Why do we use GIS?

Our business is about making lives safer, healthier, better managed and mobile. With Geographic Information Systems (GIS), we have the power to do exactly this, particularly within our police software and environment & planning solutions. 

A brief history of GIS at NPS

NPS’ beginnings with GIS arose from a CAD package with an IT firm in Nottingham, in the early 90s. That grew into the first GIS, called PAFEC GIS, which went on to be selected as the preferred GIS solution supplied to all police forces across the UK. Off the back of this, new GIS products aimed specifically at the police market emerged. Many of the core GIS staff have worked on these products since its early days – providing over 150 years of public safety GIS service and experience. 

As we developed more solutions across the wider public sector space, the application of GIS in our software likewise grew. 

How we use GIS today

While it has many applications, we see the greatest value using it across our public safety and environment and planning software. It’s within these areas that GIS can be best employed to make a difference in how we serve society.


Currently, 30 of 43 Police Forces in the UK have an NPS GIS product on-site. Control Rooms and in-the-field emergency service staff are able to use it to view essential information, to better serve both themselves and the people they protect. 

For example, GIS is used in our Control Room technology to accurately locate emergencies and track assets – such as police officers, emergency crews, emergency vehicles, local transportation and mobile equipment – in real-time. We also recently integrated what3words into our GIS location software to add near pinpoint precision in locating emergencies. 

Similarly, it can be used for those serving in the field; providing real-time and intelligent information to make them safer and better informed to make the right decision. A great example of this is real-time warnings sent to mobile devices to alert police officers and other emergency personnel about potential threats. This could include:

  • knowing which households have active or inactive firearm licences
  • which areas are known for regular violence
  • proximity to dangerous locations, such as potentially explosive areas in the case of a fire
  • proximity to dangerous weather.

It’s through the application of GIS that we can make lives safer and improve the ability of our emergency service teams to react in the best ways possible.


The possible applications of GIS in this sector focus on efficiency, self-service and accuracy. As an Ordnance Survey partner, we offer live mapping information with ASSURE – our transformational Environment and Planning solution

This means users are able to see accurate and useful details about many different aspects of their particular area, whether it’s planning, licensing, land charges, building control or other. Possible uses for this include:

  • accurately reflecting the physical location of developments, where no physical address exists (a common issue for new development plots)
  • accurately identifying a property’s radius for disputes or development claims
  • visualising key data on a map so informed decisions can be made. This could be anything from land topography, proximity to natural features, proximity to hazardous areas, other ongoing and completed developments, and much more
  • identifying the land’s history and any constraints that have been placed on the land
  • visualising associated and related incidents/complaints on a map to help inform the action required to resolve
  • the use of thematic mapping to enable hot spots and areas of interests to be quickly identified
  • route planning to enable the most efficient way to arrange site visits and inspections.

GIS in this sector provides government authorities with more data to drive better and more efficient services, make well-informed decisions that best serve humanity, and enable clean and simplified processes that lead to self-service for citizens, among other things. It’s a very positive enabler as local government move further into the realms of digital technology and the amazing benefits it brings.

It’s clear that GIS has a far-reaching scope. It’s been a huge influence on not only the software we develop but also the how and why that sits behind our solutions.