Government Technology

Can Technology Replace City Inspectors?


March 7, 2013 By

Ever been frustrated by a city's cumbersome permit process? According to a story in The Atlantic Cities, some owners of commercial real estate in Chicago decided to skip the permit process altogether, installing unauthorized billboards in the Windy City. And because the city's understaffed inspection team has trouble enforcing billboard permit rules, the risk-takers get away with their offenses. Even worse, those unpermitted billboards represent millions of dollars in revenue the city will never see.

A new technology making its way into municipal government combines data on local codes and open permits with street-level maps to identify code violators. CityScan is working with map developer NAVTEQ, which uses light detection and ranging (LIDAR) technology to create precise street-level maps.

Fueled by $1 million in investments, CityScan is currently discussing pilot implementations with several large cities, including Chicago, New York, Phoenix, Washington D.C., and Los Angeles. The company would provide infraction information to the city, in exchange for a percentage of the revenue generated by their efforts.

"We can give you the tools to empower your inspectors to issue citations and permits through this unique technology that nobody else has," says Orlando Saez, CityScan's chief operating officer. "We feel we're helping cities move the needle in what matters, which is revenue and life-safety and comprehensive policy, and that's a big win for everybody."

Image: sample analysis map, courtesy of CityScan.


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Comments

Commenter    |    Commented March 11, 2013

CityScan's system seems similar to red-light cameras and would be subject to the same problems & controversy. I would emphasize the need to ensure that humans are in control. City/county planning & zoning staff should give final approval for any citations issued. Otherwise what is to prevent a company, who in their own words gets "a share of the revenue", from just issuing citations in the hope that most of the accused won't bother to dispute it due to fear, ignorance, lack of time or laziness? Technology is not perfect and can be misused so oversight is needed.


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