On my way to work in the GIS section at Halton Regional Centre, I realized that I needed to stop at the nearest gas station — before my car ran out of fuel! — so I picked up my hand-held GPS and plugged in the information. I started to think about how handy it was to have all this information in the palm of my hand, and ready at a moment’s notice. It reminded me of why I chose a career in GIS.
GIS stands for Geographic Information Systems. GIS is more than just map making: it’s a method to capture, store, check, and display data to related positions on the Earth’s surface. Many kinds of data can be shown on the same map, so that patterns and relationships can be easily understood.
GIS is used in various ways within the workplace. In fact, Halton Region uses GIS in many different departments. These include:
- Health Department
- Social and Community Services
- Paramedic Services
- Public Works
- Design and Construction
- Infrastructure Management
- Waste Management Services
- Emergency Operations Centre
- Police Services
GIS has a greater impact upon your life than you realize. For instance, do you know what happens when you flush the toilet? Do you know where your tap water comes from? Do you know how your roads are maintained?
The Public Works department at Halton Region uses GIS to plan, construct, and maintain all water and sewer-related infrastructure, as well as road-related projects. The GIS system provides critical data to operators in times of crisis, such as when a water main breaks, or when a sewer main backs up. Without access to this type of centralized data, it would be difficult to resolve problems efficiently and in a timely manner.
Each January, Halton residents receive their Waste Management Guide & Collection Calendar. The collection area boundary maps inside the collection calendar are created using GIS, based on the waste collection and boundary data provided by Waste Management Services. These maps inform residents when they can expect their waste to be picked up.
Additionally, Halton’s award winning Online Waste Collection Calendar Tool is generated using GIS data. These are some other ways in which GIS can unknowingly touch your life.
In recent years, there have been some advances in GIS and GPS technology. One of the benefits of this means that GPS technology is now used in compactors and bulldozers at the Halton Waste Management Site. The landfill GPS system provides visual feedback that depicts the real-time level of compaction, and stores the information in the GIS database. This ensures the correct level of compaction is achieved, and it improves the efficiency and safety of the landfill site. It is a remarkable use of GPS techonology in our commuity. For more information on this read a recent blog post about the landfill GPS system.
Those are just a few examples of how GIS technology affects our everyday lives. Over the last decade, the GIS industry has grown rapidly, and will continue to expand as new uses for it continue to be developed. GIS is our future!
And remember to celebrate GIS Day on November 20!
About this guest blogger:
Hi, I’m Shelley Watt, and I’ve been in the GIS section within Halton Region Public Works since 2006. My group maintains all data related to water and sewer infrastructure. The work we do directly impacts System Operations staff, and other groups within Public Works. GIS gives us the ability to be map creators, as well as data analyzers; a healthy balance of right and left brain thinking!