What is GIS?

GIS is the abbreviation for Geographic Information Systems. Conventional maps mark the locations of objects as they occur on the Earth's surface. GIS technology takes that concept further to provide a more comprehensive description of an area.

Geographic Information Systems are computer-based data storage tools that capture object location in the same context as object attribute information.

Maps are used to represent both real and imaginary objects in relation to a larger surrounding area. Streets and rivers are a couple of examples of real objects, while property boundaries and addresses are considered imaginary. That is not to say that they are invalid measurements, but rather they are not represented by a physical object in the real world. There is no line on the ground that marks property boundaries, but there is a river running along the surface.

GIS technology can capture the locations of these real and imaginary objects and store that information in a database. Each object (street segment, stream, etc.) is stored in a separate row, in a table structure. The table structure is designed to hold rows that are divided into one or more columns, a structure that is similar to a spreadsheet. In each table row, location information is stored in a single column. The table can store other information about each object by adding new columns. This information describes each object in a quantitative or qualitative way.

For example, consider a table containing information about street segments. Each segment would have a start and end point, and possibly several points in between where the segment changes direction. That's one column. Then, maybe another column contains the length of that segment, in miles. That's a quantitative description of the line segment. Or, maybe the name of the street is stored in another column. That is an example of a qualitative characteristic.

After this information is gathered and stored, it can be displayed on a map and printed, or viewed on the internet in a web browser.

However, a geographic information system is more than just data storage. In addition to the data collection and storage, GIS technology includes necessary hardware (computers) and software that is used to create, view, and analyze the data. Beyond displaying the data in a map, on paper or electronically, GIS software is used to create, edit, and analyze location-based information. The software is designed to allow users to easily compare the attributes of stored objects to identify trends or patterns, in order to recognize more general characteristics of an area. This kind of analysis can be used to study naturally occurring phenomena, or in support of decisions regarding resource distribution or consumption. The potential for applying this technology is practically endless.

For more information about Geographic Information Systems, visit our About GIS page. This page contains links to other web sites that offer further explanation and examples of GIS technology.


Interactive Mapping Applications

Use of the Interactive Mapping Application web sites is subject to the Terms of Use.

Planning | Information Technology Services (Olathe GIS) | Public Works (Engineering) | Parks and Rec
(Click on the map image or site name to open that application)


Parks and Rec

Olathe Sculpture Exhibit Sites 

Story maps provide a guided tour of locations with interactive images. This story map is a tour of the City of Olathe Sculpture Exhibit sites. This site is designed to be viewed on a computer, tablet or smartphone.


Public Works

Construction Projects 

Current City of Olathe construction projects.

Snow Plow Information 

Information about City of Olathe snow routes and GPS locations of snow plows.  The location of the snow plows automatically updates every five minutes.

FEMA Flood Plain Information 

FEMA floodplain information.

Street Maintenance Information 

Detailed street maintenance information.

Storm Water Information 

Detailed information about the city's storm water management system.

Traffic Count Information 

Traffic Count Information.


Information Technology Services - Olathe GIS

Olathe GIS - Map Viewer 

General information about Olathe. Find an address, locate a park, or view an aerial photo of Olathe. These are just a few of the commonly used features of this site.

City of Olathe Crime Map  

Olathe Police Department crime map.



Planning & Benefit District Information  

Information related to planning and development of areas within and adjacent to the City of Olathe as well as benefit districts.