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GIS: From Burgers to Burglars By Rion Hollenbeck What do McDonalds, Sprint, the US Department of Transportation, and the CBS hit show The District all have in common? They all use GIS in their daily work to develop solutions and solve their real world issues. So how does this affect you? If you have a cellular phone, it may. The FCC (Federal Communications Commission) will soon require that all cellular service providers be able to track the location of any cell phone for Emergency 911 purposes. If you call 911 from your cell phone, the E-911 will be able to, through a Global Positioning System and a GIS, pinpoint the location of you and your cell phone, map the fastest route to that location, and notify the nearest unit to respond, all based upon your location. This will greatly improve E-911 services. So what is GIS? A GIS or Geographic Information System is a set of tools for storing and using data and information that has a connection to some location on the surface of the Earth. If you think of a spreadsheet as a typical information system, it has two dimensions of data, rows and columns. A GIS adds a third dimension to this; location. It is this location that gives GIS such power and diversity of use. Many people think GIS is simply a program to make maps. This is about 1/100 of the power of a GIS system. Maps are often a byproduct of the analysis of spatial and location data. A GIS uses maps as an organizational element for displaying data. Just as tourists use a map to orient thems elves in an unknown place, GIS uses maps to orient the user to the information. After all, which is easier, scrolling through a database looking for information about Bracken Library,

or clicking the location on a map and having the information automatically display? Any type of data can be stored and used in a GIS system. The distinguishing factor again is that the data are organized based on a geographic location. For example, a user could use the GIS to find all the locations in Muncie to get Italian food. The GIS could return, in the form of a map, locations of any business that meets the criteria of serving Italian food. So back to the question posed at the beginning of the article. Because of the diverse usability of this technology, almost every industry has found some use for GIS. How does McDonalds know where to build their newest store? Using the power of GIS, McDonalds can do market and location analyses to see how the nearest Burger King will effect sales, how many people the new store will service, even how many automobiles on average will pass by the restaurant. Did you ever wonder how cellular providers decide where to erect cell towers? Issues such as distance, physical topology of the earth, the next nearest cell tower, and customer base all affect where a tower will go. All of this information can be manipulated through a GIS to do location analyses and determine the best cell tower location. Any industry that does location analysis, market analysis, or demographic research has an interest in GIS. The CBS hit show The District depicts a police department that uses GIS in every episode to aid in the solving of a particular case. The system enables the department to track crimes, generate scenarios, and even predict locations of future crimes based on past information. Organizations that rely on location-

based information use the spatial power of GIS to their advantage. For more information on GIS please contact me at [email protected]


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