Innovative Solutions for a Sustainable Future: Sunderland’s Early Digital Twin Success

Case Study

14th March 2024

Topic Energy, Environment, Infrastructure, Transport
Technology Digital Twins
Sector Energy, Environment, Infrastructure, Transport

Sunderland City Council has delivered a digital twin proof of concept with specialists Slingshot Simulations, a digital twin-as-a-service solutions provider.

The Council is working to become a connected, dynamic, healthy, and vibrant smart city; an ambition highlighted in our City Plan. Plus, we are committed to reducing carbon emissions: the Council aims to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030, with further aspirations to make the City of Sunderland carbon neutral by 2040.

The City is also seeing continued development around the Riverside area, with regeneration projects changing the landscape of our city well underway – such as Sunderland City Hall, Culture House Sunderland, the new Wear footbridge, and Sunderland Eye Hospital.

To support our ambitious regeneration plan and low carbon ambitions, we recognised an opportunity to leverage technology to gain deeper insights into the present and future conditions of the city’s transportation and environmental status.

Our aspiration when experimenting with digital twin technology was to simulate certain scenarios to better inform and aid our decision making regarding future activity and investment in Sunderland.


In response to this opportunity, Sunderland City Council collaborated with Slingshot Simulations to develop a proof of concept showcasing the potential of a digital twin to impact decision-making. Slingshot utilised its Compass: Engine™ platform to execute this proof of concept.

This focussed on two areas: St. Mary’s Boulevard in Sunderland city centre (a busy dual carriageway), and an aspect of the city’s low carbon agenda. We wanted to better understand the impact on traffic and emissions of implementing various measures, such as narrowing the carriageway or making it completely pedestrianised. For St. Mary’s Boulevard, the simulation investigated the impact of various interventions at different peak and inter-peak timeframes, with data from the city’s Vivacity sensors playing a crucial role in simulating traffic. This data is captured within our Smart City Data Platform, supplied by our Smart City Partners, Boldyn Networks which in turn feeds Slingshot’s modelling software.

The simulation involved developing 12 scenarios, configuring them with three variables: peak and inter-peak timeframes, carbon and traffic agendas, and three levels of intervention into St. Mary’s Boulevard. The models represented both busy and quiet periods within the city and were compared against a baseline ‘do nothing’ scenario.

Slingshot Simulations also supported the council with visualising EPC data for local buildings. To support our low carbon agenda, Slingshot integrated Display Energy Certificates data into Compass: Engine™. This integration facilitated the instant visualisation of operational ratings for public and large buildings of interest to Sunderland City Council.

An example of our digital twin simulation


The outcome of the proof of concept was significant: firstly, it demonstrated the holistic potential of a digital twin to influence decision-making, whilst providing valuable insight into the current and future state of the city’s transport and environmental conditions.

The digital twin proof of concept has enabled Sunderland City Council to identify emerging challenges and areas that demand attention. Through simulating various scenarios and interventions, the Council assessed the expected impact on both traffic patterns and carbon emissions. As a result, we now have a clearer understanding of how interventions will affect the city: thereby facilitating quick and targeted decision making.

The insights generated by the simulation are actionable and will pave the way for more in-depth analysis and design, ultimately leading to tangible changes in the physical world.

Additionally, the proof of concept provided an opportunity to showcase the art of the possible to key stakeholders, ensuring that the Council is better positioned to engage with residents, businesses, and regional leaders to drive positive change.

Our ability to conduct transport and environmental simulations with a focus on emissions and traffic impacts brings us a step closer to our vision of a smart and sustainable Sunderland.