Computing Platforms

Computing Platforms provide the computational capabilities to apply methods and models to geographic data. Computing Platforms vary in capability, price, and availability from mobile devices to advanced supercomputers and from standalone computers to complex networked infrastructures to address different user needs and data-processing workloads.

Topics in this Knowledge Area are listed thematically below. Existing topics are in regular font and linked directly to their original entries (published in 2006; these contain only Learning Objectives). Entries that have been updated and expanded are in bold. Forthcoming, future topics are italicized

Computing Infrastructures: Software Systems
Graphics Processing Units Spatial Database Management Systems (DBMS)
The Cloud Spatial MapReduce
Mobile Devices Artificial Intelligence
Cyberinfrastructure Software Systems
  Web GIS
Computing Approaches: Enterprise GIS
Origins of Computing & GIS&T: a Computer Systems Perspective   
Origins of Computing & GIS&T: a Perspective on the Role of Peripheral Devices Examples and Applications
High Performance Computing Computational Geography
Grid Computing Computational Social Science
Pervasive/Ubiquitous Computing ArcGIS Online
Science Gateways Google Earth Engine
Networks and Services: Jupyter Notebooks
Location-based Services  
Internet of Things  
Social Media Analytics  
Social Networks  
OGC / Web Service Standards  


CP-01 - Software systems
  • Describe the major geospatial software architectures available currently, including desktop GIS, server-based, Internet, and component-based custom applications
  • Describe non-spatial software that can be used in geospatial applications, such as databases, Web services, and programming environments
  • Compare and contrast the primary sources of geospatial software, including major and minor commercial vendors and open-source options
  • List the major functionality needed from off-the-shelf software based on a requirements report
  • Identify software options that meet functionality needs for a given task or enterprise
  • Evaluate software options that meet functionality needs for a given task or enterprise
CP-07 - Spatial MapReduce

MapReduce has become a popular programming paradigm for distributed processing platforms. It exposes an abstraction of two functions, map and reduce, which users can define to implement a myriad of operations. Once the two functions are defined, a MapReduce framework will automatically apply them in parallel to billions of records and over hundreds of machines. Users in different domains are adopting MapReduce as a simple solution for big data processing due to its flexibility and efficiency. This article explains the MapReduce programming paradigm, focusing on its applications in processing big spatial data. First, it gives a background on MapReduce as a programming paradigm and describes how a MapReduce framework executes it efficiently at scale. Then, it details the implementation of two fundamental spatial operations, namely, spatial range query and spatial join. Finally, it gives an overview of spatial indexing in MapReduce systems and how they can be combined with MapReduce processing.

CP-05 - Technology transfer
  • Explain how an understanding of use of current and proposed technology in other organizations can aid in implementing a GIS
CP-14 - Web GIS

Web GIS allows the sharing of GIS data, maps, and spatial processing across private and public computer networks. Understanding web GIS requires learning the roles of client and server machines and the standards and protocols around how they communicate to accomplish tasks. Cloud computing models have allowed web-based GIS operations to be scaled out to handle large jobs, while also enabling the marketing of services on a per-transaction basis.

A variety of toolkits allow the development of GIS-related websites and mobile apps. Some web GIS implementations bring together map layers and GIS services from multiple locations. In web environments, performance and security are two concerns that require heightened attention. App users expect speed, achievable through caching, indexing, and other techniques. Security precautions are necessary to ensure sensitive data is only revealed to authorized viewers.

Many organizations have embraced the web as a way to openly share spatial data at a relatively low cost. Also, the web-enabled expansion of spatial data production by nonexperts (sometimes known as “neogeography”) offers a rich field for alternative mappings and critical study of GIS and society.