We all want to understand our environment — how it changes and how our actions impact it.
Spatial analysis, a common feature of GIS, users that study the world around us can do just that.
What is spatial data?
Spatial data are the geographic locations of various physical features on Earth (lakes, mountains, rivers, etc.). This information is typically recorded in coordinates on a map. Spatial analysis involves studying the distances between various geographic points.
What is spatial analysis?
Spatial analysis determines the relationship between these two variables. This process helps to extract new information about these sets of coordinates. That way, routine examinations, assessments, evaluations, analyses and more can be performed. Those studying these coordinates allows professionals in the field to study the land in this area more efficiently.
The various types of geographic data are often placed on a digital map in layers, called GIS mapping. People conducting spatial analysis can study the map layer by layer to pull out specific information as needed. Computer processing helps users determine geographic suitability, predict patterns and understand climate change.
What are common types of spatial analysis?
Spatial autocorrelation — This type of spatial analysis concerns statistics that measure and analyze the degree of dependency of two coordinates in a geographic location
Spatial interpolation — This process estimates the variables at unobserved locations compared to values at observed locations
Spatial regression — This method captures spatial dependency and avoids statistical problems like unstable parameters and unreliable tests.
Spatial interaction — This studies the flow of people, material or information between locations in a given geographic space
Multiple-point geostatics — This process analyzes the spatial statistics of a geological model and generates realizations of the input point statistics
Geocoding - Geocoding is the process of use coordinates or a description of a location, and turning it into a specific location on the Earth's surface.
Who benefits from spatial analysis?
There are a variety of people who benefit from spatial analysis:
Urban planners develop procedures and programs for all the ways land can be used. They map communities, plan for growth, build facilities, smart cities, and more. Urban planners conduct spatial analyses to track environmental changes and account for how they might impact the community.
Environmental scientists and geographers
An environmental scientist’s responsibility is to assess the health of a geographic location. These individuals often work in the field conducting various tests on the land. Environmental scientists rely on spatial analysis to capture data that can help them predict climate change.
Law enforcement professionals utilize spatial analysis to track crime hot spots. Crime analysts utilize certain data from these analyses, such as census demographics, to better understand why crimes happen in certain areas. This data also helps agencies more effectively dispatch police officers during an emergency.
Public health professionals
Public health workers are focused on improving the health of residents in their community. These individuals study the quality of food and water, and track air pollution and disease prevention. Spatial analysis helps them track environmental risks, such as a contaminated water source.
Best GIS software for spatial analysis
Spatial analyses are performed through geographic information systems (GIS). These tools capture, analyze and display spatial data to make a 2D or 3D map. GIS software helps businesses analyze real-world problems. GIS technology helps users understand patterns in geography and improve operations in specific locations. GIS products sometimes include visualization capabilities, so users can see their data as a map before it’s actually published.
Highly rated GIS programs: The following GIS tools can help you perform spatial analysis. We selected these tools because they’ve received the highest average G2 Crowd star ratings by our users in our GIS software research hub.
G2 Crowd star rating: 4.5 out of 5.0 stars (147 reviews)
Overview: This Google product renders a 3D representation of Earth based on satellite images and other data. In addition to the typical GIS features, Google Earth Pro provides globes of the moon and Mars, along with a tool for viewing the night sky.
What users like:
“I love how easy it is to review and use spatial data and without having to deal with special file formats. It also requires very little training to become adept at using.” — Google Earth Pro review by Shannon R.
What users dislike:
“If there is anything I dislike about Google Earth Pro is the fact that sometimes it gets 'glitchy' and zooms me into a pitch black screen sometimes when exiting street view. However, every software is bound to have some sort of glitch, and this is a small inconvenience compared to large benefits.” — Google Earth Pro review by Andrew S.
Recommendations to others considering the product:
“I recommend that you use Google Earth Pro, which is a tool for designing and editing maps and photographs. It is an excellent professional application.” — Google Earth Pro review by Miguel P.
If you’re looking to conduct the most accurate spatial analysis possible, GIS software is the way to go. For those look for a tool on a budget, there are even many free GIS software tools available to use.
After selecting a new GIS software program, be sure to leave a review and tell your peers how it helped your business improve its spatial analyses.
*G2 Crowd star ratings as of January 8, 2019
**Reviews may have been edited for grammar and clarity
Brynne is the Buyer Inquiry Team Lead at G2 Crowd. In addition to writing, she leads the research specialists in providing personalized software and services recommendations to buyers. She wishes she had interesting hobbies to include in this bio.