Geography is cooler than you think: it’s changing the world

Let’s not panic; but the status quo of the state of the earth is not so peachy. Decisions have been made with future consequences given scant regard. Topics such as global warming, environmental degradation, poor city planning and crime have resulted due to these decisions. And these have not yet ceased to haunt our day-to-day existence…

But we are not here to harp on the doom and gloom of it all. Those bad decisions? Ha! Those are of the past and are outdated. We are well within the 21st century, after all. Yes, the intelligent, strategic planners of today – that are actually making a tangible difference – make use of GIS (Geographic Information Systems) as a tool which empowers them to make better, more informed, decisions. Simply put, it is these knowledgeable decisions that enable us to responsibly work towards a much brighter, greener future.

Geography is cooler than you think: it is changing the world around us and is so much more than just looking at maps and topography. Twenty-first century GIS technology allows us to gather, process and analyze data that presents to us more about the ‘why,’ the ‘who’ and the ‘when’ in order to make responsible, informed decisions about the ‘how’ we move forward.

What is GIS?

Let’s get down to the basics. A geographic information system (GIS) is a meshwork that creates, manages, analyzes and maps all types of data. Data is then overlaid onto a map which integrates location data (where things are) with all types of descriptive information (what things are like there). This incredible foundation of spatial and data analysis enables millions of smart and strategic decisions to be made everyday, allowing users to better understand patterns, relationships, as well as geographic context.

Whoever you are, you’ll need GIS to improve your management schemes and to make smarter decisions. Period. Not sure how it is used on a daily basis? You’d be surprised how GIS and remote sensing data are applicable to so many aspects of your day-to-day life.

How GIS is being used in Industries around the world.

The possibilities are endless. The future of GIS is bright and is a big part of our modern daily lives in more ways than most of us are aware.

The patterns and trends of anything on earth, no matter what profession one finds oneself in, can be made into a digital, interactive, and (near) real time map. After all, humans are visual beings, and unless you are an accountant (sorry guys); maps are way cooler to work with than a dull excel spreadsheet.

Millions of GIS-empowered judgements and considerations are made every single day by future-forward professionals in fields such as:

Conservation / environmental organisations

  • In analyzing the likely consequences of global warming.
  • In capturing detailed data which highlights aspects such as habitat loss, deforestation, as well as pollution hotspots.


To quickly and most cost-effectively monitor forestry plantations (the lungs of our planet) for tree health, harvesting progress and fire break status (Read more about how Swift Geospatial does this here). The applications of GIS in forestry monitoring and management have become integral parts of a vital industry. With both natural forestry and commercial forestry projects monitored on a daily basis.

Uber and all apps you use that involve locational data (Yes, even Tinder)

Uber relies heavily on geospatial data, as you can see when you request a ride. Uber (and similar apps) will match the user with the nearest driver that is prepared to take a new fare. Guided by the app, the driver arrives at riders’ precise locations and transports them to their destination. It is all based on geographical data.

However, Uber also employs GIS data in intelligent ways that may seem less obvious to the everyday user.  In planning for busy times and routes for example, the app identifies what areas which have the highest need for drivers and will advise active drivers to be near those hotspots during times of elevated demand.

Uber’s capabilities and the usage of their data go beyond consumer transportation. A project called Movement has been designed to monitor and analyze traffic flow in major cities. Uber Movement shares anonymized data aggregated from over ten billion trips to help urban planning around the world. Movement launched with information on traffic patterns for Manila, Sydney, and the District of Columbia, adding more cities like San Francisco, Boston and Seattle. The government agencies and organizations that use GIS data provided by this project can analyze the impact from events like road closures and make informed decisions about scheduling infrastructure projects or managing traffic. So all of your trip data is being used in a variety of different, useful ways. No good data goes to waste.


Within the agricultural fields; GIS enables the specialists at Swift Geospatial to monitor aspects (with the latest imagery and alerts) such as:

  • Crop health
  • Crop yield forecasting
  • Remote field assessment
  • Disasters
  • Field stress identification
  • Pest identification
  • Insurance

Allowing farmers to nip diseases and pests in the proverbial bud before the entire crop is destroyed; GIS technology is a no-brainer solution to smart farming practice. GIS is even being used today to analyze soil data to help determine which crops would do best in certain areas, proving that planning ahead through data is saving time as well as money.

The retail industry

Own a franchise for Levi Strauss or Nike? Take a short cut and use the technology at hand to find the appropriate income-group, demographic and location to set things up for serious business. GIS may be used to pinpoint the best locations for new stores; and to identify applicable items for local needs. Traffic patterns, weather patterns, behavioral data can be all be used to find the best spots for new store locations.

Utility organisations

For smarter response to power outages, GIS is used to map areas and allocate job cards to the correct teams whilst looking at precisely what the larger picture in play is. For encroachment monitoring of servitude areas; active alerts may even be activated for immediate response which saves one a hell of a lot of money, stress and precious time (Read more about this here).

Police and intelligence agencies

For the monitoring of criminal activity patterns and for smarter use of intelligence; GIS empowers strategic operations responses. Security companies across the globe are now able to apply GIS technology in security solutions to better combat crime.


GIS is your safety alarm. In the event of a disaster; the powerful and near real time technology enables us to monitor areas that have been or are under observations of disaster level events such as fires, floods, storm events and earthquakes.

Yes, GIS can even play detective via pre & post disaster analysis. Using archive versus new satellite imagery; powerful evidence may be provided to use against fraudulent claims. (Learn more about how Swift Geospatial does this ).

Mine management

  • Having an ‘eye-in-the-sky’ combined with near real time analytics can aid in decision support within smart mine management. Making use of GIS within the mining industry not only reduces risks, but also enormous costs, as a result of timeous response decisions assisted by GIS and remote monitoring.
  • Tailings dam monitoring, volumetrics, subsistence monitoring, as well as encroachment detection empower mine managers to be more proactive than ever before.
  • For more about Swift Geospatial’s smart mining technology, read our previous blog article.

As you can now see, the possibilities are endless. We have barely skimmed the surface, really. It blows one’s mind to think that these are only just a few examples, right?! The future of GIS is bright and all already ingrained in our daily lives in more ways than most of us are aware.

The patterns and trends of anything on earth, no matter what profession one finds oneself in, can be made into a digital, interactive, and (near) real time maps. After all, humans are visual beings, and unless you are an accountant (sorry guys); maps are way cooler to work with than a dull excel spreadsheet.

SMART Mine Monitoring | Remote Sensing | Mine Management

Companies and organisations that are using GIS effectively to improve their businesses with Swift Geospatial

A variety of forward-thinking companies and organisations have approached Swift Geospatial to assist them in improving their business management through the application of our GIS solutions. These are great examples of brands we are proud to be assisting. Here are a few projects we are currently involved with:


Swift Geospatial is collaborating with Ecosia (the world’s largest not-for-profit search engine that plants trees) in order to monitor more than 128 million species across over 30 countries worldwide. Providing information such as the survival and growth rate, as well as general health of the trees that are being planted is given on a monthly dashboard. While the 3 metre resolution imagery is providing Ecosia with unbiased verification of their work, the organisation is empowered with a decision-support tool that asserts not only the accountability of their work, but also the transparency of what they aim to achieve in the world.

In a nutshell, Ecosia is simply using the tool of GIS to build investor confidence. Read more about our partnership here, and more about why the monitoring of your company’s carbon-offset programme is important here.


A sustainable forestry at its core; Mondi works in close collaboration with Swift Geospatial in order to monitor its plantations for tree health, harvesting progress and fire break status.

AngloGold Ashanti

AngloGold Ashanti makes productive use of Swift Geospatial’s smart mining monitoring solutions, such as tailings dam monitoring and encroachment detection. Read more about what such services broadly entail in our recent blog article over here.

GIS is indeed, the future of a responsibly-managed and cared for world. Saving your business, NGO, farm, mine, agency or municipality both precious time and money; be smart and get on the bandwagon with us. Allow GIS technology to not only save the day; but our future.

Keep tuned for next week’s article, where we will be delving into just how we obtain our information through the advanced technology of 21st century remote sensing.