Other Application Areas
Geospatial technology is no longer restricted to the world of high-tech firms. In fact, some of the industries that benefit the most are the ones you may least expect. For example: commercial farming. In the past, farmers spent much of their day walking the fields, eyeing crops, and probing the soil with bare hands to determine moisture levels. Without technology, many farmers had to rely on guesswork, misapplying seeding rates and wasting expensive chemicals. Oftentimes, farmers apply too much in fields where they’re not needed and not enough in fields where they are needed. Remote sensing eliminates the guesswork by providing “prescription” maps that allow farmers to farm by the foot, not by the acre. This means more crops in less space, higher profits, and less environmental impact.
“Prescriptions” allow farmers to make better decisions about when and where to spray agricultural chemicals during the growing season. They use digital cameras to create high-resolution images of agricultural crops. From these images, color-coded maps are created to show plant health or vigor and determine variable-rate applications of herbicides, insecticides, plant growth regulator, and defoliant. These maps allow the farmer to apply chemicals only where they are needed. This results in cost savings for the farmer, more efficiency, and is more environmentally friendly.
Natural Resource Management
The applications of geospatial technologies are playing an ever-increasing role in conservation and natural resource management. As the world places increasing demands on our natural resources – water, earth, and air — advances in the science and technology behind remote sensing are making it more practical to conduct large-scale inventories and provide monitoring and evaluation of natural resources. Coupled with recent advances in GIS and spatial decision support systems, geospatial technology is taking natural resource management to a new level.
Maintaining forests in a vigorous, healthy condition is critical to forest management and planning. Threats such as invasive species infestations, fire, encroachment, and disease are all challenges faced by foresters. Geospatial data and tools are being used on a daily basis to address these issues. But it is much more effective to prevent an occurrence than to react once it has already happened. Maps generated from aerial and satellite imagery can be combined with information on forest age, soil type, species composition, canopy closure, and elevation/relief to identify areas at the highest risk for infestation by invasive pest or plant species. Geospatial technology is providing forest managers with the ability to reliably predict where infestations or other problems are most likely to occur, enabling preventive maintenance.
Golf courses are always seeking to cut a few strokes off the cost of daily and long term maintenance projects. The goal is to reduce the amounts of applied chemicals, water, and time necessary for maintenance without compromising the quality of the turf and course features. In an innovative approach to improving maintenance operations, golf courses are turning to geospatial technologies to help turf management staff improve water efficiency and properly plan for chemical mixing and applications. Many courses are now expanding their use of geospatial technologies, including the use of imagery products to contribute to the management, monitoring, and conservation of local habitat. This gives courses the ability to conduct major environmental monitoring projects that will protect a wide range of animal and plant species that inhabit golf courses while also enriching the game.
Water is something we use everyday, but hardly ever give a second thought about. But because Mississippi uses ground water for about 85 percent of its water use, it is very important to understand how an aquifer system responds to the stresses put on it so that this resource can be better managed. GIS technology can help manage critical data and create maps to describe the geology of an area, the direction of water flow, locate major pumping centers, and how water sources respond under stress. This helps ensure the quality and availability of our water supply.
Ships sailing anywhere in the world can access up-to-the-minute weather information with pinpoint accuracy never before possible. Captains can decide whether to sail into the teeth of an oncoming storm, try to avoid it, or even whether to leave port. Thanks to geospatial technology, weather forecasting is becoming a more exact science than ever before. The technology provides highly detailed weather and wave forecast data that enhances situational awareness and decision-making capabilities when dealing with hazardous weather. These forecast applications can also be used in a number of other areas including: air pollution monitoring, coastal hazard and response support, marine transport, oil and gas operations, commercial fishing, aviation, agriculture, and insurance applications.
When it comes to things like bird flu, SARS, and influenza, there is no denying that we live in a global society; events in far off countries are having an impact on our daily lives. This is particularly true for health service problems facing the world today. The globalization of infectious disease makes the use of geospatial technology critical across all healthcare systems.
Geographic Information Systems (GIS) has become a vital tool for scientists and public health officials investigating the cause and spread of deadly diseases around the world. GIS and remote sensing are being used to address public health issues such as vector borne infectious diseases, respiratory illness, and skin and eye diseases that are related to conditions in the environment. Of particular interest to Mississippi are outbreaks of West Nile Virus.
GIS is also a powerful tool to analyze epidemiological data in order to survey and control infectious diseases, investigate and respond to outbreaks, and reveal trends. The technology allows users to visualize problems in relation to resources which allows for better allocation of those resources when responding to communities in need. Geospatial technology is proving to be a powerful tool in assisting public health officials to more effectively monitor and manage health events.
Marketing, Retail, and Media
Geospatial technology can help you find the right location for your next store, distribution center, or service department. The technology allows you to visualize market penetration, market share, and trade areas. Whether you are selecting the best sites, analyzing customers, or profiling market areas, geospatial technology can assist you. Maps generated by geospatial data and tools can offer a very detailed set of data such as consumer and business demographics, site survey information, historical customer purchasing patterns, travel routes, and competitor locations.
Many premier businesses, including Cole Haan, Friedman Jewelers, and Loehmann’s Incorporated, have recently gotten in on the action. Cole Haan is using the technology to assist them in successfully expanding their shoe and accessory stores. Using geospatial technology, they will be able to determine the best markets and the optimal number of sites within those markets.
Friedman Jewelers is using the technology to assess and improve the performance of its stores as well as to develop more strategic real estate programs. These programs include assessment, based on sales potential, of the optimal real estate strategy in different markets, including the identification of new site opportunities, relocations, and store closures. It also enables them to answer questions such as whether mall locations are more or less advantageous than street level locations, taking into account synergies offered by adjacent stores and anchor stores, as well as other location-specific variables such as demographics, visibility, and accessibility.
Recreation: Fishing, Golfing, Bird Watching
Leisure time is more important than ever before. It is increasingly likely that households are working full time; hectic work and school schedules along with excessive commuting adds to the burden of the daily routine. All this hustle and bustle contributes to a greater need for recreational activities. And thanks to the transfer of technology to the private sector, new products continue to hit the marketplace daily that offer innovative ways to enhance your recreational activities.
Take fishing for example. With the help of data from remote sensing satellites, the 21st century fisherman can now head straight to the precise spot in the ocean where the big ones are running. Leaving the harbor with data such as water temperature, water clarity, and projected hot spots as well as forecasted winds and seas, the serious fisherman can better pinpoint the best places for finding fish. This enables fish enthusiasts the ability to maximize their time spent fishing while minimizing costs. This same information can be used by a wide variety of marine interests including sportsmen and commercial fishermen, as well as sailing and diving enthusiasts.
Geospatial technology may not be able to improve your golf swing, but it can definitely improve the courses where you play. A new way of viewing the golf course might help shave a stroke or two off your game. Thanks to aerial photography, the golfer no longer has to depend upon an artist’s interpretation of the hole that is being played and the hazards which may be encountered. Now the golfer has a much more accurate picture of how the course looks and plays. In addition to the marketing value, the photographic overview helps groundskeepers spot potential trouble areas on the course before they turn into major headaches. For instance, groundskeepers can find diseased grass up to two weeks before it becomes visible to the naked eye.
Using high technology for bird watching? Seems like an unlikely fit, but software programs are being used to track bird sightings using maps, aerial images, and databases. Simple interfaces are easy to operate, but are sophisticated enough for professional naturalists, rangers, and ornithologists. Users are able to link sightings on a map to a database of built-in or custom photos, information, and field notes. Latitude and longitude coordinates can be recorded from a handheld GPS as geographic ‘bookmarks’ for field sightings. Hobbyists can record various details of their outings including specimen characteristics, habitat and range, geographical position, and distinctive plumage.