Making Maps (GIS Types and Speculated Future)

October 4, 2011 § Leave a comment

There are many different types of GIS, these often fall under Proprietary GIS, or Free and Open Source GIS (FOSGIS).

Proprietary GIS Options include:

  • ESRI
    – leader of overall approach to GIS
    – big especially in environmental science (but also military, crime mapping (this one’s a biggy) )
    – done well, large community
  • MapInfo
    – much cheaper than ESRI, but a lot less powerful.
    – does some things better than ArcGIS
    – can not georeference well
    – sells data
  • Integraph
    – founded by people who initially programmed missiles to redirect in real time.
  • Bentley Map.
    – largely based on intergraph.
    – failed in Victorian Emergency Surfaces when it was called ‘MicroStation’
  • Erdas
    – produces tools and formats to handle image data
    – file format: .ecw
    – began as a geoscience research tool
    – used for modelling on Earth’s surface
  • AutoDesk -> AutoCAD
    – file formats, very much like ESRI,
    – CAD Files – very flexible formats
    – ArcGIS can directly read CAD Files.
    – CAD – Native Co-Ordinates = Millimetre , Whereas;
    – GIS – Native Co-Ordinates = Metre / Long-Lat


FOSGIS don’t cost anything, only your time. They are extremely plugin/addon based. Free or/and Open Source GIS (FOSGIS) include:

    –  Geographic Resource Analysis Support System
    – Multiplatform
    – does topological 2D/3D Vector Data
  • QGIS (Quantum GIS)
    – plugins based
    – Multiplatform
    – GUI of GRASS GIS
  • MapWindow GIS
    – Windows
    – Written for the US Environmental Protection Agency
  • OpenJump
    – Integrates Local & Remote data
    – cross-platform
  • gvSIG
    – large following
    – multilingual, but spanish core
    – cross platform
  • Oxford Archaeology gvSIG
    – refreshed, completely restructured version of gvSig
    – everything made easy.
    – packaged with GRASS.
    – Contains Manuals – for specific field equipment.


FOSGIS are very flexible, being plugin/addon based, and customizable (however, being so, requires a more thorough knowledge of how different softwares / plugins can interact with one another or be installed, which can be time consuming). They can also be created for very specific scenarios, and hence work better in these and similar situations than proprietary software. Being open source allows these GIS’ to have much larger community contributions, the higher presence of cross platform systems also allow for more access than proprietary GIS.

In the foreseeable future, ESRI will most probably continue to lead the GIS community as a whole, as it always has. However, in the following decade and beyond, with the rise of smaller and cheaper microchips, the ability to track and identify many more objects will pave the way for other systems to start augmenting themselves with small GIS’. Existing common applications and hardware will begin actively (but subtly) using GIS’, either locally or on the cloud, faster than standalone GIS’ will evolve (which they will continue to do). Many photo-editing/viewing/management applications have already begun doing this with the advent of geo-tagged photos. We have seen an increase in people tracking their lost technological devices by the spatial signatures they leave behind. Such subtle uses can only be expected to increase with the introduction of NFC technology, open data, and the potential rise of SPINES.

Some technical revision:

  • ESRI world files.
  • Wavelet compression (can achieve the same thing with tiles of images)
  • ESRI shape files are now being Phased Out by ESRI Geodatabases. It is a package of multiple files, containing Feature Datasets (like folders), which contain Feature Classes (roads, contours, etc.), and can incorporate Enforceable Topology Rules and Enforceable Attribute and Domain Rules.

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