So, what is this article about? On one hand, it gives you a comprehensive picture of geoinformatics. On the other hand, it places our published articles in the geoinformatics system, so you will know exactly which of our articles can be classified in which geoinformatics “work phase”.
What is Geoinformatics?
Even though the name itself is quite describing (it’s the IT of spatially definable objects) but a more realistic example is if I mention maps and 3D files. When you enter an address in the browser and view it on a map interface or use GPS, it is all based on geospatial information. Geoinformatics can be interpreted as a large, collective term that includes data collection, data processing, storage and display. This is why we categorized all of our articles into these four topics on our blog.
Sidenote: Data storage is indirectly discussed on our blog. Articles about display have been combined with data sharing (“Data sharing and display”). In addition, we have supplemented these with the category “GIS in general” containing the theoretical parts, and for beginners we have created a subcategory called “Quick Start”.
There are two types of data collection: primary and secondary. During the primary data collection, you go out “in the field” yourself and collect the necessary data to produce maps and 3D files. If you are more familiar with the subject, I won’t tell you anything new that active and passive remote sensing and photogrammetry are also included under geospatial technology. If you are interested in the differences between these subjects, and if you want to learn how they’re being used, I recommend reading this article.
If you are more interested in what photogrammetry is, what are its limitations and what are the main fields of its use read this article of ours. Photogrammetric data collection is usually carried out with a pre-planned photography scheme. This plan also depends on whether we are talking about terrestrial photogrammetry when shooting with a hand-held camera; or we can do it by a drone in the air. In the latter case, a special need may arise when the drone must follow the surface features, this is called terrain aware mapping. Apart from that you can collect data with GNSS receivers.
In addition to primary data collection methods, you can also generate second-hand (secondary) data, for example by digitizing an old paper-based map.
Software and data processing
You need to use different types of software for each workflow, unfortunately, this cannot be avoided. Let’s take a look at a photogrammetry survey. To create a 3D model or a map, first you need to process the photos you made in the data collecting phase. If you would like to create orthophotos or 3D models using photos made by a camera on the ground or by a drone, you will need a photogrammetry processing software. For that purpose, Agisoft Metashape, Pix4D and some others that are available for retail purchase. There are awesome free versions that I highly recommend. These are OpenDroneMap, AliceVision or Regard3D. You can read the details of the model creation along with a practical guide, available free software and 3D post-processing by clicking here (it’s worth clicking, because we have embedded a 3D model into this article 🙂 ).
Once your map or 3D model is ready, you will presumably want to perform some kind of measurement, analysis, or report on them. What software can be considered? If you want to examine point clouds, the free CloudCompare is a good option. You can even use 3D models for visual design or artistic purposes. If you want to modify the geometry and are looking for a free program, then definitely try Blender!
For map level analysis you will need a Geographic Information System (GIS). The most common free program is QGIS. This includes, among other things, so-called raster data model analyses. Such is the slope, aspect and drainage map that can be derived from a digital elevation model (DEM). New vector graphic map files can also be generated in the form of points, lines and polygons, to which you can also attach attributes . You can create new thematic maps using raster and vector files at the same time.
In general, several software must be used during one project in order to obtain suitable results. If you are interested in the following topics, click on one of the following and read our tutorial articles:
- GIS based building motion analysis
- Surface analysis based on drone survey in agriculture
- Volume calculation
- Analysis aimed at designating the location of a lookout or radio tower
Storing spatial data
Data storage is a more complicated topic (not that the whole geoinformatics is not…). Simple, file-level storage of data is not an easy task either, since after an extensive data collection, the size of the cleaned files can reach several 10 or 100 GB. If you have ever tried to move such a large amount of data from one place to another, then you know that this is a real time- and nerve-killing task. Another question is whether you would store the files on a central file server, perhaps on an external drive (SSD, HDD) or in cloud storage. Whichever you choose, you enter a never-ending battle in the world of GBs or TBs, where you can spend a lot of money on storage. A good tip: before mindlessly copying files, plan your entire directory structure for each project, so you will know exactly where everything is or will be. You also make it easier to find files if you use a well-structured folder structure. Also, you can reduce the likelihood of creating duplicate files.
Data can be stored in a database, however, a special spatial database manager is needed such as the free PostGIS, which can be installed alongside the PostgreSQL relational database manager. Of course, the better known database managers like Oracle or MySQL also have an extension supporting the storage and management of spatial data. Spatial databases can handle various geometries, such as 2D and 3D points, lines, polygons, point clouds, and rasters. Building a spatial database requires serious expertise, as the structure of the database, authorizations, data protection, etc. must be planned in advance. The advantage of the database is that you can get information quickly and several users can read and write data tables at the same time. The disadvantage is that it really requires significant expert knowledge, you have to build the appropriate thick or thin client-side applications that can be used to manage these files organized in the database.
If you would like to read about the most common solutions in the industry and the future of data storage and data sharing, then do not miss this article.
As you have seen, spatial data can be diverse and this also means that there are many ways of representation depending on the software environment and data source.
The color palette of a raster data model can be set based on the data recorded in the cells. Cells can store height values, angle values, temperature data, etc. During a thematic representation, you can classify this data into classes, so you can create maps based on different color scales. Through a thematic display these data can be categorized into classes so you can create maps based on color scales.
With regard to vector data, we mean the filtering and thematic styling of the descriptive data set attached to the geometry. Vector data are not made up of pixels, so they can be represented regardless of scale. However, you should always keep in mind that although you do not perceive the field resolution on a vector file, it can only be as accurate as the way the data collection was carried out.
Nowadays, it is expected that if we look at a map or 3D model, we can interpret it easily. Customers for surveying work also expect to receive such files in exchange for their money. The question may rightly arise in your mind: what happens if the customer does not have software or an expert who can handle these files? You have three options:
- You provide files in such formats that nearly everyone can easily handle, just like pdf, image, or text report;
- You look around among more modern web-based data sharing platforms and subscribe to an existing solution;
- With a huge amount of web development knowledge, you create your own publication interface;
If you hand over the final results through a user-friendly web-based data sharing and data visualization software, you can really impress the customer. Such a move will give you a competitive advantage, as you can easily and quickly transfer the results of your surveys. Sharing data with the right technology is also useful for business, as a happy and satisfied customer will talk about you and will more likely contact you again.
Most of the cloud-based data sharing platforms can not display special maps and 3D files, but SurveyTransfer can! With SurveyTransfer you can achieve the following:
- Modern and simple sharing of maps and 3D files
- Instant visualization of data on the web
- Representation of different data sources on top of each other (in layer structure)
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