In recent years, the fusion of urban life and digital technologies has been finding its place in the 21st-century landscape. Smart cities are connected urban areas that incorporate advanced technologies to enhance the quality of life for their residents, promote environmental sustainability, and increase the efficiency of urban services. These initiatives aim to address numerous contemporary urban challenges, such as traffic congestion, pollution, energy management, security, and much more. However, the development of smart cities raises complex legal issues, particularly in administrative law. The definition of the 'smart city' is still highly conceptual and evolving. Initially, the 'smart city' aimed to infuse the city with artificial intelligence, in other words, to make the city connected through various processes stemming from new technologies and digital tools. The goal of the 'smart city' is to enable more efficient regulation of urban infrastructure, improve comfort, and enhance the transmission of information to residents. The scope of this new management approach is broad, and the French Data Protection Authority (CNIL) has attempted to delineate its boundaries, including public infrastructure (buildings, urban furnishings, home automation, etc.), networks (water, electricity, gas, telecommunications), transportation (public transportation, smart roads and vehicles, carpooling, soft mobility - cycling, walking, etc.), e-services, and e-administration. Perfect illustrations of what the 'smart city' could be pushed to its extreme can be found in popular culture through numerous fiction films, novels, and video games, such as the successful title Watch Dogs® by Ubisoft, immersing the player in a globalized 'smart city' context as a hacker. However, some argue that this definition should place greater emphasis on the goals of local public action and social innovation. Indeed, a report to the Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs in 2018 stated that 'in a context of strained relations between states and local authorities, both in France and internationally, it is more important than ever for governments and elected officials to be attentive to the various forms of innovation emerging in territories.' The smart city thus appears as a city that requires the active collaboration of its residents through citizen participation driven by territorial governance. Its goal is more comprehensive, including environmental and social challenges within a framework of digital and technological densification.

It is pertinent to ask: How should local authorities employ public law to successfully realize a smart city?

To this end, local authorities have several more or less restrictive levers for developing a smart city. Depending on their budget and the level of involvement desired by the community, they can opt for I) public service delegation for a "smart city" with controlled risk, II) choosing public procurement for a tailor-made "smart city," or opting for more flexible methods through III) the public procurement decrees of 2018/2019 and innovation partnership as a catalyst.

I) Public Service Delegation for a "Smart City" with Controlled Risk

Public service delegation allows a local authority to control and manage a public service by entrusting its execution to a public or private entity. One of its unique aspects is that the service is not only provided by the company delegated the service through private management but also that the financial risk associated with operating the service is transferred to the latter. In other words, the company is remunerated, in whole or in part, through fees paid by service users. This feature is reflected in the freedom offered to the local authority to choose the company of its choice within a procedure ensuring transparent selection. It should also be noted that at the end of the delegation agreement, all investments and assets of the service become the property of the municipality.
Among the delegation modes, there is the concession according to Article L1121-1 of the French Public Procurement Code (Code de la Commande Publique), which states, "A concession contract is a contract through which one or more contracting authorities subject to this Code entrust the execution of works or the management of a service to one or more economic operators, to whom a risk related to the operation of the facility or service is transferred, in return for either the right to operate the facility or service covered by the contract, or that right together with payment." In the context of the "smart city," public service delegations allow the community stable control over time and reduced financial risks. However, one challenge is that within such a contractual framework, the community may find it difficult to innovate and address new challenges, such as access to data of general interest, without being in a position of weakness.

II) Choosing Public Procurement for a Tailor-Made "Smart City"

The Public Procurement Code (Code de la Commande Publique) defines public procurement as contracts concluded onerously by one or more public purchasers (the State, local authorities, public establishments, etc.) with one or more economic operators (natural or legal persons, public or private, or any group of persons with or without legal personality) to meet their needs for works, supplies, or services.
Public procurement must also comply with three major principles: freedom of access to public procurement (anyone can access the needs of buyers), equal treatment of candidates (objective specifications, prohibition of discrimination, examination of all offers made, and responses to questions must be sent to all candidates), and transparency of the procedure (transparency of the aforementioned principles, and motivation for rejecting the offer).
Several types of contracts can apply in the context of the "smart city," including partnership contracts, works contracts, or supply contracts. With the contractual choice of public procurement, the local authority is placed at the heart of the "smart city" development process.
In any case, public contracts resulting from a concession or public procurement are subject to extensive and important procedures, including rules on publicity and enhanced transparency (e.g., for concessions, Article L. 1411-1 to L. 1411-18 of the French General Code of Territorial Authorities). Implementing such procedures and investments by local authorities can undoubtedly be seen as a hindrance to the development of the "smart city." However, there are more flexible solutions for public contracts to address this challenge.

III) The Public Procurement Decrees of 2018/2019 and the Innovation Partnership as a Catalyst for the "Smart City"

As mentioned earlier, public procurement is subject to heavy formalities. However, local authorities' room for maneuver has been strengthened through various legislative and regulatory levers aimed at encouraging innovation. While not new modes of public market contracts per se, changes in the procedure have had a significant impact on the possibilities available to local authorities.
For instance, the publication of Decree 2019-1344 in December 2019 modified certain provisions of the Public Procurement Code regarding thresholds and advances for public procurement contracts. Under the previous wording, contracts with a value ranging from €25,000 to €214,000 were subject to competition rules. However, with the decree, the minimum threshold was raised to €40,000. In other words, local authorities are not subject to specific competition and advertising rules for public contracts below €40,000.
Additionally, Decree 2018-1225 modified public procurement by changing the formalism in favor of innovation. It allows that "experimentally, for a period of three years from the entry into force of this decree, purchasers subject to the ordinance of July 23, 2015, may enter into a public contract, including a defense or security public contract, negotiated without prior advertising or competition, for innovative works, supplies, or services that meet a need estimated at less than €100,000 excluding taxes."
Finally, Decree 2014-1097 regulates innovation partnership. According to Article L2172-3 of the Public Procurement Code, "Innovation partnership is a contract aimed at research and development of innovative products, services, or works, as well as the subsequent acquisition of products, services, or works resulting from it, which meet a need