Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software has a number of important environmental applications, but key obstacles stand in the way of its widespread and routine use.
GIS are intended to integrate a wide variety of environmental data and make these data work together in an easily accessible manner. Many current systems are very good at integrating data, but conventional GIS systems certainly are far from accessible because they require large overhead costs for equipment, software, and training.
GIS systems are expensive and complex because they are built with a wide range of applications in mind. As a result, people who need only relatively basic GIS functionality to accomplish GIS modelling end up having to take on large software and hardware overheads.
Another barrier to widespread use of GIS systems is the difficulty of coupling them to environmental simulation models. In environmental applications of computer technology, simulation models are important tools. When properly coupled to GIS systems, simulation models are capable of significantly advancing environmental simulations and understanding.
At present, GIS software is used mainly for predictive decision support or for archiving structured data. Although GIS software is not usually used for real-time applications, there is overwhelming need for real-time hazard warning and hazard assessment in many contexts, but particularly in hydrological contexts.
Addressing the deficiencies in our use of GIS will require substantial rethinking of the nature of GIS and development of GIS interfaces that satisfy our growing need for cost-effective, real-time analysis of environmental data. Obviously, the ability to access the full capability of GIS systems via the WWW would create huge potential benefits for research and decisionmaking around the globe. Development of network-aware GIS must be our next great leap in our use of this powerful tool. As a contribution to this goal, the objective of my research is to integrate a simple GIS with TCP-IP network protocols for serving geographical information.
The objective of this research is to develop a prototype interface between a GIS system such as MGE (Intergraph) and a web server for remote modelling. So that this GIS system can be used as a real-time research, policy support, and educational tool, it should be capable of real-time environmental modelling when connected to the WWW through a user-friendly GUI (Graphic User Interface). Development of an interface between a GIS and the WWW will require extensive script programming, the use of a Web server, and the use of programming languages such as Java and C++.
Query and analysis are at the heart of GIS. Query functions are concerned with inventory questions, such as: Where is? Analysis functions deal with questions such as: What if? What differentiates GIS from other computer systems used for cartography, CAD, remote sensing, and DBMS is its ability to analyse geographical patterns and relationships.
Some basic questions that can be investigated using GIS are:
Rationale and Background
The proposed development of a new GIS resource is an applied research project that will require significant technical innovation in hardware and software engineering as well as important conceptual breakthroughs. Clearly, online GIS will have many applications in many areas, but this research will be applied a very specific use: environmental monitoring and simulation of floods.
Some advantages of the proposed on-line GIS for flood monitoring and simulation are expected to eliminate some of current shortcomings of GIS, as follows.
1) greater accessibility, to a much wider audience, of research, data, results, decision-support tools and educational material;
2) decreased turnover time of field monitoring data and instantaneous integration of this data with the GIS;
3) rapid post-dictive validation of environmental simulation models and enhanced prediction through real-time processing of hydrological fluxes and events;
4) effective, low-cost, and comparatively easy Internet delivery of GIS technologies.
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