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Smart Laws for Smart Cities

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There is a growing consciousness for the application of a smart city agenda in the modern governance. How can governance ensure that the function of law does not impose limitations towards progress and prosperity of our society and our surroundings?

The main challenge and purpose for the development of smart cities, with the assistance of information city technologies and systems, is to elevate the living standards and satisfy the needs of citizens.  The term “Smart City” is gaining attraction as we speak, as more and more governments are beginning to implement the technologies that lead to higher standards of living. The fourth issue of “Cities in Motion Index” compiled in 2017 by the IESE Center for Globalization and Strategy, analyses 79 characteristics across 10 different spectrums of urban life, the majority of which are dominated by North American and European cities—although the technology is dominated by Taipei.

Cities located in Europe and North America account for 43 out of the top 50. San Francisco has been one of the major players in various rankings— the development of the smart city concept has been present for multiple decades. The current government has set a very ambitious, yet attainable target of eliminating all carbon emissions by 2020, and they will do so by enhancing the effectiveness and levels of power generated through sustainable sources, which already account for 41% of overall electrical supply.

Amsterdam government has very noteworthy partnerships with firms such as Phillips, IBM, Cisco and various others that bring innovative technologies, converting the city to in an epitome of the future European smart city. Gigantic efforts are being made towards implementation and utilization of greener technologies, which you can spot on a daily basis in Amsterdam. The city garbage and waste is collected by electric collecting vehicles; the majority of public commodities (bus stops, advertisement boards, city lighting) are operating using solar power; thousands of houses and private entities have implemented isolation within their construction, assisting the maintenance of comfortable temperatures throughout the year and diminishing the spending for electricity.

Tokyo has become the playing ground for sustainable technologies developed by companies such as Panasonic, Mitsubishi, Sharp and many others who are rigorously working towards turning the city smarter. After various months of nuclear electrical energy crisis, various implementations had to be made. In 2006 the city has introduced an initiative to becoming greener: 1mln. trees were planted by 2015, various solar and wind generating energy devices were installed across the city and the penetration of electrical and hybrid vehicles has risen to be one of the strongest in the world. Fujisawa — a Panasonic smart-town outside of Tokyo— produces no carbon emissions, and 100% of energy is being sourced through sustainable processes, to a level where authorization systems assess the changes of weather and distinguish the most efficient time for laundry across all homes in town.

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There are countless examples of smart city technologies across the globe, however, and in order to operate to their full potential, governments have to impose various legislations towards the development and implementation of these technologies. Smart City Governance is necessary and often established in areas of high potential for development, therefore allowing them to adjust certain elements to examine the potential effect of certain technologies. Governments are becoming more and more cooperative with technological companies, as mentioned in previous examples: they continue to develop new partnerships with multinational entities bringing in various benefits to society, economy and lives of citizens.

Nonetheless, establishing legislation for a concept so innovative and disruptive could be like a double-edged sword and we have to account for the nature of each individual problem being tackled: different geopolitical locations require and permit for different solutions and rules, therefore rendering the ability to directly copy them from one city to another is non-feasible. Yet if the approaches are not copied, but translated into the environment in question, with consideration of local elements that may impose an effect, these legislations prove to be effective —essentially allowing for comparative research and empirical learning.

Various legislative, urban governments and societies have already established stances and formed their opinions towards the cities of future.

The smart city concept is extremely attractive for both: establishment of new cities and integration within the existing ones. Many technologies are extremely intricate and difficult to implement, however, when integrated they are easy to use and deliver huge amounts of long-term savings and benefits. On the other hand, there are some drawbacks to the concept: various instances of privacy issues are being addressed and the fact that some existing elements of urban areas are irreplaceable, could really slow down the transition to smart. For example, it would be impossible to immediately shift to new methods of transportation, as electrical vehicles are innovative, but are not yet widely adopted and still require traditional roads, that will become even more congested, leading to further diminishing effects towards productivity for urban areas.

We, as a society, along with governments, will have to learn how to balance between complex legal situations and modern democratic requirements for decentralized governance and ensure that the function of law does not impose limitations towards progress and prosperity of our society and our surroundings.

There is a growing consciousness for the application of a smart city agenda in the modern governance. The importance of integrating sustainable urban development technologies is vivid and the strategy should be broadened and adopted by as many communities and governments as possible. Various legislative, urban governments and societies have already established stances and formed their opinions towards the cities of future. Several mechanisms and auditing structures are in development or implementation stages; practices of legal frameworks for the development of pilot projects for smart cities begin to arise and many governments advocate flexibility within their current legislation, which demonstrates an aspiring overall trend of forward thinking. It may seem like we have accomplished quite a plethora of objectives and solved many societal issues, however this is just the surface of the deep smart technological world. We, as a society, along with governments, will have to learn how to balance between complex legal situations and modern democratic requirements for decentralized governance and ensure that the function of law does not impose limitations towards progress and prosperity of our society and our surroundings.

Author: Valery Bukatin

Assignment: Disruption and Technology in the Legal Markets

Professor: Cristina Sirera