Researcher patents new method of tracking taxable infrastructure

University of Alaska Fairbanks researcher Keith Cunningham has created a tool that urban planners and tax assessors can use to detect infrastructure changes.

Property taxes are assessed based in part on the size of structures. Cunningham’s remote sensing method, which was patented last month, can alleviate the need to physically survey buildings to detect changes in their value.

Cunningham is a researcher affiliated with the Scenarios Network for Alaska and Arctic Planning, a group within UAF’s International Arctic Research Center.

His patented method, called “Management of Tax Information Based on Topographical Information,” uses remote sensing to reveal changes in buildings and new construction. The tool integrates remote sensing data with community records of parcel ownership and property dimensions.

“This particular patent is geared toward entire cities — being able to compare all of Seattle one year to all of Seattle the next,” Cunningham said. “Any country on the globe that does property taxation would be a candidate for this type of technology.”

Cunningham’s technique has broad application in other fields as well. It can be used to track changes in critical pipelines, bridges and roads. Disaster managers can use it to assess economic losses of properties destroyed in forest fires or other natural disasters.

Cunningham and the UAF Office of Intellectual Property and Commercialization plan to work together to market the new tool.