By the year 2050, it is projected that 68% of the world’s population will live in urban areas. With over two-thirds of global residents relying on the evolution of cities to match their own future needs, city leaders must progress at a rapid pace in order to compete and succeed.
From education to housing, and healthcare to environment, the expectations of what a city can provide its residents, businesses and visitors are ever-growing.
In this blog, we focus on perceptions of Sunderland as a smart city of the future, and recognise the strides already taken as well as those still to come.
Sunderland: Smart by definition
Although the definition of a smart city differs from person to person and place to place, what most smart city definitions have in common is the use of the word ‘technology’.
Showcasing an ability to be dynamic and adaptive, Sunderland has revealed strong ambitions to lead the way in digital transformation, utilising the latest technology and 5G connectivity as stepping-stones in order to leave no one and nowhere behind.
We asked our inaugural cohort of tech startups from Sunderland’s 5G IoT Accelerator Programme to explore the term ‘smart city’ further, explaining what the smart city of Sunderland is already doing for them and their growing businesses.
Fenwick Smith, chief executive at FloKi Health, said: “A smart city is about creating an infrastructure that allows you to develop use cases. Those use cases might vary from digital advertising through to a more efficient council, improved healthcare or better communications.
“The fact that Sunderland has created this (smart city) infrastructure and has a vision, is absolutely tremendous. The development around the city, the infrastructure and the partners – they’re all an attractive environment to come to and to hopefully develop working relationships and potentially more revenue.”
Ben Francis, founder of Krellian, defines a smart city as “a place where technology is seamlessly woven into the spaces around us and benefits those who use it. A good smart city is human and it puts the needs of human beings front and centre. It’s open, as it’s built on open standards and benefits everyone so no one is left behind. And it is sustainable so it has a positive effect on the natural environment.”
Alex Gluhak, CEO and founder of Urban Data Collective, added: “A smart city is one where citizens and businesses and the municipalities are empowered.”
William Fish, founder and MD at Manulytica, said: “For me a smart city is able to make decisions based on information and data that is available to gather in near real time. So, it’s able to push traffic in a certain way and change behaviours across communities for the benefit of all.
Roxana Montazerian of Roxid, said: “A smart city should make life easier for a wide range of people. It should help them to simply and easily use technology for easing their lives and make lives more sustainable for the next generation.”
Smart infrastructure to underpin growth
In order for cities to attract and retain both investment and visitors, whilst servicing the needs of residents, they’ll need to adapt to embrace smart technology and cultivate innovation to continuously evolve.
More efficient operations, coupled with higher investment into communities across Sunderland, is attracting more individuals to live, work, study and visit, whilst attracting more businesses and talent into the city.
As we all venture deeper into the digital era, leveraging data-driven insights brings the opportunity to transform all aspects of city life.
Sunderland has carved a real point of difference on the global stage by implementing enabling digital infrastructure, a network of networks to deliver digital/data solutions supporting a range of verticals and creating an all-encompassing, all-inclusive smart city.
Implementing solutions at scale, an ever-growing list of projects and initiatives across Sunderland are utilising tech for good with meaningful impacts. Use cases range from smart bins to digital device recycling, the implementation of air quality and traffic sensors, smart buildings technologies and exploration of next generation CCTV for public safety.
Smarter thinking in a digital information age
Increased time spent on screens and in virtual environments, alongside a growing demand for instant access to information, products and services, shows how rapidly we are travelling towards a more digitised world.
Smart initiatives range from small to large scale, and offer the potential to integrate operations across geographies, connecting people and places via next generation technology.
By harnessing the benefits of technology, modern cities such as Sunderland, hold the key to improving many aspects of people’s daily lives and prospects, whilst streamlining efficiencies and increasing the competitiveness of businesses choosing to take roots there.
Take the lead
To innovate, you need to move forward. And to move forward, you need the reassurance that your business’ location can match your ambitions and underpin your growth and upwards trajectory.
Sunderland offers a forward-thinking urban setting that is equipped for tomorrow, today. Smart, adaptive and ambitious, Sunderland is already playing a leading role in the smart city landscape. Attracting major business investors and igniting the interest of newcomers to the UK, Sunderland is a smart choice for growing businesses, large and small.
Sunderland will continue to respond to change and disruption with an agile approach across both digital and physical aspects of its operating model, growing its smart city infrastructure for the benefit of all.
For more information about investing in Sunderland, contact the Smart City Programme Office.
 World Economic Forum statistic.