A Geographic Information System (GIS) captures, stores, analyzes and presents geographical data.
It’s the technology that lets your smartphone, for example, display where a location is on a map.
GIS has been around for some time, but has gained recent prominence with the rise in smartphone and tablet use, particularly from government sectors. Organizations such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Department of Defense, as well as state and local government branches, utilize GIS to determine government application use; track geological, weather and traffic patterns; view first-person photos of local, state and regional natural and man-made disasters; and assess damage in emergency situations, just to name a few uses for the technology.
Below are five benefits of GIS use in mobile app development, particularly for public sector uses like search and rescue or damage assessment.
When an incident is called in through an app that utilizes GIS, field personnel can go directly to the precise location that the incident occurred, as the location is gathered from satellites instead of input by a human, who may be under stress from the situation. You’re also reducing redundancy – and duplicate paperwork – by preventing someone from manually entering paper reports into another software system later, as the information is all in the app and database.
Field personnel can avoid sending out incorrect equipment – such as tree removal trucks – to the correct address, and ensure resources are going to the correct location.
If you implement GIS technology with a Bring Your Own Device policy, you’re saving money by utilizing field personnel’s personal devices instead of having to purchase separate GPS devices and laptops. You also avoid the cost associated with having to do certain tasks twice – you can avoid sending someone out to the incorrect location to do a job, for example.
Citizens in Raleigh, N.C., are using a site where they can input a citizen service request for potholes, graffiti or trees down, along with a map, which reports these things to the proper authorities.
FEMA also has a public Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI) system where citizens can see disaster damages on a map, which is really useful – if they’re trying to get back to their houses, they can see how to get out of or back into a certain area. They can see if bridges are out or the damages of relatives’ homes, if they can’t get in touch with them.
Better strategic decisions
Different agencies can work better and together, by allowing for standard data share across GIS systems, such as the Damage Assessment Reporting Solution (DARS) application with FEMA ESRI or GIS or DARS with WebEOC. Field personnel can look at a layer of demographic information on a map, such as insured buildings and homes or per capita income, and overlay it with the physical damages, mountain ranges, roads and trains that are coming through, to assess an area’s total loss.
To ensure a successful implementation, agency leaders may find it’s helpful to be open to using cloud technologies, open platforms and standards to increase the collaboration and sharing of data across agencies, from local to state to federal.
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