Model Bylaw Smart City Applications in the Public Space

In the past year, many municipalities have asked us how they should award contracts for smart city applications. Since there is no standard bylaw for this purpose yet, Anita Nijboer, a partner of the law firm Kennedy Van der Laan, has written a model bylaw. You can download the model bylaw for free on this page.

This model bylaw is also available in Dutch.

The model bylaw is part of the book A smart city, this is how you do it – Connected, flexible and meaningful; make the real future city. Click here to order English version of the book. Or order the original Dutch version.

In a digitalizing and technologizing city, data are collected by means of sensors and cameras. These data are used to govern and increase the efficiency of the city or village, or they are used by private companies for their business purposes. This practice requires smart city technology. To name a few examples: smart lamp posts that adjust their brightness in order to regulate flows of visitors; traffic systems with cameras that control traffic in order to prevent traffic jams; or cameras and sensors that guide visitors to parking spaces via an app.

It goes without saying that the use of such technical applications has countless benefits that help bring a good quality of life and sustainability to the city. At the same time, the constant collection of data and the taking of decisions based on interpretations of those data may have negative effects as well. It may compromise people’s privacy or autonomy, or false decisions may be taken on the basis of false interpretations.

Municipal Framework

Municipalities cannot control large parts of the spectrum. Many regulatory powers are vested in the national government or the European Union, rather than in municipalities; examples are the admission of certain devices/systems to the market; liability for malfunctioning robots; cookies regulations; protection of consumers of digital services; or determining which data must be open on a European level. Not in the least because the interest at stake in these examples is wider than an isolated local municipal interest. The framework within which rules can be set by a municipality is defined by the municipal interest/physical living environment and there must be no exclusivity for a higher legislator, and no conflict with existing legislation.

To provide more clarity on this, I thought it a good idea to create a model for a bylaw for the smart city. My intention was to show which topics can be regulated by municipalities, and how, and where the options and limitations are to be found in municipal-level regulations. In this bylaw, I have drawn the line at the several values, but of course it is possible to define this line differently.

The purpose of this model bylaw is to encourage further debate and to make it more transparent what municipalities can and cannot regulate themselves.