An introduction to Geographic Information Systems (GIS)
Introduction: the 5 pillars upon which the electrical power distribution systems automation isbuilt are: computer programming, computer aided design & drafting (CADD) including drawingdigitization, system control & data acquisition (SCADA) systems, local networks including LAN& WAN, geographic information systems (GIS) including global positioning system (GPS)software. In this article an introduction to GIS, just the tip of the iceberg, will be presented. GISis a computer tool that allows the user to position, analyze and verify objects & events of geographic nature and produce an output in a geographic form (maps & tables). It is a softwarethat links information about where things are with information about what things are like. Thecomponents that build the (digital) maps are distributed on different layers. The user enterdifferent geographic features on different layers (this characteristic is similar to CAD softwarepackages). When the user retrieves the map, to be displayed in front of him/her on the screen,he/she decides which layers to be shown based on the information required. Thus certain layers(information) can be suppressed if they are irrelevant to the task at hand. A digital map createdby GIS will have points (dots) that represent features on a map like cities, polygons (small areas)that represent features such as lakes and arc (lines) that represent features like roads. The GISsoftware can be considered a package made up of sub packages that can communicate andunderstand each other. It can access data directly from other software packages like geographicdata & shapes, CAD drawings, databases, images or can import & export data from/to otherprograms. These integrated characteristics provide the full functionality of a GIS which includes:statistical analysis & research (similar to commonly used database software packages), entering,storing, manipulation & analysis of data in geographic style (functionality for a mapping orgeographic information system) and displaying output results or producing of documents forpresentation purposes in tables and/or map forms. The output results are laid out in geographicformat that provides a much clearer and easy to understand presentation. These features of theGIS distinguishes it from other information technology systems and makes it a tool of greatvalue to public as well as private users when it comes to presenting well explained, informativedocuments, to providing the required results of an analysis and showing the assumptions uponwhich the results are based, to forecasting the outcome based on the available factors & variablesor in preparing strategic plans.The preparation of maps and reports based on geographic analysis are not new activities, butwith the GIS the outcome is produced faster, consistent & accurate. Before, only few personshad the knowledge and were able to access these geographic data (examples for such dataneeded with the GIS are given later in this article) in order to make decisions or solve problems.Now, the GISs are taught in secondary schools and post secondary institutes world wide. Theindustry is in the millions of dollars and employs hundreds of thousands workers.
Components of a GIS:
there are 5 main components that build a GIS, they are: hardware,software, data, users & methods.
it is the computer upon which the GIS runs. Now, the GIS software run on a widescope of hardware platforms, from server to desktop as stand alone or in a network.
it provides the functionality and the tools for entering, storing, analyzing andpresenting the geographic data/information. The key components of the software are: theappropriate interface to enter and manipulate the geographic data, database management system,