Talk about Geoinformatics and most people will draw a blank. Mention Google Maps, satellite navigation systems or GPS enabled cabs and faces light up with interest immediately!
This riveting information and communication technology along with other varied tools comprises the exciting field of Geoinformatics (also known as Geographic Information Science – GIS or Geographic Information Technology- GIT).
It is a key emerging and evolving industry that offers an excellent career avenue with immense potential and many as-yet undiscovered opportunities.
Mr. P.L.N. Raju, author of ‘Fundamentals of Geographic Information Systems' describes Geoinformatics as “The science and technology dealing with the structure and character of spatial information, its capture, its classification and qualification, its storage, processing, portrayal and dissemination, including the infrastructure necessary to secure optimal use of this information.”
In simpler terms, it deals with the tools and technology used to acquire, analyse and visualise our planet and its resources from space – like the geographic location of Earth's boundaries, oceans, natural features, man-made structures, etc.
This geospatial information (along with geographic information systems) is used to tackle varied problems of geography, geosciences and related branches of engineering.
It includes remote sensing of images, mapping, modelling, development of geospatial databases, information systems design, and uses geocomputation and geovisualisation for analysing the geoinformation. The derived results are disseminated in user-friendly formats that are regularly updated.
Geoinformatics is an interdisciplinary field with wide-ranging applications in almost all walks of life. It is most useful for government planning like urban and rural planning, land use management, agriculture, forestry, public health, natural resource management, infrastructure development and even the defence sector.
For transport, it proves nifty for in-car navigation systems, automatic vehicle location systems, aviation, maritime transport and traffic network planning and management. Meteorology, oceanography, criminology and crime simulation also benefit from geoinformatics. It holds great promise in climate change studies, environmental modelling and analysis, disaster management and preparedness and telecommunications. Business location planning, architecture and archaeological reconstruction are also hugely improved by the use of geoinformatics. Geography and Earth Sciences rely on geoinformatic data as well.
Geoinformatics is a specialised field necessitating expert knowledge. Background in science stream is a must. Students from geography, geology, agriculture, engineering, IT or computer science fields can gain admission to M.Sc., M.Tech. courses in Geoinformatics and Remote Sensing. There is the option to follow up with Ph.D. programmes. Shorter diploma, certificate and M.A. courses are available as well. The professional education imparts knowledge of the techniques, technology and models used for projection systems, annotation dimension and plotting, database management, 3D visualisation, thematic mapping, remote sensing platforms, geographic information systems and global positioning systems. It also equips students with the latest trends in geospatial science and technology.
Various branches include web mapping, photogrammetry, cartography, geodesy, disaster management, global navigation satellite systems, remote sensing and geographic information systems. On the personal front, this demanding field calls for genuine interest and passion for the subject matter.
Students should be eager to learn and enthusiastically push the limits to find new solutions. Robust analytical and problem-solving skills will stand them in good stead. A positive outlook, creativity and strong verbal and written communication skills go without saying. Two other essential requirements are – willingness to relocate and ongoing learning.
Major users of geoinformatics applications and therefore employers are the Central and State governments. Central government agencies are under the Department of Space - National Remote Sensing Agency (NRSA Hyderabad), North East Space Application Centre, (NESAC Shillong), Regional Remote Sensing Application Centre (RRSAC Kharagpur, Dehradun, Jodhpur, Nagpur and Bangalore), Indian Space Research Organisation, (ISRO Bangalore), Advanced Data Processing Research Institute (ADRIN Hyderabad) and Space Application Centre (SAC Ahmedabad) apart from Indian Agriculture Research Institute (IARI) and Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR).
State governments offer jobs in their individual National Informatics Centre (NIC) and Space Application Centres with various State Electricity Boards lined up to implement geoinformatics as well.
With the private sector discovering the benefits of geoinformatics, there is growing demand in top companies like Google, TCS, Reliance Industries, Reliance Communciations, Reliance Energy, CyberTech Systems, Geofiny Technologies, Magnasoft Technology Services, etc. Then there are environmental agencies, national survey and mapping organisations, mineral exploration, utility companies, emergency services, public health and epidemiology, international organisations, United Nations, crime mapping, transportation and infrastructure, tourist industry, market analysis and e-commerce and so on.
Professor, reader and research positions are available in academic institutions, and the prospects of starting one's own enterprise. Job profiles range from Scientist, Project Coordinator, Project Scientist, Technical Assistant, Research Scholar, Research Associate, GIS Expert, GIS Environment Analyst, etc. in government jobs to Project Manager, Senior System Executive, Image Analyst, GIS Business Analyst, GIS Engineer, GIS Programmer, Geo-Spatial Software Engineer, etc. in the commercial sector.
Salary ranges vary widely depending on the location, discipline and experience. Approximate starting salary is Rs.2,50,000 per annum with higher positions averaging Rs.5,00,000 upwards.
The geoinformatics field is in its nascent stage and expanding at a rapid pace as more and more industries are employing spatial data to manage their activities.
Almost no developmental project is complete without geospatial information and it will soon become imperative. The only limit is the acute shortage of skilled professionals.
Therefore, there is tremendous scope with accelerated growth and development prospects. The pervasive use in diverse disciplines ensures a wide variety of employment opportunities.
As Dr. P.K. Joshi, Professor and Head, TERI University New Delhi highlights, “The Government of India is taking numerous initiatives under Department of Space, Department of Science & Technology (Natural Resources Data Management System - NRDMS) and others.
Government/Planning commission is also setting up an Indian National GIS Organisation (INGO). Likewise many others initiatives are in process.”
Where to study
Indian Institute of Remote Sensing and Sensing (IIRS), Dehradun http://www.iirs.gov.in/
Indian Institute of Technology (lIT), Kharagpur, Roorkee, Kanpur http://www.iitkgp.ac.in/ http://www.iitr.ac.in/ http://www.iitk.ac.in/
Birla Institute of Technology, Ranchi, Extension centres – Kolkatta, Jaipur http://www.bitmesra.ac.in/
National Remote Sensing Agency (NRSA), Hyderabad http://www.nrsc.gov.in/#
Space Application Centre (SAC), Ahmedabad and New Delhi http://www.sac.gov.in
ISRO, Bangalore http://www.isro.org
Jawaharlal Nehru Technical University (JNTU), Hyderabad http://www.jntu.ac.in
Survey Training Institute, Hyderabad http://www.surveyofindia.
Symbiosis Institute of Geoinformatics http:// sigpune.com/index.html