What Is a Spatial Decision Support System?

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  • Written By: A. Leverkuhn
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 13 September 2019
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A spatial decision support system is a specific kind of software tool that helps human users to understand the best ways to implement spatial solutions. In general, decision support software helps humans to make decisions about management of resources. For spatial decision support systems, these decisions most often regard the use of land or space.

Experts describe spatial decision support systems (SDSS) as interactive systems that give guidance by providing values for specific elements of a spatial environment. Those who use and observe these kinds of systems identify components of spatial decision support, such as intelligence, where systems get critical input applied to a spatial model. Professionals may also refer to the concept of choice, where various available solutions are compared and contrasted in a spatial decision support system. High-level multi-criteria spatial decision support involves assessing more than one variable applied to a map of a space, in order to pick out the best solution from several available choices.

In many cases, spatial decision support systems help human managers with land-use issues. One of the most popular and effective uses of spatial decision support is in agriculture. Agriculture is specifically concerned with the particular uses of land, whether for growing vegetable crops, grazing livestock or other agricultural uses. Through taking data and modeling it in useful visuals, spatial decision support software can make a variety of choices much more clear to a human user.


In order to provide these kinds of decision-making assistance, the software often uses specific technologies. One of these is Geographic Information Systems or GIS. GIS resources allow programmers to input a vast array of properties or data elements for a range of geographic locations. These can be spread out across the globe, or limited to a very specific latitude and longitude. Using GIS makes for robust, effective spatial decision support tools.

A part of the essential task of building a spatial decision support system is to provide a clear and easy to use interface. The data behind the spatial decision support system must be solid, but without an easily understood set of tools, the program may not be very useful. The best spatial decision support system models have simple tools for query or marking, as well as color coded results on a simple, easy to read map. Some inferior systems may have hidden or overly complex controls, a poorly defined map without good orienting information, or poor visual results for observing outcomes.


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