What Is the Difference Between GPS and GIS

From checking the weather to navigating around roads, everything is available on smartphones today. We are sure you must be well aware of what a GPS is, as it is becoming increasingly popular. However, only a few people know about GIS; hence, we will explore what is the difference between GPS and GIS.

Before we head into the topic further, it is essential to know what GPS and GIS stand for. GPS is simply an abbreviation for Global Positioning System. Whereas, GIS is an abbreviation for Geographical Information System.

What Is the Difference Between GPS and GIS?

GPS uses a constellation of satellites. It is a specific field that seeks the help of science along with geographical locations.

On the other hand, if we talk about GIS, it seems to be quite different from a GPS. In simple words, GIS is the coupling of geography and computer systems together. It makes use of the data collected by a GPS to create its knowledge base, which makes information available for use and that you acquire and interpret from a GPS.

Diving further into the topic to explain what is the difference between GPS and GIS, we will now take a look at each individually.

What Is GPS?

Launched in 1978 by the US Government, Global Positioning System or GPS uses 31 satellites in orbit to gather information. The development of this system helped the US military, but gradually, it took on a revolutionary turn as people started using it frequently to find a way around their hometowns.

Today, GPS is a part of the life of every individual. You might use several navigation apps that use this system to develop their software. Not only for mapping, but GPS is also a tool for surveying landscapes and unknown territories.

While using GPS, you can pinpoint any location of your own choice on the map. This is possible due to the help of satellites that capture information from six different orbits.

At the height of 20,108 kilometers, these satellites send radio signals in space. This enables them to relay information signals according to the specific coordinates on the surface of the Earth. Once relayed, the radio signals then undergo a process called trilateration.

From space, the information signals project onto GPS receivers placed on the ground. This step helps you to find out the longitude and latitude coordinates, allowing you to locate any place on the map of your own choice very easily. This service is available 24 hours a day for anyone to access.


The purpose of building a GPS was primarily for defense reasons. In 2000, it was open for use to the general public.

It goes without saying that there are really numerous applications of a global positioning system. Since you might be well-conversed with most of them, we will go straight into the details.

  • Location Services

How many times have you used Google Maps? With a staggering two billion users, Google Maps is a web mapping service that lets you go from place to place without any hassle.

There are a variety of different GPS apps like HereWeGo, Sygic Navigation that make use of Google Maps. Therefore, we can probably regard finding locations as one of the most essential applications of GPS.

  • Emergency

If you are stranded in an unknown area and need urgent help, then GPS comes to the rescue again. You just have to make an emergency call from your smartphone, and you will be located. The best part is that this all happens without even having to share your location.

  • Entertainment

Many apps like Snapchat and Instagram use your GPS location to help specify the exact place of the picture. It’s also used to pin addresses of eateries, stores, and more. Besides this, many gaming apps like Pokemon Go also make use of GPS.

  • Tracking

Waiting for the package to arrive? You can track your online orders and food deliveries very easily through this system, too.

  • Security

Many cars have GPS trackers fitted into the system so that you can check the exact location of your vehicle at all times. This ensures security especially in the case of theft.

What Is GIS?

Most people do not have an idea of the Geographical Information System or GIS. You might also confuse it with GPS.

We can simply regard it as the next step that you perform after capturing relevant data from a GPS. This means that using a GIS, you can interpret, save, and make available the information you previously gathered from a GPS.

Canada was the first country to introduce the GIS, dating back to 1960. Later by 1986, another version was released for use by desktop users.

Now it can work smoothly on high-powered servers and smartphones. Since its advent, it has been a significant tool to design maps.

These maps show spatial information in the form of maps, charts, or graphs. We extract this information from GPS; thus, exploiting their work to the maximum capacity. The spatial information can be represented in three data forms, and the most common ones are:

  • Vector
  • Raster
  • Triangulated


There are various uses of this system, and some of them include:

  • Medical Research

Experts in the medical field can map out areas that are under possible threat from the outbreak of a disease. This can help them make effective plans to stop the disease from progressing.

Consequently, over time it becomes more useful. This is due to the correlations you can make between different diseases mapped out.

  • Advertising

You can focus on particular demographics in a targeted region for a better market reach. This helps the marketing agencies to know where consumers are most likely to use a particular product.

  • Location Services

Do you want to find out the proximity between two points on a map? You can do this with GIS along with knowing the best locations of many different places. Since 80 percent of the data has a specific spatial aspect, it is a useful tool for mapping data.

  • Weather Forecast

Using GIS, you can map weather observations onto base maps. You can raise a specific area on the map to show an extremity. Various other formats are available to make your data look more appealing and user-friendly.


As mentioned above, the differences between GPS and GIS are numerous. Each has a different variety of applications. Both also have separate designs. As such, both are vital components of our daily life.

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