Geospatial is a term widely used to describe the combination of spatial software and analytical methods with terrestrial or geographic datasets. The term is often used in conjunction with geographic information systems and geomatics. In its simplest form, the term "Geographic Information System," or GIS, is an acronym for a technology that offers a radically different way in maps are produced and used to manage our communities and industries. Using advanced computer programs, items, or links to items, are displayed on a map along with various attributes that are stored in a database. The resulting combination, and the ability to manipulate the data in response to any number of "what if" scenarios, provides government agencies, utilities and a long list of private industries with a powerful and dynamic new tool that has opened doors in management effectiveness and mission or organizational efficiency. A GIS creates intelligent super maps through which sophisticated planning and analysis can be performed rapidly and efficiently..

The federal government uses this resulting geospatial information to manage forests, develop defense strategies, establish tax valuations and manipulate census data to determine voting districts. Utilities use geospatial info to automate vast transmission and distribution networks, and to build and service pipelines and communication networks. Cities are using geospatial technologies for applications as diverse as routing sanitation and emergency vehicles, replacing water mains and doing a better job of matching the right equipment to each job. Thousands of private companies use geospatial information to make more informed decisions in areas ranging from site selection, to marketing demographics, to analyzing competition. Geospatial systems are a key element in nearly every infrastructure development project of the multi-lateral lending agencies.

Many Geographic Information System (GIS) products apply the term geospatial analysis in a very narrow context. In the case of vector-based GIS, this typically means operations such as map overlay (combining two or more maps or map layers according to predefined rules), simple buffering (identifying regions of a map within a specified distance of one or more features, such as towns, roads or rivers) and similar basic operations. This reflects (and is reflected in) the use of the term spatial analysis within the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) “simple feature specifications”. For raster-based GIS, widely used in the environmental sciences and remote sensing, this typically means a range of actions applied to the grid cells of one or more maps (or images) often involving filtering and/or algebraic operations (map algebra). These techniques involve processing one or more raster layers according to simple rules resulting in a new map layer, for example replacing each cell value with some combination of its neighbours’ values, or computing the sum or difference of specific attribute values for each grid cell in two matching raster datasets. Descriptive statistics, such as cell counts, means, variances, maxima, minima, cumulative values, frequencies and a number of other measures and distance computations are also often included in this generic term spatial analysis.

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