smart city technology

The Legal Implications of Smart City Technologies

“Smart City” has become a popular buzzword in urban development in the United States. With Montgomery and Birmingham receiving Smart City grants as they expand in size and scope because of the influx of so many people moving there from northern American cities such as Philly and NYC, it’s time that businesses looked at the legal implications of smart city technologies.

The aim is to increase efficiency through resource allocation and management. This requires extensive data collection using sensors that may fall into the realm of intruding into the private life of individuals.

What Does the Smart City Law Entail?

Smart city law encompasses the regulations that are developed for the effective design of smart cities. It has an overarching aim of enhancing the quality of life for citizens through more sustainable use of resources and smart tech. However, the laws lag behind technological development by a few decades.

The result is that regulators and courts, whether code-based or common law has to use the closest legal tools from earlier stages of development for dealing with the new challenges thrown up by smart cities. The present laws and regulations may be able to deal with smart city developments and the response to the Internet-of-Things (IoT). Based on this, it may not be enough to identify those areas where legal issues may arise.

Electronic Communications Networks

Regulators have a key challenge in accommodating IoT and Machine-to-Machine (M2M) within the current legal regimes. They tend to closely control the spectrum and require large sums for auctioning licensed frequencies.

Tensions have already become apparent between developers of IoT devices and licensed operators. In fact, IoT and M2M operators are increasingly being provided “white space” spectrum. The holders of expensive licenses are demanding protection.

“Kill switch” is a key mechanism that is database-driven and allows regulators to force offending IoT devices to get disconnected. Viability for IoT investors and developers depends on the approach accepted by regulators in every jurisdiction. This gives rise to key questions:

  • When to use a kill switch
  • Can IoT developers warrant the reliability and validity of their services in the face of a sudden switch-off?

Product Liability in Smart Cities

If a self-driving car in a smart city crashes and results in personal injury or death, who can be held responsible for the injury or accident? Recent incidents in the UK have compelled US authorities to develop insurance products for self-driving cars.

In the same manner, who can be made responsible if a wearable device failed in administering the medication it was designed to do? The failure could have been because of a data breach or regulatory intervention. These questions can only be resolved by an entirely new spectrum of specially-curated law. Furthermore, it also needs the application of existing principles and causes of action.

Implications for Data and Privacy

One of the most relevant areas of concern relates to the processing, ownership, use, and security of data generated within the smart city infrastructure by IoT devices. Data concerned with individual activities, location, and intimate personal information will be stored making it important to understand who is responsible for the information.

A lot of attention is focused on implementing new data laws through GDPR or General Data Protection Regulations. Other concerns include coming up with funds for smart city projects by resource-starved authorities.

Experts claim the solution to this lies in public-private joint ventures and commercial partnerships. This gives rise to the key question of how the potential value of data can be a driving force behind private sector involvement.

The thin balance between facility and security is a pressing question for today’s civil society. There is also a rise in significant issues in relation to the consent of capture and processing of data.

There are arguments in favor of creating a form of generalized “pre-consent”. And increased reliance (on the part of municipal and government authorities) on private-sector funding for innovation may give rise to reduced protection standards for data subjects.

Contract Structures for Smart Cities

The amalgamation of public and private sectors can create a challenging array of relationships. This holds true for meshing old infrastructure with young technology in public-private joint ventures and commercial partnerships. There is a risk of potential gaps where legal responsibilities are concerned with several different suppliers involved in the testing, development, and implementation of solutions.

In addition, there is the increased possibility of developing business structures that require a rethinking of recognized legal forms. For instance, the present structure of limited partnerships, joint stock, and limited liability companies are creatures of a previous industrial revolution. Blockchain, IoT, and related strands require a more decentralized and distributed autonomous organization.

There is considerable debate among legislators about who can be sued and who will be entering into contracts in smart cities.

Legal Help is Here from Highly Rated Business Law Attorneys in Alabama

The seasoned attorneys at the BHM Law Group realize the need to understand issues posed by the globalization of data services. Our attorneys can survey the legal and practical issues affecting IoT implementation and smart city projects to make sure that your business is on the right side of this rapidly developing area of the law. To set up your consultation, call (205) 964-9764 or reach us online.


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