Sunderland City Council and its tech partner told an audience at Connected Britain 2023 how the city has revolutionised itself as a smart city.
Speaking on 20th September, Director of Smart Cities at Sunderland City Council Liz St Louis and Boldyn Networks’ Claire Venners, the company assisting with the transformation, revealed how much smart technology has been implemented into the running of the city centre and wider area.
Beginning four years ago, the council has used a four-layered approach to transform the city into a smart one. Implement things like free Wi-Fi in all the city centre, IoT-enabled rubbish bins, air quality monitors and seamless 5G, these are just some of what the city has adopted in their pursuit to be smart and use the technology to benefit its citizens.
“No one was investing in Sunderland,” St Louis told the seminar theatre regarding the inspiration for the innovation. “So we needed to encourage that.”
Sunderland, a former heavy industry town, has struggled socially and economically for many years following the closures of the factories and plants in the late 20th century. Sunderland’s transformation, however, from a heavy industry to tech hub has slowly started to take hold.
Already, companies like Nissan have their sole, UK major manufacturing plant in the city, and not only is it building a new EV hub, but it has designs to IoT technology like AIoT in the production process.
“Now we have the networks, the only thing that limits us is our imagination,” said St Louis.
The data collected in the above examples will not only be used to inform public policy of the council, but will also be available for the citizens to take in. For instance, the data collected on things like air quality throughout the city, will be available on the free Wi-Fi portal for people to make decisions on.
14 buildings are also equipped with LoRaWAN to help them understand their energy consumption and emissions, and a partnership has been made with the University of Sunderland to make it one of the first 5G University in the country.
Autonomous vehicles are also in the scopes of the city’s smart ambitions. One autonomous shuttle straddling the Nissan site and one to operate in the city were awarded a share of £84 million in joint government and industry support for self-driving transport technology.
These developments have all contributed to an ecosphere of innovation in the city. Last year, 10 early-stage technology companies gained a place on a new IoT and 5G accelerator programme set in Sunderland to further the council’s vision for a smart city, and Microsoft has partnered with the city to use AI and IoT to streamline the administrative processes, enhance citizen engagement, and optimise resource allocation.