Smart Ideas for Converging GIS and Sensors

By Titli Chatterjee

Geographical Information Systems is basically a computer system designed to provide spatial data entry, management retrieval and analysis and visualization functions. It contains the ability to translate implicit geographic data into an explicit map location. In addition, it also reinforces software systems for input, storage, manipulation/analysis and display of geographic (spatial) information through maps, vector information and imagery.  This geographic data allows the viewing and analysis of multiple layers of spatial information, usually stored in a vector graphics or raster graphics


Geographic information systems have served an important role as an integrating technology. GIS have evolved in linking a number of discrete technologies and have emerged as a powerful system, comprising of five crucial components: hardware, software, data, people and methods. While an increasing number of people are aware of GIS programs’ mapping and analytical capabilities, executing GIS with IoT data can significantly help in understanding real-time data for geospatial or geographic locations. Convergence of GIS and sensor data add more dimensions to the connectivity with time stamped data.  Augmenting IoT data with interactive GIS mapping can significantly improve understanding of the data. Some of the instances of executing GIS with IoT devices give an easy understanding of how to cover various aspects of a smart city, seamless indoor and outdoor deployment.

GIS and IoT in Action:
• Weather Forecasting – Location technology proved advantageous during Hurricane Sandy which had hit eastern US in 2012. Though the operative tool helped to recover submerged vehicles from underground parking lots, better outcome would have resulted if buildings, parking lots or the elevation angles could have been analyzed and predicted to remove vehicles ahead of the mishap.
• Fire Evacuation – To improve the evacuation efficiency, a combined tool based on GIS and IoT technology can be implemented on an evacuation system. Analysis of smoke and information of the building can help in evaluating the evacuation path, one of the most critical problems to be addressed.
• Utility Maintenance – Municipalities and utility companies experiencing rising costs due to expansion in infrastructure and maintenance support, simplify the detection process through digitization. The planning costs that include locating leaks in pipes, sewage issues and clogged water mains are detected through wireless sensors which help to identify leaks based on electromagnetic and thermal technology utilities. The captured sensor data is integrated with GIS applications that help in detection of damaged section of water line on a digital map. Thus the convergence of GIS applications and IoT saves time and enables timely repairs minimizing damage costs
• Telecommunications- Heat maps are quite common devices in this digital era to identify and locate outages and service faults. Heat maps also helps in predicting environmental behavior and the need for proactive action in case of service disruption.
In addition to some of the examples above, health agencies and some of the urban planners are also focusing on the optimal utilization of GIS technology in eHealth, smart grid and smart city initiatives. Connectivity between people and machine is getting extended to sensors, devices and applications based on Internet of Things, and location technology plays a key role in this. Location technology or the use of geographical information systems is pivotal to the success of IoT. Reinforcing large chunks of IoT data with interactive geospatial location and mapping can significantly improve understanding of data.
With continuous innovation and disruption of technologies, use of sensor and GIS are expected to expand to new areas with applications that are able to capture and measure additional types of environments, defects, damages or lacking with a cost benefit analysis. GIS analysis could be used to enhance existing IoT practices in industry, yielding automatic reports which helps in making relevant business decisions. Thus, integration of GIS with IoT may altogether shape new practices meant for more efficient strategies in business and a safer world to live in.

About ARC Advisory Group ( Founded in 1986, ARC Advisory Group is a Boston based leading technology research and advisory firm for industry and infrastructure.

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  1. An interesting article on how geospatial data can be combined with sensor data.  For smart cities and highways, the power of this data can be enhanced by including additional data sources e.g. traffic volume data, e-toll data, image data etc.

  2. Thanks Anuradha.  ARC has also done a lot of research in the GIS segment.

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