Difference between 2D and 3D GIS

Difference between 2D and 3D GIS

The advancement of technology has seen the development made especially in Information and Communication Technology (ICT). The field of application where the GIS (geographic information systems) is being used has widened, making modifications on the tools of application and the approaches made towards managing spatial information. The early GIS applications were essentially focused on managing digital cartography that supported only 2.5D and 2D representations. Improvements have been made mainly since the later years of the ’90s. The widespread utilization of ICT has radically led to an improvement in data availability and spatial information online.


1. Details

3D GIS is systems used in the structuring and management of 3D spatial data and can handle 3D geometry structures. The basic analysis functionalities are also performed. On the other hand, some of these aspects cannot be performed by the 2D GIS. The former offers more insightful details on a project because of the better visualization added by the z component and the advances made in technology.

2. Data representation

The mode of data representation between 2D and 3D is different. A phenomenon or a feature in the 2D GIS is represented in an area within the boundary of a polygon or an area with grid cells. On the other hand, features in 3D are presented by the use of volumes. Raster data format is applied in splitting the volumes and voxels.

3. Functionality

The functions of the 2D GIS and 3D GIS are ideally supposed to be the same. 3D systems, however, lack some of these functionalities due to some impediments. While both the GIS maps display features in greater detail, the 3D adds another dimension. In most cases, the 3D tools must be used together with the 2D GIS then be imagined and analyzed in the 3D setting. Some of the common uses of 3D include city planning, disaster response, coastal analysis, modeling, and building information modeling.

4. Dimensions

While the 2D GIS contains two dimensions (x and y), 3D GIS adds an extra component, z. it is a three-dimensional geographic information system that includes the ‘z’ component into spatial data. The 2D features have the coordinates x and y and their geometry stored. The z component can, though not inherently stored can be displayed in the 3D space after deriving the values from an elevated surface.

5. Accuracy

The 3D GIS has been considered to be more accurate. With advancements in technology, it is becoming easier for planners to get clearer views of the target area. The 3D is closer to reality than the 2D GIS that lacks the third component.

While there are differences between the 2D GIS and 3D GIS, they have to perform the basic functions of the GIS. The 3D cannot be used independently as some features with the 2D are missing. The features can be extruded for them to appear in a three-dimension view. Vertical extrusion done on 2D lines, points, and polygons can create 3D walls, lines, and building footprints. This depicts the relationship existing between the two.

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