MKs Concerned Over Chillul Shabbos in ‘Smart Cities’

YERUSHALAYIM -
UTJ Member of Knesset Yaakov Asher. (Hadas Parush/Flash 90)
UTJ MK Rabbi Yaakov Asher. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Smart cities – with their accompanying smart meters that calculate all water and energy use – are coming soon, if they aren’t here already. But while the arrival of smart meters to monitor usage of resources could help save money for both customers and service providers, it could also create a major problem of chillul Shabbos, MK Rabbi Yaakov Asher (United Torah Judaism) said at a special meeting of the Knesset Economics Committee discussing smart technology.

Asher, a member of the committee, broached the subject by mentioning that while there were great benefits to the smart metering technology – utilities, for example, will be able to study in minute detail the usage patterns of customers and develop incentives to get them to reduce waste or shift activities to times when there is less stress on the system – it could also be problematic for Shabbos observers.

“Every time one opens a faucet, for example, a sensor is monitoring use, recording and transmitting that information to a server using electricity,” said Rabbi Asher. “It is not fair that many Israelis will be prevented from living in neighborhoods that adopt this.” He demanded that all cities that implement smart technology have the option to turn it off as needed, or to use meters that have solutions built into them for Shabbos use.

Committee chairperson MK Eitan Cabel said that no one would try to force anyone to violate Shabbos, and that there were plenty of people opposed to smart meters who would demand the ability to shut them off for other reasons, such as privacy issues.