A geographic information system (GIS) is a system designed to capture, store, manipulate, analyze, manage, and present all types of spatial or geographical data. It stores information about the world in the form of thematic layers that can be linked together by geography. This concept is both simple and powerful has proven its effectiveness to solve many practical problems.
GPS vs GIS
Global Positioning System (GPS) is a satellite system that projects information to GPS receivers on the ground, enabling users to determine latitude and longitude coordinates
Geographic Information System (GIS) is a software program that enable users to store and manipulate large amounts of data from GPS and other sources
In (clinical) research it can be used for the following purpose.
Data analysis : It can be used in spatial analysis of geo-data for assessment or modelling of processes and situations. GPS devices can be used to trace patient for the follow up purpose. In some clinical studies it is used to know distance bitween patients and health care provide.
Data management : It can be used for storing and systematization of vast volumes of monitoring data, development of databases and applied computer systems.
Data presentation: It can be used for publication of maps and scientific results in digital and paper forms.
Tools available for GIS
There are various type of GIS software which involves the use of a combination of digital maps and georeferenced data. It can be categories as given.
Open source software
There are various type of open source software which covers all sectors of geospatial data handling.
Desktop GIS : GRASS GIS , gvSIG , ILWIS , JUMP GIS, MapWindow GIS, QGIS, SAGA GIS are the few examples of desktop GIS application which runs of desktop/laptop computers and it made with Java to c++ and runs on windows and/or Linux OS.
Web map servers: GeoServer, MapGuide Open Source, Mapnik , MapServe are the example of web map servers . In which some of them allows users to share and edit geospatial data with available API and library. Mapnik is the example of widely used library file written in c++/python for rendering maps. It is used by openStreetMap.
Spatial database management systems: PostGIS, SpatiaLite are the example of Spatial extensions management system which are backed with PostgreSQL and SQLite database. They are allowing geospatial queries. TerraLib is well known applications for advanced functions for GIS analysis.
Software development frameworks and libraries: OpenLayers, Leafletjs, MapFish are the example of libraries for making web based GIS applications.
Some commercial or proprietary GIS
Map 3D, MapGuide (Autodesk), Map and Bentley Map View (Bentley Systems), ENVI , Leica Photogrammetry Suite, ERDAS ER Mapper, ERDAS ECW/JP2 SDK, ArcMap, ArcGIS, ArcSDE, ArcIMS, ArcWeb services and ArcGIS Server (Esri) are the example of notable commercial / proprietary GIS software which all of them offer Desktop GIS and WebMap Server products.
GIS as a services
SaaS (Software as a Service) : Software available as a service on the Internet. e.g. ArcGIS Online, CartoDB
DaaS (Data as a Service ): data or content services which are available on line . e.g Apple Maps, Google Maps, OpenStreetMap, Microsoft Bing Maps, ArcGIS Online
- GIS tools are expensive and may not easily available in everywhere.
- Very hard to get support from the users community and paid support from the manufacturer is expensive.
- The cost of data inputs will inevitably be high, either in terms of purchasing existing digital data, in carrying out digitising, or in setting up and maintaining data gathering systems. These costs could be unpredictable at an early stage. So the actual value of utilising a GIS is difficult to establish.
- There might be privacy issues using exact location of the patients.
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Name : Anish Bhattarai1, Sayouba Ouedraogo2
Affiliation, 1B.P. Koirala Institute of Health Sciences, Nepal, 2Clinical research Unit of Nanoro, Burkina Faso
Contact: email adress Anish Bhattarai [ anish @ anish.com.np ], Sayouba OUEDRAOGO [ dm_osayouba @ yahoo.fr ]