Since the mid-1990s the media has been increasingly dependent on satellite images, maps and three-dimensional terrain visualizations to communicate stories about natural and human-induced disasters around the globe. This paper introduces the non-specialist to the state-of-the-art use of geomatics, the integrated acquisition, modeling, analysis, presentation and management of spatially referenced data (i.e. any type of data that includes its location on earth), to support decisionmaking. The author discusses the origins of geospatial technologies and some of the ways in which humanitarian interventions have benefited from the use of this technology. Finally, the paper concludes with a discussion of the challenges and potential for the use of geomatics in response to future complex humanitarian emergencies.