In this Project Syndicate’s article entitled “Life in the Uber City“, MIT’s Senseable City Lab researchers encourage policymakers to direct resources towards supporting “a bottom-up” ecosystem to make smart cities a reality and also to nurture “the regulatory frameworks” which creates the urban space to allow innovations to thrive.
On one hand, I agree with their call to enable a more conducive regulatory environment for smart city innovations like Uber, Nest and Airbnb to flourish, but I also believe that technology multinationals programmes such like Microsoft CityNext and IBM Smarter Planet should not be avoided. These multinationals play a very important role to support the larger local technology economy and provide important institutional knowledge and best practices to make such smart cities innovations truly scale up beyond district level and spread the benefits across the entire city.
Therefore, policymakers should not be forced to go one way over the other but keep an open mind about technology, and focus their effort on developing a regulatory environment which supports all innovation from both sides – start-ups or multinationals, to thrive, and that’s a really smart choice.
The power of the Internet is at its greatest utility when its disruptive technologies (think innovative mobile payment or transportation services) are able to get ahead of highly regulated environment and revive public services that have stagnated over the years.
Having worked for Microsoft Research and the technology industry, I fully support enabling an environment for new and constant innovation, particularly in a competitive and free market economy. Almost all the new technology and services we enjoy today like the Internet are developed by taking on different parts of innovative technology and ideas pioneered by a variety of sources such as universities, government agencies and research firms together.
Therefore I am excited about news of the US Innovation Act which aims to address the problem of abusive patent litigation by patent trolls, diverting companies on focusing in creating new innovations. Patent trolls are entities which exerts questionable patent rights against alleged infringers in an attempt to collect licensing fees, but does not actually manufacture products or supply services based upon the patents in question – a typical economic rent seeking behaviour.
Hopefully the new Innovation Act will “level the playing field by controlling discovery costs, raising pleading standards, and making fee-shifting a more meaningful deterrent to frivolous allegations“. (H/T: Innovation, Not Litigation, Google Public Policy blog)