What is geospatial data? A guide to GIS and vector data

10th May 2021

‘Geospatial’ has become a bit of a buzzword in the data industry with new applications for location data and analytics cropping up all the time. Geospatial encompasses a host of very useful and very widespread capabilities.

Geospatial data is everywhere – used every day by organisations and people globally in everything from optimising delivery routes to minimise fuel consumption through to the latest in climate change modelling. It’s much more than simply GPS mapping information. It’s often an integral element of strategic planning, influencing how decision makers navigate some of the most impactful decisions.

What is geospatial data?

Geospatial data is a definition used to encompass any type of data with a geographic component. This includes anything with location information attached – such as an address point or a defined area.

Geospatial data can be derived from satellite imagery for example and used to create maps.

The geospatial field has similarly grown in popularity, with technologies being developed year on year and applications rapidly expanding. From classic techniques such as GPS, to innovative technologies like remote sensing, geospatial is a vast collective term.

There are different ways that geospatial information can be used in GIS systems to create maps. The two main types of geospatial data are vector data and raster data.

What is vector data?

Vector data is made up of point, line and polygon data. It uses these data types to represent geographies and describe a geospatial shape. Vector data makes up all maps, no matter where they’re based.

Point data

Point data represents a discrete location – a single coordinate or object.

Examples include:

  • Address points
  • Place names
  • Landmarks

Line data

Line data represents linear data that is inherently imbued with length. These data types can be connected to form a network allowing advanced routing and analysis.

Examples include:

  • Roads
  • Rivers
  • Tracks
  • Transport routes

Polygon data

Polygon data is used to represent an area, commonly representing perimeters and boundaries.

Examples include:

  • Forests
  • Lakes
  • Cities
  • Building Footprints
  • Habitats

What is raster data?

Raster data is made up of pixels, meaning it can represent more diverse datasets. Satellite imagery is an example of raster data from which features can be extracted as points, lines and polygons.

For example, our satellite imagery can be used to count the number of data points, like vehicles, within a specific area. Or it could be used to show road networks and other types of city infrastructure.

What is geospatial mapping?

Geospatial mapping utilises these data types to create a visual representation of the earth. By demonstrating this information on a map, users can easily see data relationships and extract insights and intelligence.

The benefits of using geospatial maps to view spatially defined data are inherent. Here are some key examples:

  • Patterns and trends can be more easily identified
  • Anomalies are revealed
  • Visualisation makes data easier to understand
  • Users can see more data at once
  • Geospatial maps allow data to be readily analysed
  • Puts data into a geographical context
  • Helps improve data transfer and communication
  • Supports informed decision making

Geospatial maps are versatile and can be applied to a vast range of geographies, landscapes, environments, and scales. They can provide country-wide overviews or focus on a specific area. Here are some examples of 4EI’s geospatial capabilities:

  • Topographic mapping
  • Land use land cover (LULC) mapping
  • Soil mapping
  • Habitat and ecological mapping
  • Terrain mapping
  • Marine environment mapping
  • Cartographic mapping
  • Air quality mapping
  • Heat mapping
  • Social, economic and political mapping

When used in combination, these datasets provide a comprehensive geodatabase. Together they detail both human and environmental geography themes for countrywide intelligence, in a ready to analyse format.

YOU MAY LIKE: Use cases for country-wide intelligence data

How does 4EI’s Country Intelligence use GIS data?

4EI deliver geospatial datasets through our Country Intelligence product suite. These ‘packages’ can contain multiple data layers from a comprehensive set of options, including environmental, social, and political information.

Everything is delivered in ready-to-use, industry-standard formats, on software like PostgreSQL database, API or ESRI geodatabase. These datasets can then be easily integrated with whichever GIS software your organisation uses.

Use cases for geospatial and GIS data

  • Urban planning
  • Location analytics
  • Site evaluation

Government policy-making

  • Demographic change monitoring
  • Environmental change monitoring

Healthcare planning and delivery

  • Vaccine delivery strategies
  • Hospital construction planning

Mission planning

  • Infrastructure mapping
  • Point of interest identification

Event response

  • Urban and social impact assessment
  • Emergency aid deployment planning
  • Climate impact assessments
  • Geographical and social monitoring

Read more on our Country Intelligence product suite now.

4EI

by 4EI

4EI provide Applied Earth Intelligence and analytics. We gather evidence-based intelligence about the earth, using data collected through sophisticated space assets.

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