Sunderland’s Smart View from the World Stage


28th November 2023

Topic Events
Technology 5G, Assistive technology, IoT
Sector Events

Reaching the final in Barcelona of the World Smart City Awards this month [November] was an honour, and it was a privilege to be able to share Sunderland’s smart city progress on a global stage.

Attracting 411 top-level proposals from 63 countries across the globe and achieving a spot in the prestigious World Smart City Awards shortlist is no easy feat. As one of just six cities worldwide in the running for the coveted City Award title, Sunderland was proud to represent progress and fly the flag for the UK in Barcelona.

Attending the event were numerous partner organisations, alongside Patrick Melia, chief executive at Sunderland City Council, Liz St Louis, director of smart cities and enabling services at Sunderland City Council, and Charles O’Reilly, commercial director smart places, Sunderland, at Boldyn Networks. Their insights and experiences are highlighted in this blog, which aims to capture the essence of the event and the positive impact these learnings can bring to Sunderland our City of Smart.


Recognising and supporting innovative city strategies

Surrounded by forward-thinking projects and ideas, the internationally acclaimed World Smart City Awards focused on each smart city’s measurable impact on residents’ lives and evidence that initiatives are turning cities into better places to live, work, play and invest.

Patrick said: “Standing shoulder to shoulder with city leaders from across the globe was a proud and humbling experience.

“Being immersed in such a vibrant environment, fuelled by progress and ambition, it was impossible to not absorb the energy and leave with a can-do attitude!”

The World Smart City Awards recognise cities that lead the way in embracing innovation and technology to build a better future.”

Liz added: “Being named a finalist was a real acknowledgement of Sunderland’s commitment to creating a smarter, more sustainable and more inclusive city. Our Smart City Programme team and Boldyn Networks colleagues were so proud to be a part of this prestigious event, where we had the opportunity to learn from other leading cities in the field of smart urban development, whilst imparting advice to those at the start of their smart city journey by showcasing our own achievements.”

Connecting city leaders from across the world

Smart City Expo World Congress is the world’s biggest and most influential event on urban innovation. The event aims to connect leaders from the most innovative companies, governments and organisations to move cities towards a better future.

With over 25,000 attendees from over 140 countries, hanging out with some of the best urban innovators and collaborators from across the world to share ideas and experiences was certainly a highlight for Liz.

She said: “As always, the Microsoft stand occupies a central space, hosting a fantastic range of partners with a jam-packed programme of very insightful and innovative talks and round tables.

“It was also a pleasure to spend time and share a stage with Connected Places Catapult, the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology and the National Cyber Security Centre as we continue to work together to develop the Connected Places Playbook, a very practical tool to aid Connected Places across the world.”

Spotlight on innovation

The whole Smart City World Expo event, including the World Smart City Awards, spotlights innovative urban strategies, projects and ideas. The emphasis is on the tangible impact on the lives of residents and the positive transformation of cities into more liveable, workable, enjoyable and investable places.

The nomination is in recognition of the 20-year strategic partnership between Sunderland City Council and Boldyn Networks to equip Sunderland with world-class digital infrastructure to create a smarter city. Our initiatives span across various city services, delivering a comprehensive smart city solution that is revolutionising transport, social care, assisted living, environmental services, city planning, and more.

We are creating data-enabled smart city solutions built on a network of networks, sensors, and a smart city data platform. This smart city data platform integrates data sources like sensor data, traffic patterns, air quality, environmental metrics, and more. Additionally, we combine sensor data with external sources such as central government environmental data and weather to create dashboards that help improve the delivery of city services. As a result, the platform empowers the city with real-time data for seamless operational and citizen services.

Charles said: “The World Smart City Awards pay tribute to cities at the forefront of adopting innovation and technology to forge a brighter future. Sunderland’s ability to shine as a finalist in the ‘City Award’ category signifies its unwavering commitment to transforming its urban landscape to benefit residents, businesses and visitors alike.

“Harnessing the power of technology and data to create more efficient, inclusive and sustainable communities was a central theme at the world congress event.”

Reshaping urban landscapes

On Sunderland’s journey towards becoming a smart city, there have been challenges as well as triumphs, underpinned by strong and lasting partnerships to reshape the city’s urban landscape.

Liz stated: “A notable element of the event’s discussions was the importance of building trust and ambassadorship from the ground up. Leading a smart city isn’t just about making high level decisions and telling people what is being done; it’s really about harnessing civic pride at a community level and embedding solutions that make a real difference to residents’ quality of life.

“Sunderland’s transformation has been driven by the unwavering belief that a smarter, more sustainable future for all is within our reach.”

A global benchmark for smart cities

It was an absolute privilege for our Smart City Programme team to be part of the UK Pavilion, collaborating with some of the leading cities across the UK and hearing first-hand about their successes and challenges.

Liz commented: “The global networking opportunities were also second to none, and our very valuable network has been further complimented so we can continue to collaborate with a range of innovators throughout the year.”

Following their attendance at this prestigious global event, Charles added: “Boldyn Networks is excited to continue its journey, alongside Sunderland City Council, towards becoming a global benchmark for smart cities. We look forward to continuing to share our collective experiences, insights and innovations with the world at future events.”

Patrick concluded: “In collaboration with Boldyn Networks, we are spearheading the creation of the UK’s smartest city right here in Sunderland. Cutting-edge wireless technologies continue to drive digital transformation for our residents, businesses and visitors, leaving no one and nowhere behind.”

Sunderland is open for business

Sunderland’s City Plan sets out our 2030 vision of a connected international city with opportunities for all – a smart city which is dynamic, vibrant and healthy.

To achieve our 2030 vision, Sunderland City Council and Boldyn Networks are creating the UK’s smartest city, leaving no one and nowhere behind. Advanced wireless technologies are facilitating digital transformation for all.

Be part of our connected city and find out more about how you and your business can grow here.