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How GIS Supercharges Real Estate Analysis:

What is GIS?

GIS is a buzzword in many industries. But what is GIS, exactly? And why is it so important?


The prevalence of modern technology such as smartphones can bring just about any data right to your fingertips. Often, though, that information means nothing without context. A GIS, or Geographic Information System, can provide that context and make that wealth of information mean something.


Below, we’ll dive into:

  • What is GIS?

  • How does GIS work?

  • Who uses GIS?

  • How has GIS changed over time?

  • Why choose FuseGIS?

WHAT IS GIS?

Simply put, GIS is a tool. The more complicated explanation is that a Geographic Information System is a conceptual framework used to capture, analyze, and present spatial data.

The specifics of this tool can be broken down by the very words in its name. A GIS deals with geography and information as a system. Still too much? Consider the following breakdown of a GIS such as FuseGIS:

GEOGRAPHIC

A GIS deals with information geographically, that is to say, by location. These programs organize and display the information based on where it takes place, so most programs focus on one key area.

Each data point is located on a map so that users can easily see spatial patterns. This can happen on a global scale, such as a world map, or a smaller and more specific locale, such as a single neighborhood.

This trait of a GIS means that not all GIS are applicable to every industry’s or organization’s work. Finding the right GIS means finding one with reliable coverage in the area in which you operate.

INFORMATION

The types of information included in GIS vary greatly, but they’re key to the tool’s usefulness.

Without the data layers provided by GIS, the system is just a map. The information plotted on the map is what shows trends, patterns, and other points of interest. There are plenty of data types that can be shown on GIS, including but not limited to:

  • Home values

  • Crime rates

  • Positive tests for illnesses

  • Orders from a specific restaurant

  • Customer sentiment by location

  • Locations of known arson attempts

  • Average income

  • Cell service

  • Origins of 911 calls

  • Locations of rivers, streams, and other water sources

  • Sources of pollution

If you can measure or plot it, it can be incorporated in GIS.

SYSTEM

Of course, the data and geographic location has to be collected or measured to be presented in a GIS. Why not stop at spreadsheets to get your information?

The system that combines the data with the maps and presents it visually is important because of how much more accessible it makes the information. Few people can glance at a spreadsheet and instantly see meaningful patterns. Most can glance at a map and see trends within seconds.

The system by which the information is made digestible and user-friendly is the reason GIS has any value at all. Without the interactive interface and visual presentation, GIS is no better than the pile of spreadsheets and lists that many people use anyway.

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HOW DOES GIS WORK?

GIS works by capturing, managing, and displaying information based on geography. The location of the data is often the one unifying factor for seemingly unrelated data sets.

First, the information is captured. Depending on the type of data, this could happen in any of several different ways. Topographical and spatial data is often gathered in photographs. Other information, such as housing prices or crime rates, is often imported from other sources.

Then, the data must be managed. Whatever form in which the data was captured is likely not a usable form when overlaying data sets to examine correlations and patterns. Each set of data must be scaled and set to appear on a map.

This step could also look different for different data sets. Instances of a disease could be specific street addresses, while average home price could be by zip code and geographic features could be by latitude and longitude.

All of these various data sets have to be programmed to share a map. The information must also be regularly updated so that the information is both current and accurate.

Last, the GIS must display the data. In most cases, users don’t need every possible data set simultaneously. So, the GIS allows them to choose what information they want visible. In some cases, users can also choose a more specific or more general geographic location to view.

While it sounds simple to say that GIS works in just three steps—capturing, managing, and displaying information—there are a variety of processes that make them usable and a lot to keep track of. A big part of GIS is spatial analysis.

SPOTLIGHT ON SPATIAL ANALYSIS

Spatial analysis is a big part of what makes GIS work. The two are closely related, but are distinct concepts. Spatial analysis refers specifically to the process of quantifying and statistically analyzing the data available from the GIS.

For example, consider a GIS system portraying individual households that contain teenagers as well as data showing the number and location of local noise complaints filed within the past six months.

A user may be able to look at the map and see trends. However, the process of numerically analyzing this data to find statistically relevant trends is all part of spatial analysis, not just GIS.

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WHO USES GIS?

With such a wide variety of data able to be portrayed via GIS, it’s no surprise that its uses extend into nearly every industry. Consider the following examples.

REAL ESTATE

Because GIS data is siloed, businesses and professionals are typically limited to specializing in a smaller area. While GIS can be used to find new opportunities, the scope of these opportunities is relatively limited to a specific city or county. Going beyond that typically requires an entirely different GIS platform.

ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES

Environmental conservationists and others who work in the great outdoors use GIS for many reasons. The locations of topographical features, amount of rainfall, sources of pollution, animal sightings, and other data can all be plotted and analyzed.

For example, an environmental scientist may use GIS to determine if the construction of a large parking complex could negatively affect nearby habitats or if a season of increased rainfall could displace local wildlife.

EPIDEMIOLOGY

GIS has its roots in epidemiology, and it’s becoming common practice to plot the location of known cases of a disease and use GIS systems to track the ways it could be spread. These maps can then be overlaid with others displaying water sources, grocery stores, schools, or other factors that could be related to a disease’s spread.

This way, epidemiologists can quickly locate the course of an outbreak and work to lessen the spread.

EPIDEMIOLOGY

GIS has its roots in epidemiology, and it’s becoming common practice to plot the location of known cases of a disease and use GIS systems to track the ways it could be spread. These maps can then be overlaid with others displaying water sources, grocery stores, schools, or other factors that could be related to a disease’s spread.

This way, epidemiologists can quickly locate the course of an outbreak and work to lessen the spread.

INSURANCE

In the insurance industry, GIS is used for risk assessment, claims management, and territory management. Knowing what environmental factors contribute to risk and the likelihood of certain claims being filed can be helpful in deciding on coverage and payment amounts.

URBAN PLANNING

GIS is particularly valuable in urban planning because these plans and changes must be made in a way that takes into account existing infrastructure. Overlaying maps of current and future features allows planners to see how these systems will interact.

HOW HAS GIS CHANGED OVER TIME?

Charles Picquet was the first recorded example of someone using spatial analysis and a GIS-like system to solve a problem. In 1832, as cholera spread throughout Paris, Picquet thought to plot cases on a map, eventually overlaying it with the city’s water systems.

By doing so, he identified the water source that was also the cholera source and could predict the likelihood that others within that area would also get sick.

Thirty-two years later, John Snow did the same when cholera broke out in London.

Eventually, the earliest forms of GIS were created as the ability to print multiple layers in different colors became more widespread. Still, without the ability to analyze the data, this was not a true GIS.

By the 1960s, GIS was viewed as a new discipline and Roger Tomlinson as it’s a pioneering developer. As time went on, more industries got involved and more information was made available.

While GIS was expensive in its beginning, it is now becoming more widespread and more affordable as it becomes specialized to those in different industries.

Read Part Two Here or skip to Part Three!

WHY CHOOSE FUSEGIS?

With so many GIS available, why should those in the real estate industry choose FuseGIS?

FuseGIS is GIS designed with real estate appraisers and brokers in mind. The system is specific to the Austin, Texas MSA to make analysis of this area and market as simple and complete as possible.

Users have instant access to data from a variety of sources to maximize accuracy and efficiency. The information is automatically analysed and consolidated in a way that makes it easy to digest even for first-time GIS users.

Think you could benefit from the vast amount of information available via FuseGIS? Request a demo today.

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