Geospatial Analysis Tool Puts U of G on the Map

Why did those advertising flyers end up in your mailbox? And how can your car know where you are even when you don’t?

Ask a geographer — and not just any geographer but an expert in geomatics, which involves the collection and analysis of spatial data.

By combining that kind of information with raw computing power, U of G geography professor John Lindsay has developed a one-of-a-kind software package called Whitebox Geospatial Analysis Tools for processing geospatial data.

Geomatics uses high-tech tools, including geographic information systems and remote sensing, to provide a much more intimate look at the Earth’s features and our built environment. It helps in soil and vegetation mapping, flood forecasting and modelling sediment transport, among numerous environmental issues.

Now, geospatial data links to numerous everyday applications from health care (how to stop the spread of an epidemic?) to real estate (where to locate a new coffee shop or retail outlet?).

Given nothing more than your postal code, retailers can use GIS to target their flyers to your address. GIS working with the satellite navigation smarts in your car can work out your best route to avoid traffic or pinpoint the closest Italian restaurant.

Lindsay started the Whitebox project after arriving at Guelph in 2008, and says it has put U of G on the map among users worldwide.

Over the past four years, the software has been downloaded about 25,000 times, particularly in Canada and the United States, Europe, India, Brazil and Australia.

The package is employed extensively for education and research at universities and research centres worldwide. Government agencies using Whitebox range from the United Nations to the United States Department of Energy to the Canadian Geological Survey.

Early this year, Lindsay released the most recent open-source edition that users may adapt for their own purposes.