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The ultimate guide to geospatial data


Mar 2023

We explain geospatial data in simple terms — how it’s collected, what it’s used for and how it can benefit your business.

Mar 2023

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Maybe you’ve dropped a pin to let a friend know where you are, or you’ve seen ads on your phone for a business nearby that seems perfectly tailored to your needs. These daily occurrences, the way city infrastructure is planned, where engineers choose to build bridges and how infrastructure is maintained can all be traced back to one thing — geospatial data. The information we gain from gathering and analysing data about our built and natural environments shapes millions of decisions made daily.
This article will talk you through everything you need to know about geospatial data — what it is, how it’s used and where you can source it.

What is geospatial data?

In the simplest terms, geospatial data is any data that describes objects or events with a location on the earth. It’s things like maps, imagery, datasets, tools, and procedures working together to tie events, features, and entities to locations. This information is then presented in a format connected to a dataset such as map coordinates, street addresses, cities, or postcodes.

How is geospatial data collected?

There are multiple, diverse resources used worldwide to collect geospatial data. Aerial imagery, census data, weather data, mobile phone data, drawn images and social media data are just a handful of the most common applications employed to gather and create geospatial data. The combination of these data types together creates a stronger overall outcome for the user. Whether you are studying the habits of a certain population or creating a site map for a new road, different datasets within the larger collection of location data will benefit your use case.

How to use geospatial data

Most commonly, geospatial data is used within geographic information systems (GIS) to recognise spatial relationships and to create maps describing these relationships. Within the GIS, users are able to view the data in a more user-friendly format than just raw data. They can see an accurate visual representation of how the data works in real-world contexts, like maps, sites, and networks. This location-based information becomes critical for analysis, management, administration, and governance across a wide range of sectors, which we will outline in more detail.

Types of geospatial data

In its most basic form, geospatial data can be split into two categories — vector data and raster data. Vector data uses lines, polygons and points to represent urban features such as cities and roads, as well as topographic features like mountains and bodies of water. Raster data is like vector data’s more complex sibling — it’s made up of gridded cells which are classified by rows and columns, and represent the likes of elevation levels and temperature.

Applications of geospatial data

Why is geospatial data important? Like all gathered information, geospatial data reveals important insights for multiple industries across the world. Below, we provide some examples of industries that use geospatial data and how they use it.

Retail

Geospatial intelligence can be used to create a next-level retail experience — think targeted marketing for customers and site analysis for ideal new store locations.

Engineering and construction

Using GIS and Computer-Aided Design (CAD)  systems, engineers can undertake accurate modelling and facilities management, as well as provide location context for projects.

Government

The public sector uses geospatial data for a host of applications including site monitoring, contact tracing, incident mapping and emergency services, vegetation management, and verifying building locations, boundaries, and new developments.

Finance

Banks and financial institutions use location data to discover risk zones and other patterns, then adjust services and offers based on this intelligence.

Utilities

Geospatial data helps water, power, gas, and telco service providers plan infrastructure based on location and population, identify hazards, and gain visibility on usage habits.

Transport and logistics

Maintaining things like railway assets, airport assets, air traffic, long-haul trucking and the postal service requires being able to process large quantities of complex geospatial data.
Across all industries, there are three key benefits to using geospatial data. These three facets combine to become time and money-saving assets that industries rely on.
  1. The ability to get advanced warning on incoming changes set to affect businesses by flagging anomalies in geospatial data.
  2. Analysing geospatial data provides invaluable business insights backed by real-time evidence.
  3. The numerical precision of geospatial data can greatly improve operational efficiency.

Sourcing the best geospatial data

The insights you get out are only as good as the data you put in, which is why it’s crucial to be discerning when sourcing location intelligence. Geospatial platforms such as Esri ArcGIS lead the way, with the ability to process trustworthy, reliable data to provide accurate insights.
Nearmap aerial maps cover up to 95% of the Australian population in mostly urban and some remote areas. Our regularly captured and published imagery contributes to geospatial data solutions that help both private and public organisations thrive.
If you want to start harnessing the power of aerial imagery for your business, get in touch today for a free quote.
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