Just as technological innovations, such as electricity and steam power, profoundly altered daily life in the 19th century, today’s cities are striving to leverage technology for the greater good. The use of ‘smart’ technology is already rocking the world in 2022, as cities enhance their digital infrastructure to connect and advance urban centres for the benefit of residents, businesses and visitors.

As Sunderland continues to extend its presence as a leading smart city, we are pausing for a moment to define what this really means for the city’s residents and businesses.

In this blog, we define the tangible benefits of smart city innovation and what this means for Sunderland – this includes the valuable opportunities that will emerge for residents, as well as the wide-ranging business benefits driven by digital transformation.


What can my Smart City do for me?

Sunderland City Council is working with numerous partners to empower the city’s residents and businesses through modern, wireless technologies and infrastructure.

In order to define the tangible benefits of smart city innovation, first, we need to explain exactly how Sunderland is a digital city equipped for the future and how that digital infrastructure works.

What is a smart city framework and how does it work?

Sunderland’s smart city framework is growing. It is bringing together numerous Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) to develop and deploy an improved series of networks and components, to address today’s growing urbanisation challenges. These challenges range from mobility, housing, urban health and ageing to high energy consumption and the sustainable availability of key services.

An intelligent network of connected systems and devices will make up Sunderland’s ‘digital city’, powered by 5G and the city’s smart ICT framework. This network of networks transmits data using advanced digital infrastructure, allowing applications to receive and manage data in real-time to help the local authority, businesses and residents to make better decisions that improve quality of life, business competitiveness and much more.

What does better connectivity mean to me?

Better connectivity means improved experiences, opportunities, convenience and quality of life for residents and visitors alike. Individuals may not even recognise that they are already using technology that is connecting them to the people and places around them.

Residents engage with smart city ecosystems in so many ways in everyday life – from the use of smartphones and mobile devices to connected cars, homes and healthcare. The opportunities to gain from cost savings and efficiencies as a result of individuals and communities connecting via paired devices, data and the city’s digital infrastructure, are astounding.

As well as individual cost savings borne from improved technology and connectivity, communities can collaboratively improve energy distribution, streamline services such as bin collections, decrease traffic congestion and much more with help from the Internet of Things (IoT) and networked devices.

Supporting local businesses and careers

Improving the city’s digital capabilities brings new skills and career opportunities across generations, as well as presenting a multitude of business benefits to startups and global enterprises already located in Sunderland, and those considering investing in the city.

There are numerous transformational opportunities that an augmented digital infrastructure will bring to businesses across Sunderland, and here we begin to explore a few.

Benefits to business

  • More than just greater speeds
    With the growing implementation of 5G across Sunderland comes greater speeds along with other advantages such as greater capacity and less latency. What this means to individuals, families and businesses is faster, more reliable connections, plus faster uploads, downloads and storage to bolster the growing digital needs of everyday life and business.Everything you do online will improve – from internet shopping to mobile banking and audio streaming – the benefits of integrated, smart networks make these advances possible.
  • Global competitive advantage
    Sunderland Our Smart City’s ambition for greater efficiency and productivity in its societies is reflected in the potential that improved digital networks bring to the city’s businesses. Organisations large and small can benefit by ensuring their products and services are aligned with this trend towards connected devices, people and information.Companies operating out of a smart city like Sunderland can leverage the benefits of faster, better connected digital networks. This underpins swifter and more reliable global connectivity via shared systems, processes, data analysis and communications.

    Stronger networks and connectivity reinforce operational efficiencies as well as improving stakeholder communications, contributing to greater efficiencies from a productivity perspective, as well as improved stakeholder experiences.

    Having the ability to boast a strong digital infrastructure surrounding a business, makes that company more appealing to both external business prospects and future job applicants.

    Closing the digital divide and allowing businesses to thrive and innovate sits at the core of Sunderland’s smart city ambition. A forward-thinking organisation benefiting from improved connectivity in this digital age, is well-equipped to survive and grow.


  • Talent attraction
    Attracting and retaining skilled individuals to grow their careers in Sunderland is vital to the city’s future. Continuously improving and building on the city’s core offer as a destination of choice for job opportunities and business growth, presents a compelling proposition to retain homegrown talent and attract others to join Sunderland-based businesses.
  • Opportunities to upskill team members
    The idea of inclusion rather than division applies to closing skills gaps too. Ensuring Sunderland’s residents, from early years to retirement, have fair opportunities to extend their digital skillset, enabling them to grasp current and future opportunities is at the forefront of the city’s approach to digital upskilling.Businesses, alongside education providers, play a key role in providing adequate training from entry level upwards to support the increase of digital skills and the creation of a more diverse, inclusive and skilled workforce.
  • Supporting more internet-enabled devices
    Connecting technology via a smart city network helps enhance the performance and interactivity of many urban services, whilst optimising resources and reducing costs. The IoT allows businesses to better manage and monitor widely dispersed processes in one smarter, faster and more reliable network within the wider smart city infrastructure.The rollout of ultrafast 5G across Sunderland continues to underpin the wider City Plan. 5G is an enabling communication technology for smart cities, allowing more IoT devices to be connected and greater efficiencies to be realised.

Understanding opportunities

The potential benefits to businesses span companies of all sizes, across an array of industries. There are some emerging sectors that are likely to reap the greatest rewards from our enhanced digital ecosystem, and they are:

  • Advanced Manufacturing and Automotive
  • Education
  • Entertainment
  • Healthcare
  • Housing
  • Transport

There are numerous examples of potential efficiencies to come from a more reliable, connected IoT environment, one relevant to the advanced manufacturing and automotive industry is 5G Connected Automated Logistics (5G CAL).

In Sunderland, the 5G CAL pilot is showcasing game-changing opportunities for operational efficiencies, as well as bringing to market the UK’s first zero emission automated logistics testbed, which is set to revolutionise autonomous HGV research and development. The potential for cost and resource savings highlighted by this pilot stretch way beyond the automotive sector, offering opportunities for engineering and manufacturing businesses across a wide variety of sub sectors to realise performance enhancements.

From an education perspective, technology is central to countless vocations and academic pathways. Providing students swiftly with easy-to-access information and enticing opportunities to practice what they learn, using the latest technological advancements (such as 5G, augmented reality (AR), coding and more), we can leverage technology to enable students to explore new subjects, accelerate learning and deepen understanding.

The use of education technology in the classroom, and in remote learning, has proven invaluable across the Covid-19 pandemic. Well-connected education settings, motivated to connect their students using digital learning and skills, are instilling skills to complement a wide range of aspirations in a modern world. Through Sunderland’s smart city network, educators will be able to access powerful digital learning tools, resources and student data in one place, that is available anywhere and at any time.

Entertainment venues and stadiums have long been known as the home of sports, movies and other entertainment, but now with the exponential growth of technology and digital adoption, these spaces are a hotbed of innovation in urban environments. Offering immersive and exhilarating experiences to residents and visitors, Sunderland’s enhanced digital infrastructure is enabling transformative change across leisure and entertainment.

Set to reshape and expand entertainment options, smart city-based venues can embrace emerging technologies and digital enhancements to augment the quality and scope of experiences across communities. You may have already visited the cinema and experienced virtual reality (VR) in a 360-degree simulated environment with scents and even rain. Imagine, being able to ‘experience’ virtually skiing down a mountain in a prospective holiday destination in the city centre, powered by free ultrafast public Wi-Fi; or trying out a new sport with a VR headset alone – all of this is possible, and more, through the power of 5G and Sunderland’s smart city network.

Building a healthy, happy city with growing health improvements and expanding community resources is central to Sunderland’s smart city development. Technology is already influencing the future of healthcare provision across Sunderland, for example, assistive technology (AT) and a revolutionary app, SHEILA, is reinventing how adult social care is delivered across the city. With the power of the advanced networks enabling IoT sensors and AT in residents’ homes, individuals are equipped to live independently for longer.

Sunderland is at the forefront of the future living agenda, having taken the lead back in 2021 with the launch of the Sunderland Future Living Expo and a series of insightful events to shine a light on smart housing plans across the city.

New and sustainable ways of living will be enabled by greater digital connectivity across Sunderland and will see intelligence built quite literally into the walls of new apartments and houses. These smart homes offer greater convenience and sustainability to residents as appliances and devices, such as thermostats or lights, are set up to be automatically controlled remotely from anywhere with an internet connection, using a networked device such as a mobile phone.

Smart homes integrate smart amenities – including community management systems such as automated electricity and water meter systems, and building automation systems such as access control – creating opportunities for collective efficiencies with lasting and positive impact for communities.

The city’s enhanced digital infrastructure also creates opportunities for smart transport, which aims to provide more convenience to drivers, passengers and planning services, including improvements to travel efficiency, enhanced road safety, decreased pollution and more effective traffic management.

Smart transportation will use the city’s new and emerging technologies to make moving around more convenient, more cost effective and more environmentally sound – transforming how the council and partners approach mobility and emergency response, whilst reducing congestion across Sunderland.

Sunderland is rapidly moving towards an intelligent digital ecosystem connecting government, businesses and residents to facilitate innovation and better decision-making to help solve future urban challenges and to generate better ways of living and working across Sunderland.


Creating opportunities for future generations

The digital transformation of Sunderland Our Smart City is delivering a positive intergenerational impact. Digital skills are becoming more entrenched in day-to-day lives and the opportunities they harvest are being realised in new job opportunities, learning resources, leisure activities and smart living enhancements.

Supporting individuals to thrive across positive, forward-thinking communities which embrace technology and the prospects it brings, is setting the direction in Sunderland’s successful evolution to an urban centre of the future.

Sunderland Our Smart City is a city of ambition and potential for all who reside, work, visit, invest and play here. Each individual across communities can help to influence its future design with a host of inclusive, smart technology enabled features relevant to communities.

In a post-pandemic world, Sunderland City Council is keen as a Local Authority to facilitate new and hybrid adventures, through which people and places can build confidence and prosper. Bridging skills gaps and providing a robust digital infrastructure will support the future growth of Sunderland as a leading smart city – an inclusive urban centre where no one and nowhere is left behind.

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