Geographic Information Systems (GIS) are powerful tools. GIS allows developers to analyze and visualize spatial data effectively. The application of GIS cuts across many sectors; from urban planning to environmental monitoring to disaster management and precision agriculture. However, at times, it can be difficult to come up with a unique and useful perspective on a GIS project. In this article, we will explore several GIS applications that developers at all levels can use to enhance their GIS skills by creating something valuable and innovative.
This post is inspired by a response I received from a post on Twitter on March 6th. I will share more about this.
What should I do for a GIS project?
You might be asking many questions; What are the practical applications of GIS? How do you conduct a GIS project? What are the objectives of the GIS project?
The purpose of this article is to provide a comprehensive guide that serves as a source of inspiration for developers looking to undertake GIS projects. We will delve into various GIS project ideas or GIS project topics ranging from beginner to advanced levels. By working on these projects, developers can gain valuable experience in handling GIS data, working with spatial databases and libraries, and building visually appealing and interactive maps.
Additionally, these GIS project examples can lead to a deeper understanding of the GIS concepts, the ability to identify patterns and trends in spatial data and effective communication of insights derived from GIS data. This is what I have done over the years to achieve a good level of understanding of GIS concepts and workflow.
The information in this article is for you, whether you are an aspiring GIS developer, a seasoned developer who wants to improve your skills, or someone interested in the intersection of technology and geography. This article is also helpful for GIS project topics for college students.
Benefits of Working on GIS Projects
Working on GIS projects offers several advantages, including gaining valuable skills and experience in handling and analyzing spatial data, working with spatial databases and libraries, and building visually appealing and interactive maps. To summarize, GIS projects will help in;
- Enhancing technical skills
- Broadening knowledge and understanding of GIS concepts
- Providing opportunities for problem-solving and critical thinking
- Improving communication and collaboration skills
GIS projects allow developers to work with a wide range of data types, including satellite imagery, maps, and location-based data, providing a unique opportunity to explore the intersection of technology and geographyTom Brown, GIS Developer
GIS Project Ideas
1. Geocoding and Reverse Geocoding
Geocoding and reverse geocoding are two important techniques in the field of GIS. They are commonly used in various mapping and location-based applications.
Geocoding is the process of converting a physical address or place name into geographic coordinates (latitude and longitude). On the other hand, Reverse geocoding is the process of converting geographic coordinates back into a physical address or place name.
These capabilities are found in navigation tools such as Google Maps and OpenStreetMap. A good example would be to create a map of crime hotspots in a particular city e.g. Nairobi. This could involve gathering a large dataset of crime incidents, each with an associated address, and using geocoding techniques to convert these addresses into geographic coordinates. The resulting dataset of crime incidents with latitude and longitude coordinates can then be plotted on a map. This can provide insights into the locations that experience the highest levels of crime.
Some of the libraries that you could use for geocoding and reverse geocoding include;
- Nominatim by OpenStreetMap (OSM)
- Google Maps Geocoding API by Google
- Geocodio (For Python, Ruby, and other programming languages)
- Bings Maps API by Microsoft
Let me know what you think of this project.
2. Mapping Local Landmarks
This project would involve creating a map of amenities within your locality such as hospitals, schools, roads etc. The goal of this project could be to provide a comprehensive and visually appealing resource for members, students etc.
To create this project, you can start by identifying a list of notable landmarks in the area. You can then use geocoding libraries or APIs to convert the addresses of these landmarks into geographic coordinates. These are coordinates which can be plotted on a map.
With the coordinates of the landmarks, you can create a map. This map could display the locations of these landmarks with additional attribute information on each landmark, such as images, to create a more engaging and informative user experience.
There is a lot to be done in such a project. You can also add more functionality to the map such as filter components and routing. This provides a personalized and interactive experience for users and helps them discover the area in new and exciting ways.
3. Develop a real-time route/trip tracker
Most of us commute daily. You could also be planning a long trip to some destination or choice. It would be good to take into account everything about the trip. This could be; the route followed, shops visited, hotels, stopovers etc. Think of this project as a trip diary. This is a good project to undertake if you need this information.
The resulting GIS or webGIS project could be used for a variety of purposes. These include informing transportation planning and policy decisions, identifying areas for infrastructure improvements, or supporting academic research on travel behaviour.
How do you go about such a project?
The process of adding data or incidents can be manual or automated. For example, add a form to add important features along a route or map landmarks along the way. The user interface of this system should be intuitive and easy to use. Also, it should have clear instructions and feedback to guide the user through the process. It should include interactive maps and visualizations to display the user’s current location, route and any feature collected along the way.
This project can be your “Google Location History” kind of project. Once in a while, you can always review places visited over some time. It can also be used for planning purposes on the next trip.
4. Develop a 3D Map Viewer
In GIS, visualizations are fascinating. Most of the applications available out there are 2D data visualizations. Imagine trying out a 3D map viewer. More fun? Indeed.
This type of map viewer can be useful in applications such as urban planning, environmental modelling, and disaster response.
A 3D map viewer involves the use of libraries for rendering 3D graphics in the web browser. Some of the libraries you can use in this project include; Three.js, OpenSceneGraph, CesiumJS, and Mapbox GL JS. The choice of library depends on the specific needs of the project.
Some of the key functionality of a 3D map viewer includes the ability to pan, zoom, and rotate the view. Also, one can overlay various types of data such as satellite imagery, terrain data, and other geospatial layers.
This is a common functionality on apps such as Google Earth. But it won’t hurt to create something of your own. The simplest application would be to visualize buildings in a city or area. For 3D visualizations, you can have additional information such as building heights, number of floors etc.
One possible application for a 3D map viewer of buildings is in urban planning. This can be used to visualize proposed building designs in the context of the surrounding environment. Another potential application is in architecture and real estate.
5. Develop a Spatial Analysis Web Application
Today, there are many online platforms for this kind of work. These platforms include Mapbox, ArcGIS Online, Google Earth Engine etc. As mentioned in the sections above, you can always create your custom apps. Remember, practice improves.
This is a project that can be developed using Leaflet Js or OpenLayers as the mapping libraries. You could also use PostgreSQL for your databases and GeoServer as your map server. You could also utilize GEE’s processing power to process data based on input parameters.
Spatial analysis can involve both vector and raster data. In this kind of project, you can include network analysis, buffering, overlay analysis, terrain analysis and spatial query. Choose what interests you.
More project ideas
When it comes to projects which developers can create as a way of improving skills, there’s a lot. Other GIS projects that developers can try out include;
- Create a map that shows the population density of different areas in a city or town.
- Create a map that highlights tourist attractions in a city or town.
- Developing a GIS project that maps areas prone to natural disasters like floods, earthquakes and wildfires.
- Develop a map that shows school district boundaries and locations of schools in a particular area
- Create a map that displays election results for a particular election, showing the voting patterns in different areas.
- Develop a GIS project that displays emergency services, such as hospitals, fire stations, and police stations in an area
- Create a map that displays different types of restaurants in a city or town
- Develop a GIS project that analyzes the potential for solar energy generation in a specific location. Take into account factors such as sun exposure, terrain, and weather.
- Develop a project that optimizes transportation networks, considering factors like traffic flow, road conditions, and alternative routes.
- Conduct an analysis of green spaces within a city, identifying their distribution, sizes, and accessibility to residents. Propose recommendations for improving green infrastructure.
- Explore the historical land use patterns of a region and create a map showcasing changes over time. Uncover insights into urban development, agriculture, and other land utilization practices.
- Conduct a health risk assessment by mapping environmental factors (e.g., pollution, proximity to industrial areas) and their potential impact on public health.
- Predict urban growth patterns using GIS tools. Analyze historical data to model future expansion and suggest strategies for sustainable development.
- Map wildlife habitats in a specific area, considering ecosystems, migration patterns, and potential threats. Develop conservation strategies based on the findings.
- Preserve cultural heritage by mapping historical sites, landmarks, and artifacts. Create an interactive map to educate the public about the region’s cultural significance.
- Analyze watershed characteristics, including topography and land cover, to understand water flow patterns. Identify areas vulnerable to flooding and erosion.
- Evaluate agricultural land suitability by considering factors like soil quality, slope, and climate. Provide recommendations for optimal crop selection and land management.
- Monitor air quality across different regions. Map pollution levels and identify sources of contamination. Implement solutions to mitigate environmental impact.
- Map community resources, including schools, libraries, and recreational areas. Enhance community planning by visualizing the distribution of essential services.
- Plan for renewable energy by analyzing factors like sun exposure, terrain, and weather conditions. Assess the potential for solar energy generation in a specific location.
- Analyze ocean currents and develop maps to assist maritime navigation. Consider factors like water temperature, currents, and potential hazards.
- Assess the impact of tourism by mapping popular attractions, visitor flow, and associated amenities. Optimize tourism management for a positive community and environmental impact.
- Conduct a noise pollution mapping project, identifying sources of noise and their impact on different areas. Propose measures to minimize noise pollution.
How Do I Find GIS Projects?
Embarking on GIS projects offers users or college students a dynamic avenue to apply theoretical knowledge and hone practical skills. It not only allows you to apply your geospatial expertise but also contributes to solving real-world challenges. In this section, let’s explore the diverse avenues through which you can discover GIS projects or GIS jobs, ranging from traditional employment routes to leveraging online platforms and networks.
Ways to Find GIS Projects:
- Employment Opportunities
- Many organizations, ranging from government agencies to private companies, regularly hire GIS professionals for in-house projects. Keep an eye on job boards, company websites, and industry-specific platforms for openings that align with your skill set.
- Freelance Platforms
- Joining freelance platforms such as Upwork, Freelancer and Fiverr allows you to bid on GIS projects from clients worldwide. Showcase your portfolio, set competitive rates, and gradually build a clientele for recurring work.
- Networking Events
- Attend GIS conferences, workshops, and local meetups to network with professionals in the field. Establishing connections can lead to project opportunities either directly or through referrals.
- Online GIS Communities:
- Engage in GIS-focused online communities like GIS Stack Exchange, Reddit’s GIS subreddit, and LinkedIn groups. Participating in discussions may unveil potential collaborations or projects.
- Government Contracts
- Governments often release RFPs (Request for Proposals) for GIS services. Monitor government procurement websites for opportunities to bid on projects that align with your expertise.
- Educational Institutions
- Partnering with universities on research projects or providing workshops can open doors to GIS opportunities. Reach out to academic departments and research centres to explore potential collaborations.
- Industry-Specific Platforms
- Explore specialized GIS job boards like GeoJobs.org, GIS Jobs Clearinghouse, and MyGISJobs for targeted project opportunities in the geospatial industry.
- Remote Sensing Platforms
- Platforms like Kaggle often host competitions related to satellite data analysis. Participate in these challenges to showcase your skills and potentially attract project offers.
- Consultancy Services:
- If you have a robust skill set and experience, consider starting your GIS consultancy. Offer specialized services to clients in need of geospatial solutions.
- Local Government Initiatives
- Local governments often engage GIS professionals for urban planning and development projects. Stay informed about municipal initiatives and propose your services for relevant projects.
For those seeking inspiration, a plethora of GIS project ideas cater to varying levels of complexity and interests. Students can explore diverse geospatial topics, from environmental conservation to urban planning, allowing for a customized approach to their GIS journey.
Consider initiating GIS projects that align with academic pursuits, such as creating interactive maps that visualize historical trends or geographic data. For an engaging and impactful project, students can delve into GIS-based projects that address real-world challenges, contributing to the local community or broader geospatial community.
From simple GIS project ideas suitable for beginners to more advanced concepts, the possibilities are vast. For instance, students may opt for projects that involve mapping and analyzing climate change data, contributing to the growing field of geospatial science. By exploring examples of GIS projects using tools like ArcGIS, students can gain valuable insights into industry standards and innovative applications of geospatial technology.
Ultimately, GIS projects provide an avenue for students to showcase their creativity and problem-solving abilities, fostering a deeper understanding of geospatial concepts and leaving a lasting impact on both their academic and professional journey. Whether it’s creating maps that tell compelling stories or developing geospatial solutions to address real-world issues, GIS projects serve as a canvas for students to explore and contribute meaningfully to the field