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Geographic Information System (GIS), computer system that records, stores, and analyzes information about the features that make up the earth's surface. A GIS can generate two- or three-dimensional images of an area, showing such natural features as hills and rivers with artificial features such as roads and power lines. Scientists use GIS images as models, making precise measurements, gathering data, and testing ideas with the help of the computer. Many GIS databases consist of sets of information called layers. Each layer represents a particular type of geographic data. For example, one layer may include information on the streets in an area. Another layer may contain information on the soil in that area, while another records elevation. The GIS can combine these layers into one image, showing how the streets, soil, and elevation relate to one another. Engineers might use this image to determine whether a particular part of a street is more likely to crumble. A GIS database can include as many as 100 layers. A GIS is designed to accept geographic data from a variety of sources, including maps, satellite photographs, and printed text and statistics. GIS sensors can scan some of this data directly—for example, a computer operator may feed a map or photograph into the scanner, and the computer “reads” the information it contains. The GIS converts all geographical data into a digital code, which it arranges in its database. Operators program the GIS to process the information and produce the images or information they need.
Geographic relating to Geography, science that deals with the distribution and arrangement of all elements of the earth's surface. Information, Science interdisciplinary academic field that deals with the generation, collection, organization, storage, retrieval, and dissemination of recorded knowledge. System, any collection of component elements that work together to perform a task.

The applications of a GIS are vast and continue to grow. By using a GIS, scientists can research changes in the environment; engineers can design road systems; electrical companies can manage their complex networks of power lines; governments can track the uses of land; and fire and police departments can plan emergency routes. Many private businesses have begun to use a GIS to plan and improve their services. The Canadian government built the first GIS, the Canada Geographic Information System, during the 1960s to analyze data collected by the Canada Land Inventory. Other governments and university laboratories soon built similar systems. However, GIS systems were not widely used until the late 1970s, when technological improvements and lower costs made computers widely available. GIS sales boomed during the 1980s, as governments and businesses found more uses for the systems. A number of companies began producing new GIS software to program computer systems to increase their functions. By the early 1990s, about 100,000 GIS systems were in operation. A GIS is a computer system capable of capturing, storing, analyzing, and displaying geographically referenced information; that is, data identified according to location. Practitioners also define a GIS as including the procedures, operating personnel, and spatial data that go into the system. Geographic information system (GIS) technology can be used for scientific investigations, resource management, and development planning. For example, a GIS might allow emergency planners to easily calculate emergency response times in the event of a natural disaster, or a GIS might be used to find wetlands that need protection from pollution. Geography plays a role in nearly every decision we make. Choosing sites, targeting market segments, planning distribution networks, responding to emergencies, or redrawing country boundaries—all of these problems involve questions of geography.

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A geographic information system (GIS) captures, stores, analyzes, manages, and presents data that refers to or is linked to location. A GIS is a computer system capable of capturing, storing, analyzing, and displaying geographically referenced information; that is, data identified according to location. Practitioners also define a GIS as including the procedures, operating personnel, and spatial data that go into the system. A geographic information system (GIS) integrates hardware, software, and data for capturing, managing, analyzing, and displaying all forms of geographically referenced information.

How does a GIS work?
The power of a GIS comes from the ability to relate different information in a spatial context and to reach a conclusion about this relationship. Most of the information we have about our world contains a location reference, placing that information at some point on the globe. When rainfall information is collected, it is important to know where the rainfall is located. This is done by using a location reference system, such as longitude and latitude, and perhaps elevation. Comparing the rainfall information with other information, such as the location of marshes across the landscape, may show that certain marshes receive little rainfall. This fact may indicate that these marshes are likely to dry up, and this inference can help us make the most appropriate decisions about how humans should interact with the marsh. A GIS, therefore, can reveal important new information that leads to better decisionmaking.

Data capture
How can a GIS use the information in a map? If the data to be used are not already in digital form, that is, in a form the computer can recognize, various techniques can capture the information. Maps can be digitized by hand-tracing with a computer mouse on the screen or on a digitizing tablet to collect the coordinates of features. Electronic scanners can also convert maps to digits (fig. 1). Coordinates from Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers can also be uploaded into a GIS (fig. 2). A GIS can be used to emphasize the spatial relationships among the objects being mapped. While a computer-aided mapping system may represent a road simply as a line, a GIS may also recognize that road as the boundary between wetland and urban development between two census statistical areas. Data capture—putting the information into the system—involves identifying the objects on the map, their absolute location on the Earth's surface, and their spatial relationships. Software tools that automatically extract features from satellite images or aerial photographs are gradually replacing what has traditionally been a time-consuming capture process. Objects are identified in a series of attribute tables—the "information" part of a GIS. Spatial relationships, such as whether features intersect or whether they are adjacent, are the key to all GIS-based analysis.

Data integration
A GIS makes it possible to link, or integrate, information that is difficult to associate through any other means. Thus, a GIS can use combinations of mapped variables to build and analyze new variables (fig. 3). For example, using GIS technology, it is possible to combine agricultural records with hydrography data to determine which streams will carry certain levels of fertilizer runoff. Agricultural records can indicate how much pesticide has been applied to a parcel of land. By locating these parcels and intersecting them with streams, the GIS can be used to predict the amount of nutrient runoff in each stream. Then as streams converge, the total loads can be calculated downstream where the stream enters a lake.

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Figure 1. Scanning paper maps to produce digital data files for input into a GIS.

Figure 2. Collecting latitude and longitude coordinates with a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver.

Figure 3. Data integration is the linking of information in different forms through a GIS

Figure 4. collect data through satellite

Figure 5. Manage information on computer through GIS soft:

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4 Data structures Can a land use map be related to a satellite image, a timely indicator of land use? Yes, but because digital data are collected and stored in different ways, the two data sources may not be entirely compatible. Therefore, a GIS must be able to convert data from one structure to another. Data modeling It is impossible to collect data over every square meter of the Earth's surface. Therefore, samples must be taken at discrete locations. A GIS can be used to depict two- and three-dimensional characteristics of the Earth's surface, subsurface, and atmosphere from points where samples have been collected. Data output A critical component of a GIS is its ability to produce graphics on the screen or on paper to convey the results of analyses to the people who make decisions about resources. Wall maps, Internet-ready maps, interactive maps, and other graphics can be generated, allowing the decisionmakers to visualize and thereby understand the results of analyses or simulations of potential events. Mapmaking Researchers are working to incorporate the mapmaking processes of traditional cartographers into GIS technology for the automated production of maps. Adding the element of time The condition of the Earth's surface, atmosphere, and subsurface can be examined by feeding satellite data into a GIS. GIS technology gives researchers the ability to examine the variations in Earth processes over days, months, and years. As an example, the changes in vegetation vigor through a growing season can be animated to determine when drought was most extensive in a particular region. The resulting normalized vegetation index represents a rough measure of plant health (fig. 30). Working with two variables over time will allow researchers to detect regional differences in the lag between a decline in rainfall and its effect on vegetation. The satellite sensor used in this analysis is the advanced very high resolution radiometer (AVHRR), which detects the amounts of energy reflected from the Earth's surface at a 1-kilometer resolution twice a day. Other Three-dimensional GIS To more realistically analyze the effect of the Earth's terrain, we use three-dimensional models within a GIS. A GIS can display the Earth in realistic, three-dimensional perspective views and animations that convey information more effectively and to wider audiences than traditional, two-dimensional, static maps. The U.S. Forest Service was offered a land swap by a mining company seeking development rights to a mineral deposit in Arizona's Prescott National Forest. Using a GIS, the USGS and the U.S. Forest Service created perspective views of the area to depict the terrain as it would appear after mining (fig. 6).

Three Views of a GIS
A GIS is most often associated with a map. A map, however, is only one way you can work with geographic data in a GIS, and only one type of product generated by a GIS. A GIS can provide a great deal more problem-solving capabilities than using a simple mapping program or adding data to an online mapping tool (creating a "mash-up"). A GIS can be viewed in three ways: 1.The Database View: A GIS is a unique kind of database of the world—a geographic database (geodatabase). It is an "Information System for Geography." Fundamentally, a GIS is based on a structured database that describes the world in geographic terms.

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5 2. The Map View: A GIS is a set of intelligent maps and other views that show features and feature relationships on the earth's surface. Maps of the underlying geographic information can be constructed and used as "windows into the database" to support queries, analysis, and editing of the information.

3. The Model View: A GIS is a set of information transformation tools that derive new geographic datasets from existing datasets. These geoprocessing functions take information from existing datasets, apply analytic functions, and write results into new derived datasets.

Applications Geographic information system technology can be used for scientific investigations, resource
management, asset management, archaeology, environmental impact assessment, urban planning, cartography, criminology, geographic history, marketing, logistics, and other purposes. For example, GIS might allow emergency planners to easily calculate emergency response times in the event of a natural disaster, GIS might be used to find wetlands that need protection from pollution, or GIS can be used by a company to site a new business location to take advantage of a previously under-served market.

GIS software Geographic information can be accessed, transferred, transformed, overlaid, processed and displayed
using numerous software applications. Within industry, commercial offerings from companies such as Small world, Manifold System, ESRI, Intergraph,Bentley system, MapInfo and Autodesk dominate, offering an entire suite of tools. Government and military departments often use custom software, open source products, such as GRASS, or more specialized products that meet a well defined need. Although free tools exist to view GIS datasets, public access to geographic information is dominated by online resources such as Google Earth and interactive web mapping.

Management and analysis GIS analysis software takes GIS data and overlays or otherwise combines it (see also
data fusion) so that the data can be visually analysed. It can output a detailed map, image or movie used to communicate an idea or concept with respect to a region of interest. This is usually used by persons who are trained in cartography, geography or a GIS professional as this type of application is complex and takes some time to master.

Readers GIS readers are computer applications that are designed to allow users to easily view digital maps as well as
view and query GIS-managed data. By definition, they usually allow very little if any editing of the map or underlying map data. Readers can be normal standalone applications that need to be installed locally, though they are often designed to connect to data servers over the Internet to access the relevant information.

Mobile GIS Geographic information system has seen many implementations on mobile devices. With the
widespread adoption of GPS, GIS has been used to capture and integrate data in the field. In the past, gathering GIS in the field was done through marking geographic information onto a paper map and then translating that information into digital format back at the computer. Now, through the use of mobile devices, geographic data can be directly captured out in the field.

Graphic display techniques Traditional maps are abstractions of the real world; each map is a sampling of
important elements portrayed on a sheet of paper with symbols to represent physical objects. People who use maps must interpret these symbols. Topographic maps show the shape of the land surface with contour lines. Graphic display techniques in GISs make relationships among map elements more visible, heightening one's ability to extract and analyze information.

Serving GIS over the Internet

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6 Through Internet map server technology, spatial data can be accessed and analyzed over the Internet. For example, current wildfire perimeters are displayed with a standard web browser, allowing fire managers to better respond to fires while in the field and helping homeowners to take precautionary measures (fig. 10).

The future of GIS Environmental studies, geography,
geology, planning, business marketing, and other disciplines have benefitted from GIS tools and methods. Together with cartography, remote sensing, global positioning systems, photogrammetry, and geography, the GIS has evolved into a discipline with its own research base known as geographic information sciences. An active GIS market has resulted in lower costs and continual improvements in GIS hardware, software, and data. These developments will lead to a much wider application of the technology throughout government, business, and industry. GIS and related technology will help analyze large datasets, allowing a better understanding of terrestrial processes and human activities to improve economic vitality and environmental quality History of GIS The early 20th century saw the development of "photo lithography" where maps were separated into layers. Computer hardware development spurred by nuclear weapon research would lead to general purpose computer "mapping" applications by the early 1960s.The year 1962 saw the development of the world's first true operational GIS in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada by the federal Department of Forestry and Rural Development. Developed by Dr. Roger Tomlinson, it was called the "Canada Geographic Information System" (CGIS) and was used to store, analyze, and manipulate data collected for the Canada Land Inventory (CLI)—an initiative to determine the land capability for rural Canada by mapping information about soils, agriculture, recreation, wildlife, waterfowl, forestry, and land use at a scale of 1:50,000. A rating classification factor was also added to permit analysis. CGIS was the world's first "system" and was an improvement over "mapping" applications as it provided capabilities for overlay, measurement, and digitizing/scanning. It supported a national coordinate system that spanned the continent, coded lines as "arcs" having a true embedded topology, and it stored the attribute and location information in separate files. As a result of this, Tomlinson has become known as the "father of GIS," particularly for his use of overlays in promoting the spatial analysis of convergent geographic data.CGIS lasted into the 1990s and built the largest digital land resource database in Canada. It was developed as a mainframe based system in support of federal and provincial resource planning and management. Its strength was continent-wide analysis of complex datasets. The CGIS was never available in a commercial form. In 1964, Howard T Fisher formed the Laboratory for Computer Graphics and Spatial Analysis at the Harvard Graduate School of Design (LCGSA 1965-1991), where a number of important theoretical concepts in spatial data handling were developed, and which by the 1970s had distributed seminal software code and systems, such as 'SYMAP', 'GRID', and 'ODYSSEY' -- which served as literal and inspirational sources for subsequent commercial development -- to universities, research centers, and corporations worldwide. By the early 1980s, M&S Computing (later Intergraph), Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI) and CARIS (Computer Aided Resource Information System) emerged as commercial vendors of GIS software, successfully incorporating many of the CGIS features, combining the first generation approach to separation of spatial and attribute information with a second generation approach to organizing attribute data into database structures

Bibliography: www.GIS.com www.google.com www.npiw.pk www.answers.com

Encarta encyclopedia 2005 books, 1) applications of GIS by Michael F. Godchild.& 2) Heywood, I., Cornelius, S., and Carver, S. (2006) An Introduction to Geographical Information Systems. Prentice Hall. 3rd edition. …… ‘ Prepared by: Mahesar Majid ali