GIS: Introduction to Geographical Information System (Part 1)

20 May 2014
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Reading time: 3 minutes

I recently started working at Zühlke and used to work with GIS applications. One of the projects I have worked together with Zühlke is “Mistra Trassee”. Trassee is a user-friendly web application, which enables the maintenance data for highway surfaces to be recorded and visualized and supports the maintenance work plans. The modern GIS tool enables a wide range of assessments.

This blog post is a start of series of blogs about themes related to GIS. You are more than welcome to propose a topic for the coming blog posts.

What is GIS?

GIS stands for Geographical Information Systems. It stores geographical data and provides functions to analyze and visualize it. There is a discussion about whether Google Maps are a real GIS or more like a GIS lite. Let’s say it is close enough to be a good example.

Where to use geographical data?

Here a few branches where geographical data is used: Routing is probably the most commonly known geographical service. It can be used for getting directions and finding a fastest road between places. A line based data which is stored as a network, can also be used for finding affected parts of a network, when a piece of it is shut down. Other common branches in public sector are storing streets, water networks and natural resources.

I have worked mostly with data related to map creation and data which can be represented in a geometrical network. In my opinion the most challenging issues when working with GIS are working with offline data and working with large amount of data.

The most interesting issues for me are the algorithmic, when modifying the geometrical data, and visualizing the data. Sometimes even bugs can be visual, when the data is suddenly visible a few kilometers from the correct place because of different coordinate systems…

What can you do with geographical data?

You get the most of it when you combine available data, for example maps, with client’s data, for example addresses. This helps in visualizing the data and getting more information about it. For example, geocoding client address and showing it on the map can reveal, in which area most of the clients are located. Combining this information with for example population density, you can see where would be the next best place to start a business.

For a developer, geographical data offers visual challenges like: how to visualize altitude profile in 3D, how to do routing the most efficient way or how to render a map when there are more than thousand selected elements to show.

In the next article I will introduce a few basic terms and examples to get started with Web map services.

What are your experiences with GIS?

Comments (4)


Stefan Keller

21 May 2014 at 10:58

Nice introductory blog post – and a warm welcome to Zühlke in the GIS world!
We’ve been teaching and and did consulting with GIS since 15 years.
So, you probably find our know how Wiki pages useful. Here you’ll also find GIS related events and courses at our lab and university campus:


Ioanna Kyprianou

30 May 2014 at 15:40

Very interesting topic Riina, i’m very eager to learn more about it from your next articles

Riina Pakarinen

Riina Pakarinen

16 June 2014 at 09:16

Hi Stefan,

thanks for warm welcome wishes and for the good link of the coming events!

Best wishes

Riina Pakarinen

Riina Pakarinen

16 June 2014 at 09:17

Hi Ioanna,

thanks for your interest! There will soon be a third part!



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