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Home> Services> Mapping and GIS > GIS Data Capture
GIS Data Capture

The encoding of data in the context of digital mapping this includes digitizing, direct recording by electronic survey instruments, and the encoding of text and attributes. It is a series of operations required to encode data in a computer-readable digital form (digitizing). It is the process of turning paper maps and related data into digital form for use.

Digitizing is a method of data capture that involves the conversion of data in analog form, such as maps and aerial photographs, into a digital form that is directly readable by a computer. This is normally achieved manually by a human operator using a digitizer, although methods of automated digitizing and semi-automated digitizing also exist. The result of digitizing is a digital map in vector form.

Why it is needed

How can a GIS use the information in a map? If the data to be used are not already in digital form, that is, in a form the computer can recognize, various techniques can capture the information. Maps can be digitized, or hand-traced with a digitizer, to collect the coordinates of features. Electronic scanning devices will also convert map lines and points to digits.

A GIS can be used to emphasize the spatial relationships among the objects being mapped. While a computer-aided mapping system may represent a road simply as a line, a GIS may also recognize such a road as the border between wetland and urban development, or as the link between Main Street and Blueberry Lane.A GIS makes it possible to link, or integrate, information that is difficult to associate through any other means. Thus, a GIS can use combinations of mapped variables to build and analyze new variables.

Data capture - putting the information into the system - consumes much of the time of GIS practitioners. Identities of the objects on the map must be specified, as well as their spatial relationships. Editing of automatically captured information can also prove difficult. Electronic scanners record blemishes on a map just as faithfully as they record the map features. For example, a fleck of dirt might connect two lines that should not be connected. Extraneous data must be edited, or removed from the digital data file.

Data capture service

Data capture (GIS, textual, scanning, OCR)

Automated / semi-automated vectorisation services

Data cleaning (automated and manual)


Topology building

Attribute coding

Coordinate / projection transformations


Data Capture Methodology and Procedure

GIS information comes from a variety of sources, which can produce a wide range of positional accuracy. Consequently, each source must be evaluated to determine whether redrafting is necessary to prepare the data for entry into the GIS. Heads-up digitizing, Tablet digitizing, Scanning, and Global Positioning Systems are all viable methods to input data to a GIS. Much of the data required for a GIS can be derived directly from the photo-interpretation of aerial photos or from rectified photo basemaps . Whichever method is used it is important that the most accurate data source set be used whenever possible.

1. Heads-Up digitizing is a technique that is useful for capturing or updating data from digital imagery on screen. High-resolution digital imagery now allows GIS users to edit and delineate features directly on the screen using desktop GIS software.

Detailed classification systems and resolution of imagery may require that features be captured on the screen and then photo-interpreted from aerial photography to the digital image. Photo-interpreting and heads-up digitizing at the same time can be extremely difficult even for experienced users.

All attribute coding shall be 100% correctly coded. A full description of each code should be provided as part of the metadata. The coding of features should follow an approved classification system as adopted by state and federal agencies. These codes follow specifications of organizations responsible for deriving and maintaining the data.

2. Tablet digitizing is a common method of getting data into a GIS. The procedure involves tracing lines or locating points with a computer mouse on a digitizer.

The manuscript's lines should be clear and complete with no gaps or shortfalls. Operators should not interpret and digitize at the same time.

The digitizer should concentrate solely on capturing the exact nature of the features. All maps shall be edge matched prior to digitization to eliminate cartographic errors and reduce digital problems.

Digital accuracy shall be evaluated by proof plotting the digital data to the base at the same scale as the manuscript and overlaying the data to the original map.

3. Scanning and Recompilation-- Scanning of features from hardcopy sources or the recompilation of existing digital data, involves the redrafting of features from one source to a more accurate, planimetric source based on identifiable features. This method is commonly used to improve the quality of data that has been delineated on sources of unknown or unspecified quality or paper manuscripts. It is also commonly used to transfer data or non-rectified photography to a rectified orthophoto basemap based on a series of local fits of common photoidentifiable features, such as roads.

Other data sources without photo-images may be recompiled to planimetric sources by using other coincident features. For instance, grids on source data may be generated and plotted to planimetric basemaps and used as a guide for the redrafting of information that would otherwise not be usable in a digital form. This has been used to draft historical purveyor boundaries from old atlas sheets to the photoquads, for instance.

Whatever the technique, metadata must be completed describing the recompilation techniques employed.

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