Geospatial technology enables users to study natural earth geographic information using Geographical Information System (GIS), Remote Sensing (RS), and other ground information from various devices and instruments.
What is Geographic Information?
Geographic information is the only source of acquiring spatial data crucial for understanding our planet’s landscape, natural resources, human activities, etc. It can be obtained by observing, measuring, or inferring based on known facts about the earth. A significant part of this information is stored in digital format, making it accessible, understandable and manageable for people interested in specific geographical issues.
Geographic Information Systems (GIS) is an interactive computer system for collecting, managing, analyzing, and displaying all types of spatial data.
Types of Geospatial Technology
1. Remote Sensing
Remote sensing is the technique that enables to obtain geographical information about any place on earth using satellite or aerial photographs without actually visiting that place. For example, remotely sensed images can tell us what type of vegetation is present at any given location, the land use pattern around us is, whether floods occurred in a particular region during the last monsoon or not, etc.
Remote sensing tells us how our planet’s surface looks like from above. Other ground-based devices include various electronic instruments used to measure different things like land-cover characteristics (like soil color richness of plant cover etc.), atmospheric phenomena (like temperature, humidity, pressure, etc.), water characteristics (like water depth, Flow rate etc.) Etc.
2. Using GIS and RS to Carry Out Spatial Analysis of Geographical Data
Geographical analysis is studying the earth’s surface phenomena using a Geographic information system for better understanding. The essential purpose of geographical research is to check the spatial relations between different things on earth.
Usually, these are relationships based on location or some common properties shared by them at a given place or region. Before proceeding further, let us first understand some basic terminologies used in this domain:
- Spatial relation- means some connection that can be direct or indirect between two phenomena present over a particular area.
- Spatial dependency – in simple words, this means a close association or interdependence of two phenomena over a particular area. For example, the evaporation rate is higher in summers than winters, thus indicating a spatial dependency between these two quantities. That’s how we can identify summer from winter using remote sensing technology
- By studying the difference in soil moisture content during these two periods.
- Spatial heterogeneity – it represents variations in phenomena across different regions and zones of an area. To understand it better, let me give you an example. The population distribution within a city is heterogeneous because most people live near the center of the town while few people reside at the periphery. This is because people prefer to live in central zones due to obvious reasons.
- Spatial autocorrelation deals with studying the degree of association between values at nearby locations on a surface. In simple words, we can say that spatial correlation tells us whether two phenomena separated by a given distance are similar or not. For example, We know that rainfall and runoff always go hand in hand, thus indicating a high level of positive spatial correlation between them over a particular area. Using GIS and RS analysis and Remote Sensing technology has revolutionized the way we study natural earth geographical information, thus helping us understand our planet’s landscape, natural resources, and human activities much better than ever before.
Application of Geospatial Technology
· Natural Disaster
Geospatial Services are beneficial in the case of the natural disaster. The hazards like flooding, landslides, hurricanes, earthquakes can be effectively managed when geospatial information is available in a time and location-specific manner whenever required.
It provides accurate data about the affected area, including the extent of damage to roads, railway tracks, and other infrastructures, which can be a boon for the rescue team during relief work.
· Environment Conservation
The conservation of the environment through remote sensing monitors air pollution levels on the ground surface and at different atmospheric layers by other agencies like NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration). Also, satellite data helps human beings identify areas prone to deforestation or desertification across the globe and take steps accordingly to stop degradation.
Geospatial information is essential for the development programs related to Agriculture sector as it involves large-scale land mapping, assessing soil quality, and identification of different crop species and their seasonal growth cycles. This data is further used in various projects like Geo-referencing of irrigation canals, reservoirs, etc.
Also, satellite-based sensors provide real-time data about water availability in different regions, which help policymakers chalk out strategies regarding future planning of projects such as storage dams or canals or building new ones as per requirement.
Geospatial service providers are increasingly being engaged by Governments provide navigational support to Railways, Airports, Waterways, and Shipping companies to provide real-time guidance to the vehicles moving on these infrastructures. Real-time data feeds of geo-referenced satellite, aerial, or the operators use street-level images for monitoring purposes related to traffic management, construction projects, etc.
· Energy Security
Geospatial services help monitor the exploration activities of oil & natural gas sector across the Oceanic territories using advanced technologies like GPS (Global Positioning System), which helps explorers find out new locations for drilling petroleum products.
Satellite imaging also assists policymakers in assessing weather conditions, analyzing deforestation rates or water quality to take appropriate steps against any possible damage to the environment due to energy sector activities.
· Hurricane & Flood Risk
The risk involved during hurricane-like natural disasters can be minimized by using geospatial data for proper planning. This information is generally used by public safety departments, emergency management agencies to provide timely support to the affected citizens after the disaster strikes.
Satellite-based remote sensing or aerial images are very useful in collect ground-level information about the damage caused due to any hazard and prepare reports aggregating details related to infrastructure status, population distribution, damages cost, etc. Also, it provides an opportunity for policymakers to formulate strategies, keeping in view future projection of possibilities regarding likely risks.
Importance of Geospatial Technology
The market for geospatial technologies is expected to reach 8 billion by 2018. GIS software and hardware sales volume exceeded $1 billion in 2003, and market analysts like Frost & Sullivan expect the industry’s value to top $10 billion by 2010 (Slater 2004). These figures convey a clear message: companies that do not use geospatial technology will face a severe competitive disadvantage.
Geospatial technologies have been central to winning the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Soldiers in the field carry tiny hand-held receivers with GPS satellite tracking capability to guide them through even the most remote area on earth with outstanding accuracy.
Commanders back at base rely on high-resolution aerial photographs from unmanned drones or satellites, as well as sophisticated computerized maps of the battlefield to plan their strategies. Geospatial technologies also play a pivotal role in the Homeland Security efforts by supplying government agents with sophisticated tools for tracking terrorism suspects or identifying possible locations of weapons of mass destruction.
The Federal Government has identified geospatial technology as vital to improving homeland security, national defense, transportation management, disaster relief operations, and almost every function it performs (US White House 2004). The Federal Geographic Data Committee, which coordinates federal geospatial data standards, was elevated to become the Interagency Committee on Surveying and Mapping. Many federal agencies have rolled out initiatives requiring them to collect new kinds of geographic data or improve existing geographic information systems.