Geographic information system (GIS) mapping has increasingly become a great asset in many industries. It applies geographic science with tools for collaboration and understanding, thus allowing people to answer questions about different types of location-related data with ease.
Whether used in education, real estate, or telecommunications, it helps develop drive efficiencies and open communications channels. That’s why many organizations can create and share billions of maps daily to tell stories and reveal relationships, trends, and patterns about almost everything.
Although the field of GIS started way back in the 1960s, there’s still a lot of confusion surrounding it. But have no fear. We are going to cover everything about GIS mapping in this article. Before we dive in too deep, let’s go ahead and first understand the actual meaning of Geographic Information System mapping.
In the simplest terms, GIS is a framework that gathers, manages, and analyzes data. It’s rooted in geographic science to help analyze and organize layers of information into visualizations using either 3D scenes or maps. Therefore, Geographic Information System mapping can be defined as the process of entering data layers into GIS software to create maps or 3D scenes.
The greatest benefit of GIS software is that it does all the work for you. It offers a section to input all numerical data that you need to show on a 3D scene or map. On top of that, it updates the resulting map in real-time to show the data you fill in. That means you can toggle between data and the map easily, and see how data is being translated.
Let’s now explore different types of GIS maps.
Typically, there are various types of GIS maps. These include category maps, quantity maps, cluster maps, and heat maps.
This is the most common type. It is also the simplest and easiest way to show which segments control a part of a map. Just like the name suggests, it’s role is to help users identify which category each location belongs to.
Perfect examples of category maps include displaying which states a candidate has won in the U.S. election or categorizing sales territories by dealers. With the help of GIS mapping software, it’s easy to classify a category and enter the related data, such as the number of votes in every state. When a user selects a color that represents every category, the data displays on the map.
The quantity map is the second most popular type. It allows you to create maps in which areas are color-coded based on the feature being displayed on the map. In other words, color coding is done in proportion to the measurement of the numerical data of the per capita income, sales, population density, or any feature you want to display on a map. Usually, the darker shades represent more of the element you want to view, while lighter shades represent the converse of that.
Quantity maps are useful for identifying trends and patterns depending on location. That’s why they are often used for demographics mapping and business analysis.
The other type is the bubble map. The map basically works by showing layers representing quantity. It uses a range of colored bubbles of various sizes in the data visualization. This type of map is created by overlaying a colored shape on the entity. Both the color and the shape show one of the properties related to the entity. And, the color often changes within a set range as the value of the property changes.
Much like quantity maps, heat maps incorporate color-coded systems to display numerical density in a specified location. If you’re dealing with vast data, these are the maps you need. They allow you to effectively and easily relate numerical data. Usually, the larger numbers in a dataset are represented by darker colors on the map. For that reason, heat maps make it easy to identify patterns and trends depending on the color shade.
Because they are easy for an average person to understand, heat maps are mostly preferred by analysts. Most commonly, they are used to display the population density in a given location. That’s mainly because the darkest shades represent highly populated areas, while the lightest shade represents the lowest population.
With heat maps, there is some basic geometry that you need to understand:
Points – This is a single location on the map often represented by coordinates like lat/Ion positions. It is used to show locations, especially if the boundary is not so important.
Lines – A line is a series of several interconnecting points. It is often used to show linear features like rivers or roads.
Polygons – Unlike a line, a polygon is used to map boundary data such as property boundaries or country borders.
Another way to show the density of a certain category in a specific location is through the use of cluster maps. These types of maps are common among listing services to display the availability of houses and apartments in a given area.
As a result, potential customers can get a better GIS map view of the entire layout of the location. The good thing about cluster maps is that they offer a more holistic view, meaning there’s little or no need to zoom in on specific locations.
While all the above maps allow you toggle between the map and numerical data, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There’s a lot more a GIS software can help you achieve. These include stacking different map types within one map. That means you can easily stack all the map types mentioned above to form layers that users can toggle between to view various representations of the numerical attribute value. That’s, perhaps, one of the coolest things about GIS maps.
An excellent example of this feature is seen on Google Maps. You can easily switch between terrain, satellite, and street views thanks to a perfect GIS map design. This helps present data more dynamically, making it easy for users to see their locations of choice in a more holistic manner.
Regardless of map types, GIS maps are very interactive. Besides allowing you to toggle from numerical data to maps or from one map type to another, they offer a wide range of tools and features. These tools/features play a critical role in enhancing the interactivity and clarity of the data represented on the map. Some of these tools include:
Points of Interest/Location Information
One important feature of GIS map types is the ability to highlight the points of interest. This comes in handy when users want to get information such as business addresses, phone numbers, and location photos. For that reason, users can get a better idea of how a location looks like and how to get in touch with a business owner. For business owners, this feature helps them map crucial locations such as company assets in the field, store locations, corporate offices, or company warehouses.
Almost all GIS maps come with a query tool feature. This helps end-users to filter datasheet to find answers to specific questions they may have. For instance, a user might query something like “show all company store locations with over 1,000 customers daily”. The GIS system displays a response deepening on the data that’s already in the GIS. The query tool feature offers an excellent way to extrapolate vital information that is already in the GIS.
Much like the query tool, the search tool is another essential feature that helps find virtually anything with a name. The good thing is that it works just like the Google search. That means you can key in any name to search across several layers and show the results depending on the match quality.
Much like other standard maps, GIS mapping online feature scales bars that make it easy to measure the actual distance from what’s on the map. Using distance measuring tools, for instance, you can easily measure the distance from one USA zip code to the other. On top of that, you can easily find the line of Equidistance between two points. That is, identify the path where the distance from one location to another is the same.
Of course, the need to print and store your map in PDF form will always arise. Luckily, GIS systems offer printing feature that makes it easy to create a print or PDF. What’s even better, the end-user is required to have little or no prior training on how to use the printing tool – usually, knowledge on how to use a web browser is sufficient.
Now that you know everything about GIS map data and how the maps can make life easier for you, it’s time to use GIS mapping projections in your business strategy. When used in logistics or marketing, these maps will help to enhance both internal and external communication within your organization.