waters & Wyngaarden, 2007).
It is becoming widely used and it is affected by time. During the years the technology has advanced and the software is becoming upgraded. GIS has simplified the lives of many people, it is certainly the fastest growing form with the most applications, without which many of our daily functions that we take for granted would not be possible. In a time of rapid technology change it has reflected an enhancement on the GIS (Frank, 2000).
The future of GIS
The future holds an enormous promise for new data, more complete data, higher resolution data and more timely data. Data provision has been major concern and different equipments were developed to improve data collection. The data collection has been made easy by the introduction of the global positioning system. It is used in the field to directly collect data rather than using maps and it has improved mapping considerably because the mapping project is now as easy as pushing a GPS receiver button and doing a differential correction to maintain accuracy. Another data source is the image maps and they provide a high level of accuracy on their data. They have been upgraded to cover larger areas. Remote sensing is also an additional increasingly high resolution source of map data coming from aircraft and spacecraft. These spacecraft will provide n extremely rich set of both new and existing form of data (Clarke 2003).
The GIS technology is used to assist decision-makers by indicating various alternatives in development and conservation planning and by modeling the potential outcomes of a series of scenarios. It should be noted that any task begins and ends with the real world. Data are collected about the real world. Of necessity, the product is an abstraction; it is not possible to handle every last detail. After the data are analyzed, information is compiled for decision-makers. Based on this information, actions are taken and plans implemented in the real world.
The GIS technology is rapidly becoming a standard tool for management of natural resources. The effective use of large spatial data volumes is dependent upon the existence of an efficient geographic handling and processing system to transform this data into usable information (Elwood, 2008).
The workstation revolution has given the GIS an operating platform that has all the necessary power and storage to work with massive database. Along with the expansion of the workstation there has been the spread of different operating systems. The microcomputers has matured and increased in power significantly making this platform widely distributed, relatively inexpensive and easily capable of running many GIS packages (Clarke, 2003).
The computing environment has not been entirely eliminated; the industry has seen the introduction and rapid adoption of desktop and now distributed models. Distributed computing is a generic term that includes other terms like Internet, Intranet, Extranet, the Web, net-work-centric, and more. The growing trend is to distribute computing services across a physical infrastructure of networked data storage devices and computer processors. The newer environment includes both two and three tier model where the physical locations of the data storage and application processing are not on the same machine as each other or the client interface. It is this migration from a workstation or desktop's one-tier solution to a component and transaction-based model that is reshaping the future of GIS (Clarke, 2003)
The majority of end-users no longer receive GIS in a product box. GIS is delivered today as a fast, reliable and secure service through a network cable, as a hosted application, across shared enterprises servers. The need for convergence of the spatial technology with the Internet arose primarily because it is a cost-effective technology in which the user does not have to spend on buying software or maintaining them. Moreover, Internet has become a commonly utilized tool for easy access and dissemination of information. Internet GIS is like a common platform for professionals and amateurs in mapping science field, providing them flexible tools for manipulating the available map data and experimenting with their graphic presentation on the computer screen resulting ultimately in the production of an 'optimal' map which can be used for producing an analogue output in the form of a paper map (Clarke, 2003).
The ability to obtain precise information is nothing new. With great patience and skill, mapmakers and land surveyors have long been able to create information with an impressive level of accuracy. However, today the ability to determine and view locations with submeter accuracy is now in the hands of millions of people. Commonly available high-resolution digital terrain and aerial imagery, coupled with GPS-enabled handheld devices, powerful computers, and Web technology, is changing the quality, utility, and expectations of GIS to serve society on a grand scale. This accuracy and precision revolution has raised the bar for GIS quite high (Crossley, 2009)
Internet GIS is also used in the disaster management. Internet GIS gives the emergency management professionals the ability to assemble large amounts of public information about their community, and analyze and use the information in an efficient, intelligent manner. GIS data organization format displays graphic data in a format, which is easy to understand (Tsou, 2004). The future of Internet GIS is bright and brimming with opportunities. There will be opportunities to reduce operating expenses by, among other things, accessing and paying for GIS functionality on an 'as needed' basis through a cable and not having to invest in the technology overkill of boxed desktop products. They are trying to find opportunities to increase productivity not only by placing friendly GIS interfaces at the disposal of novice users, but by placing it in their palm computers, as well. Smart companies with fast deployment tools will extend GIS-based service to their staff that will use these applications to retain customers more predictably (Jerre, 2010).
The GIS industry has recognized the revolution of the internet and is actively involved in its design, despite the added complexity introduced by managing spatial database, databases that are both delicate and massive. They expect to design a well design architecture that delivers efficient and powerful usage of computing infrastructure and this will support applications, which reduce operating expenses faster, increase productivity and dramatically improve customer satisfaction and retention. GIS is becoming widely used, it is also used in the planning companies to conduct environmental review of projects and to prepare plans (Flanagin, & Metzger, 2008). GIS can also be used to help us identify and address environmental problems by providing crucial information on where problems occur and who are affected by them. GIS help us identify the source, location, and extent of adverse environmental impacts, and may help us devise practical plans for monitoring, managing, and mitigating environmental damage.GIS are needed in part because human populations and consumption have reached levels such that many resources, including air and land, are placing substantial limits on human action (Azaz, 2010).
The major trends over the last few years have been in operating system. The early operating systems were quite unsophisticated and they were rapidly replaced as the evolution of computers started (Clarke, 2003).
GIS is becoming widely used and it has a probable future and it is rapidly maturing. The power of geographic analysis, matched with distributed computing power to increase the return on huge investments in spatial data by putting information in the hands of millions, will make a difference. GIS is used extensively by most country departments and is popular with the public, but it comes with a hefty price tag. It has also reached a highly advanced stage.