In 2015 and beyond, we anticipate the rise of information technology and communications (ITC) solutions in an increasingly globalized and wired knowledge economy to give new impetus to the concept of “Smart Cities”. As leaders around the world look towards transforming the daily lives of their residents, the concept of “Smart Cities” has been used to symbolize how ITC developments and innovations should be embraced to revolutionize the manner in which cities should be managed, and how important issues affecting the general populace such as education, resource allocation, safety, public healthcare and transportation should be dealt with. What was once a visionary notion is now the new normal – ITC and its living embodiment – as "Smart Cities" are and will become an essential element of an increasingly connected world.

What it represents

While there is no fixed definition as to what constitutes “Smart Cities”, a smart city as suggested by the International Telecommunication Union is generally seen to represent a hub of innovation that uses ITC to constantly improve the living standards, competitiveness and efficiency in the daily lives of the populace, while ensuring a level of sustainability in respect of the economic, environmental and social needs of present and future generations. Potential legal implications are wide-ranging, and will likely cut across various disciplines, such as personal data protection and privacy, intellectual property, government procurement and public-private partnerships.

Examples of current efforts

One ardent supporter for the advancement of “Smart Cities” is Singapore, which is looking to harness ITC technologies and innovations to enhance governance, provide more responsive and efficient public services, improve the quality of life and increase citizen engagement. The Singapore government indicated that it would take a whole-of-government, whole-of-nation approach to this, and has set up a dedicated Smart Nation Programme Office under the Prime Minister's Office to promote the greater integration of technology. The vision of this programme manifests in the intention to leverage on such technologies as driverless cars, integrated 3-D mapping and data analytics, amongst other things. Singapore has already begun implementing this vision by offering public transit applications which show enhanced bus availability times and developing "Smart" frameworks for new housing developments.

India has also outlined a vision for creating a hundred "Smart Cities" in order to better manage its limited resources and to deal with its rapidly increasing population. Potential benefits include more efficient energy consumption via intelligent sensors and networked management systems and reduced vehicle traffic, pollution and fuel consumption through dynamic parking fees for peak times.
The European Commission has initiated the European Innovation Partnership on Smart Cities and Communities which brings together European cities, industry leaders and civil society to implement Smart solutions in various areas such as energy, ITC and transportation. In 2014 there were 370 commitments around "Smart Cities" projects and solutions that were submitted by more than 3,000 partners, with lead organisations (including public authorities, businesses and NGOs) coming from 31 different countries.

Immense opportunities are expected in various sectors such as construction, energy, manufacturing and software development.

Potential legal issues

Governments may modify their procurement procedures in order to encourage innovation. Further, governments may turn to Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) to build and operate both physical and digital infrastructure, especially given continually tightening civic budgets and the enormous infrastructural requirements. Effective PPPs will take advantage of the private sector's risk-taking capacity and access to funding, while ensuring that the economics of the deal serve the public good. In Singapore, examples of such initiatives to put in place the building blocks have been Wireless@SG (free public wireless internet), NGNBN (nationwide fibre to the home, and even to non-building access points) and coming soon, HetNet (Seamless Connectivity).

Further, data protection and privacy will become more important, particularly as the "Internet of Things" is necessary for "Smart Cities" to work. How private companies share personal data with public agencies and other private companies will likely come under increased scrutiny from regulators, watchdog groups and the public. The technology to enable "Smart Cities" will likely involve significant amounts of potentially sensitive personal data, which will need to be protected from cyber attacks. Further, it is likely that data protection and privacy laws will change to address the shifting technology landscape, and companies participating in "Smart Cities" will need to stay ahead of the curve. Companies wishing to provide innovative solutions will need to be aware of the potential intellectual property issues which may arise. For example, authorities may wish to assert control over public transit and other transportation data. Some municipal governments in the United States have claimed copyright in their "static" transit schedules, and have threatened app developers with legal action for failure to license the data. Others have used patent law in an attempt to protect transit data as well.

There will also be liability concerns, particularly where individuals increasingly rely on new technology such as driverless cars. The regulatory landscape is expected to change in order to keep pace with such new technology.

What's inside of LegalBytes

In this edition of LegalBytes, among other developments, you'll find updates from Baker & McKenzie ITC lawyers from all over the world. Highlights in this July edition include the following: The German Parliament's adoption of the new IT Security Act; The Hungarian Parliament adoption of amendments to the Information Act; New Singapore Customs requirements for keeping and maintaining records in Image Systems; 5 key takeaways about Canada's Amended Privacy Laws; Anti-Piracy Bill comes into effect in Australia; and the obligation of ISPs in Poland to actively protect copyrights in the Internet.
We hope that you will find this July 2015 edition of LegalBytes useful. As always, if you have any queries, please reach out to the Baker & McKenzie ITC attorney(s) who drafted the article at issue, or your usual Baker & McKenzie contact. We will be happy to assist and look forward to engaging with you about the latest ITC developments.