San Francisco Board of Supervisors President Norman Yee unveiled this week a proposal to create an Office of Emerging Technology to help the city get ahead of the next wave of new devices and services taking off in the high-tech sphere.
The office would be one of the first of its kind in the country, said Yee, and it would help startups navigate city bureaucracy to obtain permits to operate on the city's streets, sidewalks and other infrastructure.
“One of the major complaints of the tech companies is that when they wanted to do business in San Francisco, they didn’t actually know which department to go to to get a permit," said Yee, who secured $250,000 to fund the new office within the city's current fiscal year budget.
But the office will do more than just help eager tech firms obtain approvals and permits. It will also have the power to weigh the potential impact of a proposed technology on city infrastructure and public safety — as well as privacy and security — before giving a green light to a pilot project or product launch.
"It's almost like we're co-creating with some of these new technologies, saying, 'This is more beneficial if you went a certain way with your technology than another way,' " Yee said.