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ILWIS is an abbreviation for Integrated Land and Water Management System, and is a software program developed to perform tasks related to geographical science, such as map-making, land-use planning and watershed management. This software has a wide range of features and capabilities, and can be used to edit, analyze and display geographical information about various areas, phenomena, and features. ILWIS also allows users to create and manage a database, and to create their own digital images of objects using a process called digitizing. The software can be used, for example, to analyze natural hazards such as floods and cyclones, study biodiversity in an area, calculate how much water is required for irrigation and to create models of erosion patterns. ILWIS is free software, and since 2007 it is distributed under the GNU General Public License.
In computer terms, ILWIS is a Geographic Information System (GIS), meaning it is used to gather and present various types of geographical data. A GIS system such as ILWIS combines map-making capabilities and the gathering of geographical information with the ability to perform statistical analysis of the various types of data in the program's database. It is also a remote sensing software program, meaning it can be used to acquire geographical data without being in actual contact with a physical object or location. This can be done, for example, by importing GPS data, or processing aerial photos.
ILWIS also has strong image-processing capabilities and can handle both raster graphics and vector graphics. Raster graphics are made up of bitmaps or pixels. Vector graphics are graphics which are stored and processed as mathematical formulas, allowing for better resolution than raster graphics. ILWIS has become popular with many users because of its combination of strong image processing capabilities, user-friendly interface, low cost, good support in the form of user guides and manuals and a wide range of GIS and remote sensing features.
This software is used by scientists and also for various types of public and commercial land and water management. Examples of its use are analysis of urban growth, studies of vegetation cover, surveys of contaminated soil, studies of global radiation, and map analysis to determine appropriate locations for residential neighborhoods or waste facilities. ILWIS was developed in the 1980s by a Dutch company called ITC Enschede for the use of researchers and students. User support for and development of the software is now managed by an international network called 52°N, made up of researchers, industry representatives and public administrators.