(written by Intro to GIS student KdS)

I am just now starting to understand the Geographic Information (GIS) world in its 2D frame. So a 4D GIS seemed like a far fetched idea. I was shocked to learn that it is in fact not that far off at all. 4D GIS is already being implemented in some very interesting ways and in ways that would put 4D GIS to positive uses.

When most people think of using GIS for mapping they think of 2D and maybe even some 3D (into the z-axis), but in the future 4D GIS might become common place. In the realm of physics the 4th dimension is usually associated with time. Applying this to GIS allow us to add time changes to data, creating maps that change as time changes. One could make real time queries and receive real time results.

I came across two examples that illustrate the potential of 4D GIS. The first is already in practice in Kyoto, Japan, called “Kyoto virtual time-space”. The second is a proposed idea for using 4D GIS to create constantly up-to-date maps that account for the constantly moving earth’s surface. This highlights two different but creative uses for 4D GIS technology.

At Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto Japan geography professors Yano Keiji , Nakaya Tomoki, and Isoda Yuzuru are working on a project titled Kyoto virtual time-space. This project utilizes 4D GIS to create a virtual environment of Kyoto Japan, by using 3D modelling that changes over time. One can travel through the streets of Kyoto in both space and time. The researchers hope to create a virtual museum of Kyoto that people would be able to access through virtual reality or the Internet. Aside from being useful as a historical tool, the program has very promising capabilities in urban planning and disaster management. The application can show to the public changes over time and hopefully achieve better social consensus around planning issues because the application can simulate reality. For example, realistic simulations can show the temporal impacts of building new high rises in a region or protecting certain areas. Researchers also talk about the application’s capabilities to create better disaster planning strategies and hazard maps.

The second example is proposed by Rahmi Nurhan Celik, N. Necla Ulugtekin and Caner Guney from Istanbul Technical University. The researchers are geodesists, so they are most interested in measurements and representations of earth. Their macro application of 4D GIS concentrates on the very base of map making so that the actual base map changes with changes of the earth. They argue that GIS, as currently envisioned, is based on stable geospatial information provision, including stable geodetic control and datum, when in fact it needs to be dynamic. In the universe there are no fixed points; everything is moving and so should GIS. The researchers focus on tectonic plates, the movement of which may be very small every year. However, in a earthquake prone area like Turkey a few centimetres can mean major damage and loss of life. They propose a system in which every time you query the data you get data from the time of the query. A series of control stations will always provide up to date data. The authors realize that the application will require considerable international cooperation, although they point out that organizations like the ITRF (International Terrestrial Frame) are already compiling global reference frames, an important step towards this 4D GIS future. They also point out the usefulness of the system for such issues as landslides or even tides. In the future a system like this could take this data and apply artificial intelligence to answer questions about the future of global change. They believe that even though it would require a large amount of effort, the application is well worth it and will soon be a part of the future.

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