What is GIS & What Does it Do?

GIS stands for Geographic Information Systems. This is a computer based system that utilizes mapping and databases. GIS is a tool used to produce, study and analyze information related to places. This can provide far more effective, expedient and powerful problem-solving tools than traditional paper methods of analysis.

Products that a GIS can make or produce include:

  • 3D terrain models
  • Aerial photographs
  • Graphs
  • Linear network analyses
  • Interactive web maps
  • Maps
  • Spreadsheets
  • Statistical analyses and much more

I have a GPS in my Car, is that the same as GIS?

Not quite, GPS stands for Global Positioning System. GPS is a navigation system that can determine where you are on the Earth.

A GIS can utilize data collected from a GPS unit and some GPS units have simple GIS systems in them, but they are not the same. Here at the Town of Needham, some departments utilize GPS devices in their projects.

GPS, GIS and Computer Aided Drafting (CAD) are all tools within the Geospatial world.

Products that you may be familiar with that use geospatial technology include Google Earth, Google Maps, Waze, Mapquest, Microsoft's Bing Maps, and many other internet and mobile device (cell phone and smart phone) applications.

What's going on with Needham's GIS?

Currently, the Town GIS Administrator is conducting many long term projects to modernize the Town's existing GIS and CAD software as well as all of the accompanying electronic infrastructure and data. As these improvements are made, the geospatial tools will be better suited to the current and future needs of the public and the town's municipal departments.

Projects recently completed or ongoing include the Town of Needham WebGIS, new townwide maps, updated streets, updated parcels and new parcel-level mapping data.

Due to our small staff size and time limitations, we are unable to fulfill any requests for custom maps or data for the general public. However, the town's WebGIS is available to you 24/7 so that you can explore the town on an internet-enabled device. Additionally, those with GIS or CAD capabilities can download town data, free of charge.

We are happy to provide a limited amount of digital GIS data to other government agencies and academic institutions who have GIS capabilities.