Saturday, November 5, 2016

Understanding the different concepts of GIS - GISystem, GIScience, and GIService

Difference between GISystem, GIScience and GIService

There are three major conceptual frameworks of the acronym "GIS" and without any doubt, the most common or most talked about is the GISystem - Geospatial/Geographic Information System.

However, GIScience and GIService have recently gained popularity within the geospatial industry. For example, in the academia GIS is often viewed as a GIScience while in the business market places, GIS is often viewed as a GIService. Casual GIS users often viewed it as a tool/system (i.e. GISystem) to support their spatial problem solving - GIS is fundamentally about solving real-world problems.

GISystem, GIScience, and GIService

Over the years, the concept of GIS has experienced continues changes, from Geographical Information System (GISystem) to Geographical Information Science (GIScience), and then the development of Geographical Information Services (GIServices).


Geographic Information System (GISystem) is the most used concept of GIS. Many definitions of GISystem have been suggested over the years. In general, one could derive the practical definition of GISystem as a computerized system designed to dealing with the collection, storage, manipulation, analysis, visualization and displaying geographic information. GISystem is a tool to perform the spatial analysis which will put insight to the activities and phenomena carrying out everyday.

GISystem: Talks about GIS as a tool or system for solving geospatial related problems. Its components include:-
(1) Hardware
(2) Software
(3) Data/Information
(4) Users/People
(5) Procedures/Methods and
(6) Network

The major components of GISystem


Geographic Information Science (GIScience) is advocated to address a set of intellectual and scientific questions which go well beyond the technical capabilities of GISystem. The concept was first advocated by Michael Goodchild.
"...There is a pressing need to recognize and develop the role of science in GIS. This is meant in two senses. The first has to do with the extent to which GIS as a field contains a legitimate set of scientific questions, the extent to which these can be expressed, and the extent to which they are generic, rather than specific to particular fields of application. ... The second sense has to do with the role of GIS as a toolbox in science generally -with GIS for science rather than the science of GIS." (Goodchild, Spatial Information Science, 1990).
GIScience: Talks about GIS as a scientific discipline of study in the academia. This is the science behind the technology aimed at enhancing knowledge of Geospatial concepts and their computational implementations. The major contributing disciplines are:-
(1) Computer science
(2) Mathematics/Statistics
(3) Geomatics (Land Surveying, Photogrammetry, Remote Sensing, Geodesy, GPS, Drone mapping)
(4) Geography and
(5) Cartography


Geographic Information Service (GIService) is the kind of services dealing with the geographic information, such as the design and development of the GIS, geographic information retrieval, analysis, etc. For example, MapQuest ( provides a routing service for people to find the best driving route between two points.

GIService allows GIS users to access specific functions that are provided by remote sites through the internet. For example, the US MapQuest site ( or the UK Yellow Pages site ( provide routing services that are used by millions of people every day to find the best driving route between two points. By typing a pair of street addresses, the user can execute a routing analysis and receive the results in the form of a map and a set of written driving or walking directions. This has several advantages over performing the same analysis on one’s own PC – there is no need to buy software to perform the analysis, there is no need to buy the necessary data, and the data are routinely updated by the GIService provider.

GIServices: Talks about GIS as a Service or an Overhaul or a Provision for delivering of geospatial information often via the web. Some examples are: MapQuest, Google maps, Bing Maps, Yahoo Maps, Apple Maps, Yandex Maps, OpenStreetMap and WikiMapia Maps. Many sites that provide access to raw GIS data also provide GIServices.

Other GIServices examples are the GIS web service standards such as: WMS, WFS, WCS, WFS-T, CSW, WPS, TMS, WMTS and ESRI ArcGIS Services.

~ The gradual shift from centralized GIS to distributed GIS lead to GIServices.
~ If GISystem is data-centered, GIService is person-centered.

Now you shouldn't get confused when these terms are used interchangeably.
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