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Here there be dragons: GIS explores the unknown

July 12, 2017  - By

Here there be dragons. That phrase (or a variation of it) was used by early mapmakers to designate the unknown — and alert sailors to the danger of traveling into uncharted waters.

I’ve always admired explorers who dared to push the boundaries of the known world. We’ve moved from the Age of Exploration to the Age of Information, but exploration continues on frontiers big and small.

Today, of course, most people think of the world as having been mapped. They can simply call up Google maps on their smartphone and see not only the world, but their town, their street and their house — in representational cartography (traditional map), satellite imagery, or even street-view imagery.

Professionals in geographic information systems (GIS) know better. The world is still a mystery in uncounted areas. For one thing, it’s not static: Volcanoes form new land masses, storms change coastlines, the sea-level is rising. For another, there’s more to exploration than a basic map.

That’s where the GIS professional takes center stage, assessing an area beyond what is already known, using a variety of tools to collect and analyze data. As Esri defines it, a GIS lets us “visualize, question, analyze and interpret data to understand relationships, patterns and trends. GIS benefits organizations of all sizes and in almost every industry.” A software-based profession, GIS experts use GPS, GNSS and inertial to gather data, which is where this magazine comes in.

At GPS World, we share GIS developments in our Mapping Market Watch, Mapping Launchpad and at

This article is tagged with , , , , , , and posted in From the Magazine, Opinions

About the Author: Tracy Cozzens

Senior Editor Tracy Cozzens joined GPS World magazine in 2006. She also is editor of GPS World’s newsletters and the sister website Geospatial Solutions. She has worked in government, for non-profits, and in corporate communications, editing a variety of publications for audiences ranging from federal government contractors to teachers.