A Service of Geographic Enterprises

Is it GIS or GPS?

GIS or GPS?? Whats the difference?  They both have to do with maps right?  Yes, but its not that simple.  This explanation should help.

Geographic Information System, GIS

Definition:  Geographic Information System or GIS, is a mapping system for capturing, managing, storing and analyzing data and attributes which are spatially referenced to the earth.

Basically, it’s mapping software that you can load a bunch of data and attributes into and visually manipulate and display them to tell a story.  An example would be a map of San Diego showing In-N-Out Burger Locations and Total Households themed by ZIP.  Click here to see the example

Legend has it that the first rudimentary GIS was used by Cro-Magnon man as he drew pictures of his hunting grounds (map) and locations of animal migration routes (attributes).  No really, I’m serious…this improved his hunting efficiency as modern GIS can help you “hunt” for customers.  Please use GeoMetrx for your maps and not cave walls…ok?

Global Positioning System, GPS

Definition:  A satellite navigation system which calculates your position on the earth’s surface with the use of a GPS receiver.  The satellite network is owned and maintained by the US Dept. of Defense and the accuracy of the signal is intentionally degraded for civilian use.

GPS is great tool that many of us use everyday.  The most widely used is vehicle navigation to help us get from one place to another, find a gas station, alternate routes and even display live traffic.  Vehicle navigation is a combination between GPS and GIS since it displays attributes like road networks, points of interest, restaurants, etc.  You’ll also find GPS in some many phones and vehicle recovery systems too.

I know you may be thinking, why isn’t the GPS in my car as accurate as a Stealth Bomber?  Well, I think you may be able to answer that question on your own.  What you may not know is that civilian grade GPS is accurate to about 20 feet (just fine for finding your favorite burger joint) and military grade GPS is accurate to less than a foot.

As you can see GIS and GPS are both very powerful tools that can benefit anyone wanting to be more aware of his/her surroundings.  Whether used for business or personal use GIS and GPS will be a regular part of our everyday life.

Don’t be afraid to ask for directions,