What is GIS?
A Geographic Information System (GIS) is a computer system capable of managing, storing, editing, analyzing, sharing and displaying geographically referenced information. Geographically referenced information is data that knows where it physically exists in space. For example, a global positioning system (GPS) records latitude and longitude coordinates for a given point, thereby geographically referencing that point.
With a GIS, you can link information (attributes) to location data, such as people to parcels, flow rates to fire hydrants, or speed limits to roads. You can layer that information to give you a better understanding of how it all works together. You choose what layers to display based on what questions you need to answer. A GIS is most often associated with maps.
A map, however, is only one way you can work with geographic data in a GIS, and only one type of product generated by a GIS. In addition to creating maps, GIS allows users to create interactive queries, provide problem-solving capabilities, analyze the spatial information and edit the data. GIS datasets may come from other government sources, commercial sources, or may be created within the office by using a GPS, aerial photography, address information, LiDAR, CAD, hardcopy maps, or through analysis of other datasets.
We often publish our GIS information as maps of various media, so that it can be used and understood easily by all municipal departments, as well as by our council, community, and visitors.
Cartography (the study and practice of making maps) builds on the premise that reality can be modeled in ways that graphically communicate spatial information in an effective way. Mapping improves our municipal services by integrating data from many sources, allowing us to analyze, query and visualize various data, helping us make better decisions.