How We Use GIS in Our Daily Lives

Most people probably don’t know that today is GIS Day!

That’s great – but why should the average person care, and what is GIS anyway?!

A geographic information system (GIS) is a tool for gathering, managing, and analyzing data. It uses many types of data organized into layers and is applied to maps and 3D scenes.

Sounds complicated, right? Why would anyone be interested in using this tool unless it’s their job?

Well surprise – most of us are already using GIS in our daily lives. Two of the most common examples: Google Maps and delivery tracking.

A sample Google Maps route with options

Wait, what?

Yes – Google Maps, Waze, MapQuest and all other GPS mapping apps are actually GIS. They link information like travel distance and route, speed limits, and current traffic and construction areas to provide you a route and estimated travel time. Due to the geographic data layers you can also toggle settings to avoid tolls or highways, adjust time and route for specific stops or detours along the planned route, or get different routes and estimates for going by plane, bike, or walking.

A feature new to Google even tells users where speed traps and cameras are located. Whether you consider that a good or bad feature – it’s all due to GIS and the way it allows us to see large quantities of different types of data in one simple map. Have you noticed that it’s gotten really hard to beat your estimated arrival time? That’s because Google Maps and apps like it are updated with your GPS information constantly, making it a living map that is always reacting to provide you with the most relevant, up-to-date information.

Google Maps image of La Plata, MD with Street View options highlighted

Where’s my stuff?!

How about parcel tracking? Many of us are buying online now and it is standard procedure to get a tracking number from USPS, UPS, FedEx or the shipper of choice. Many shippers now show a real-time map of where your package is along its delivery route. With free apps like UPS My Choice® you get additional capabilities like proactive delivery alerts, rerouting and rescheduling deliveries, or even the ability to provide delivery instructions to your driver. This is all due to GIS technology and something you’ve likely used before and/or use often.

Other common uses:


Ocearch live tracking of marine wildlife

GIS may not be a common household term, but it certainly is commonly used in most households. Larger applications of GIS range from planning were to build the next school or shopping center, to identifying critical areas for environmental protection, to supporting our military efforts both locally and abroad. Originally proposed in the early 1960’s, GIS didn’t get a mainstream foothold until the 1990’s. That means most of our current uses have evolved from the last 25 or so years – imagine all of the ways we’ll continue to use this powerful tool in coming years!

GIS and Zekiah

Creating GIS data layers and applications is a large part of the services Zekiah offers. We’ve supported private businesses, state and local governments, and the DoD with our geospatial products for more than 20 years. If you’d like to talk with us to see how GIS could benefit your company or organization please contact us!

More Information

If you’d like more information about the uses of GIS please see our Projects website, esri’s GIS Showcase, and the article 28 Uses of GIS Technology.

Zekiah Technologies is a small business headquartered in La Plata, MD committed to exceeding the expectations of our clients through innovation and the ingenuity of our technical solutions in the fields of software development, systems engineering, geospatial technologies, and training.