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CityScan has a “solution” for cash-strapped cities

Scott Roberts
Freedom Foundation

Posted 5/22/2013

Washington State – It may sound Orwellian to have government watching and fining you for installing a bike rack or flower box, but if CityScan has their way, this is exactly what is coming to a town near you.

CitySan is a company that uses Nokia’s LiDAR mapping technology to create 3-D images of the built environment. They will match this data with permitting records, and then send property owners fines for anything that doesn’t match a permitting record on file. CityScan CEO David Guttman said, “For some municipalities, fixing this problem can add millions of dollars of revenue per year for cities that are cash-strapped and over budget.”

CityScan subsribes to Nokia’s LiDAR (Laser Imaging Detection and Ranging) technology. Nokia uses LiDAR in combination with other technology to create highly detailed maps. You can see Nokia in action here in this video.

Certainly, this kind of technology is put to use in mapping applications that make our day-to-day lives easier. If you’ve ever wondered how GPS navigation maps are created, now you know–LiDAR is responsible for a lot of the detail.

What happens when a group of entrepreneurs get together and brainstorm how to use these detailed maps? CityScan is born.

CityScan is a private company that intends to use their technology to help municipalities generate more revenue by issuing fines for permit violations. They say cities are cash-strapped and under staffed, and their technology will solve these problems. What is implicit is that their system is designed to bailout fiscally irresponsible cities on the backs of taxpayers. More and more cities are running into citizen resistance to raise taxes, so raising fees and fines sound more attractive to city councils and city managers.

You think this is too far-fetched? Not if Guttman has his way. He said, “Every permit, every billboard, every on-premise sign, every bike rack or flower box–technically all these things are supposed to pay fees to the cities in which they exist.”

Guttman proposes to provide their technology for free to cities in return for a percentage of fines collected. He said, “For cities that are top-line-driven, we can deliver a solution turnkey where they’re not having to come out-of-pocket a nickle up front. Because we have the Nokia data, we can do it really cost-effectively, and we keep a percentage of what we collect.”

And how robust is that dataset? Ivan Sheldon, Head of Business Development for Nokia said, “Now we have this ground-level LiDAR collection that is precise of the entire world.” In other words, it’s pretty robust.

How did this story get on my radar? It came as a tip from a local Washington jurisdiction that is being solicited by CityScan.

If you’re local jurisdiction is considering using CityScan, or if you are interested in helping get the word out, please contact Scott Roberts at the Freedom Foundation.

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, any copyrighted work in this message is distributed under fair use without profit or payment for non-profit research and educational purposes only. [Ref.]

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