Hello world! How two numbers may save your life

Welcome to Geoid Life!

My name is Nico,

As a recent graduate of University of Maryland‘s esteemed and competitive Geospatial Information Science program I have decided to create this WordPress site to share my ideas and explorations into the world of Geospatial Science and Geography.

Lake and Peaks
Some locations can be truly awe inspiring, like this one of a lake and a mountain range.

Geospatial Information Science is a realtively new career and discipline.  Geographic Information Systems (GIS), have provided amazing tools which continually add to quality of life and are often on the verge of solving significant worldly problems. GIS systems have digitally mapped the earth thanks to satellite imagery and companies like Google who host this information and display it. GIS systems have also contributed to finding water in deserts, synthesizing agricultural data crucial to improving food distribution in impoverished third world countries,  provided millions driving directions and supplied trucking and shipping companies with the most efficient routes. Although many can find an example a GIS in Google or Bing maps on their web browser, few actually know where that information came from and what process made it readily available at their fingertips.

Part GeoidLife’s goal is to provide information and awareness of GIS systems, their importance and application in almost any aspect of life. “So where does GIS apply beside Google maps?” you might ask.

Well, thats just the beauty of GIS and any Geospatial Information applications. What you can do with GIS systems is just about limitless. After all, we all live on earth, scientifically known as a geoid (hence the naming of this site). The almost infinite connections you can draw from a pinpointed location on earth what makes GIS systems so important, practical and vital to in the information age.

Why is your pinpointed location on a digitally projected map so important you may ask?

There is no escaping connection to our planet. Unless you are an astronaut, live on a space station or are one of the lucky, brave and few planning to join Richard Branson and his Virgin Galactic fleet into space, everything you do is tied to your location on earth one way or another.

Map Pinpoint
A pinpoint on a physical map.

Latitude and longitude,  once only of great importance in the realm of cartographers and navigators, are now two numbers that can be more important identifiers than your IP address, phone number, email address, company address or residential address. Geo-identification among other forms of identification derives its importance from the level of connection it can provide. In many situations the simplicity of latitude and longitude can link you to many more services and faster than any other identifiers.

So, how can these two numbers (latitude and longitude) save your life?

How can location be simplified to be used in a streamline and efficient manner for limitless applications?

These are questions GeodLife wants to pose to the general public to raise awareness about GIS and its value.

For the first question, the application of emergency response GIS can serve as a perfect example.

A diagram of how an emergency response system works with GIS. Image provided by ESRI.com

Say for instance,  your car breaks down on the side of the road or you are involved in a terrible accident.  Calling the 911 and speaking to an operator or technician will connect you to an emergency response network, based on a GIS system. The description you provide  of your location is simplified into the exact latitude and longitude of your position by a geo-processing service called geocoding. Your coordinates can also be traced by another geo-processing service using an ‘address locator’ or ‘cell phone tracing application.’ Once your coordinates are resolved your position then placed on a map as an ‘incident’ which is connected to a network that includes all the locations of emergency response units, dispatchers and closest responders. A calculation is made based on your resolved position and the closest EMTs and that EMT, police car or ambulance is contacted, provided with the incident information and given the quickest route based on the same resolved coordinates of the ‘incident’ and relevant traffic and road condition data. GIS systems as important as emergency response systems ultimately use latitude and longitude as the most direct input to provide a service (the output, in this case is  saves peoples lives).

Access to your exact latitude and longitude coordinates can cut out the ‘geo-processing’ step in emergency response GIS system. No matter where you are in the world,  latitude and longitude are the quickest most efficient way to connect with an emergency response system. Street names and mile markers can differ state to state, country to country, or conversely you may have broken down off road. Say your accident or incident occurs on a mountain road miles from a well recognized road or highway. This access can mean few seconds of time savings, however in an emergency situation every second counts.

AL diagram
Address Locator from ArcGIS 9.3. Source: ESRI online.

Geo-processing has become faster and emergency responders are constantly updating ‘address locator’ and ‘mobile phone tracking’ services, however nothing is more direct than a precise set of latitude and longitude coordinates.

That is how geo-referenced position or latitude and longitude, relative to digital map systems, GIS applications and other geo-networks, can save your life.

Please feel free to make comments on how this post can be improved, made more clear, or if you liked the post and learned something.



A few resources relevant to GIS and Geospatial Information Science:

What is a GIS?

Top Five Benefits to a GIS


We are living in a world where your "geo-id" is often more useful than your given name. We live on a geoid. We are open to open discussion, the more open the broader the potential for all of us to learn something.

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