What is the Difference Between GIS and Geospatial?

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The terms GIS (which most commonly is an acronym for Geographic Information Systems) and geospatial are often used interchangeably.  There are differences in what the terms GIS and geospatial mean.

What is GIS?

GIS refers to a system where geographic information is stored in layers and integrated with geographic software programs so that spatial information can be created, stored, manipulated, analyzed, and visualized (mapped).  For more detail visit the “What is GIS?” page.

What is Geospatial?

The term geospatial is a term that has only recently been gaining in popularity and is used to define the collective data and  associated technology has a geographic or locational component.  A search using Google’s Ngram Viewer shows that the term only entered literature during the late 1980s and has rapidly been rising in frequency ever since then.

Frequency of the term "geospatial" in publications.  Source: Google Ngram Viewer.

Frequency of the term “geospatial” in publications. Source: Google Ngram Viewer.

What is Geospatial Data?

The word geospatial is used to indicate that data that has a geographic component to it.  This means that the records in a dataset have locational information tied to them such as geographic data in the form of coordinates, address, city, or ZIP code. GIS data is a form of geospatial data.  Other geospatial data can originate from GPS data, satellite imagery, and geotagging.

What is Geospatial Technology?

Geospatial technology refers to all of the technology used to acquire, manipulate, and store geographic information.  GIS is one form of geospatial technology.  GPS, remote sensing, and geofencing are other examples of geospatial technology.

 




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