One of the most talked about issues of Smart Cities is sensor data: data collected with sensors in public spaces, by public authorities, market participants or individual citizens. This may include noise measurement, air quality and Wi-Fi tracking, as well as the combination of data from multiple sensors in entertainment centres to draw conclusions about the general mood, allowing sufficient time to take preventive measures if the mood turns sour.

Legal issues regarding sensor data

The number of legal issues increases in tandem with the growing number of sensors in public spaces. For example, who owns the data and who may use it? And who ultimately decides that? To avoid municipalities having to buy back data, as well as for other reasons, some municipalities in the Netherlands – including Amsterdam and Eindhoven – apply the Open Data Principle: the municipality allows market participants to install sensors, provided that the data from these sensors is made generally available. An interesting thought, but what does that mean for the earning models of market participants? And what kind of role should government play? Government has a duty of care – protection of privacy, for example – in respect of its citizens, while at the same time government wants to drive innovation, where good purchasing conditions and compliance with the subsidy regulation are also important issues.

Roundtable about sensor data

We observed that issues like sensor data were becoming increasingly relevant to our clients and that they wanted to discuss these issues, and the impact. Together with institutions like the Association of Netherlands Municipalities, the Ministry of the Interior, the Province of Noord-Brabant, the Rathenau Institute and municipalities/metropolitan regions such as Eindhoven, Amsterdam and The Hague, Pels Rijcken organises roundtables about sensor data. Knowledge-sharing is not the only motivation: the purpose of these roundtables is also to discuss and resolve the legal, societal, and ethical issues at play, for example the question as to which instrument is most appropriate for the various roles played by the government. Regulation no matter what, or could certain interests be served equally well if not better by means of private law instruments, such as contracts and general terms and conditions? What can be achieved with financial instruments such as subsidies and  purchasing strategy? What are the opportunities for non-binding 'rules of play' or self-regulation? Plenty to talk about at future roundtables.

Pels Rijcken: your innovation partner

Thanks to our considerable experience with government authorities and various Smart City projects, Pels Rijcken possesses all the specific legal knowledge and experience that may be relevant to issues concerning sensor data and the installation of new sensors in public spaces. We are pleased to help facilitate innovation from a legal perspective; in our experience, the chances of success of a sensor data project are improved if legal options are considered fully at an early stage.

If you are working on issues concerning sensor data, we would welcome hearing from you. We might even invite you to share your contribution during the next roundtable.