The recent push from cities to release open data is great for residents, but it can be a boon for municipal governments, too. Take the case of billboards in Chicago. Many of the city's commercial real estate owners have skipped the lengthy procedure of obtaining a billboard permit and just put up one anyway. They get away with it because the city only employs a handful of inspectors, making the billboard codes extremely difficult to enforce. As a result, Chicago loses an estimated $10-20 million in revenue.
Enter CityScan: a start-up that integrates public information on local codes with advanced street-mapping technology to perform the regulatory oversight cities often can't manage with their own small staffs. The company has a unique access agreement with Nokia-owned NAVTEQ, a map developer that drives more or less every mile of road in the United States collecting data through an imaging technology called LIDAR — light detection and ranging — capable of creating incredibly precise maps. By matching up LIDAR results with open permit data, CityScan can spot gaps in local licensing revenue or major safety hazards.
"CityScan leverages public records and private data for real outcomes," says Orlando Saez, the company's chief operating officer.