- Published: 23 May 2023
Liz St Louis, director of smart cities at Sunderland City Council, explains how the city is leading the way in digital transformation and is determined to leave no one and nowhere behind.
From education to housing, and healthcare to environment, the expectations of what a city must provide for its residents, businesses and visitors are ever-growing. In order to embed new technology to enable life enhancing improvements, an evolving infrastructure is vital. In Sunderland LoRaWaN and expanding public wifi networks are enabling digital transformation on a city-wide scale.
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.
Sunderland is well ahead with a number of use cases and smart initiatives, which are bringing to life the real impact their progression represents for residents, businesses and visitors to the city.
City-wide digital transformation
Sunderland City Council awarded a 20-year strategic partnership to BAI Communications(BAI) in September 2021, to design, build and operate next generation digital infrastructure, including private 5G small cell networks. This unique partnership is underpinning a complete transformation of the city, allowing Sunderland to be at the forefront of innovation and achieve true global competitiveness.
“Another milestone reached in our smart city journey was the recent expansion of our free, superfast wifi network in the city centre and at the coast, tripling the number of access points in the latest rollout,” said Liz St Louis, director of smart cities at Sunderland City Council.
“This huge expansion illustrates our commitment to create better connected experiences for all, ensuring no one and nowhere is left behind as we continue to develop our network of networks in partnership with BAI.”
Smart infrastructure underpins growth
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.
Sunderland has carved a real point of difference on the global stage by implementing a digital infrastructure with an innovative network of networks to deliver digital and data solutions. This supports a range of smart initiatives, which are positively impacting the lives of residents and the competitiveness of businesses across an all-encompassing, all-inclusive smart city.
More efficient operations, coupled with higher investment into communities across Sunderland, is drawing 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,” said St Louis.
“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.
“Assistive technologies are growing at scale and now surpass 3,000 installations in residents’ homes, each helping to extend independence and keep vulnerable people safe and well.”
Smart thinking in the 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 can be small or large scale, and offer the potential to integrate operations across geographies, connecting people and places via next generation technology.
St Louis continued: “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.
“Streamlining efficiencies and increasing the competitiveness of businesses who choose to take roots here, means we are seeing more opportunities for individuals to carve fruitful careers in the city.
“With this comes the need to nurture and develop digital skills, which is why we have prioritised faster, more reliable wifi access across communities, including at a local primary school.”
Sunderland City Council’s rollout of superfast connectivity presented an opportunity for Hudson Road Primary School to broaden learning opportunities and provide a reliable connection for staff, pupils and parents alike.
The implementation of superfast connectivity at the school means access to download speeds of 995Mbps – a staggering increase of over 7,000 per cent versus their previous network. And the school has exciting plans for the future on the back of this reliable, speedy connection, including the use of educational games as well as both virtual and augmented reality.
Improving connectivity in schools is a vital part of the city’s vision, ensuring families across Sunderland can remain connected to their children’s learning as well as engaging in digital opportunities themselves.
The council and BAI’s commitment to education also extends to higher education and adult learning, with connectivity at the core of the University of Sunderland’s plans for a 5G campus in the city centre. Made possible by Sunderland’s leading smart city infrastructure, this development of one of the UK’s first 5G universities will see a 5G test lab support pioneering research, as well as an Internet of Things (IoT) network and superfast public access wifi to connect and enhance campus services.
Forward-thinking urban setting
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 global smart city landscape.
“To innovate, you need to move forward. And to move forward, you need the reassurance that your business’ location or the place you choose to live, work, play or study can match your own ambitions,” said St Louis.
“Our LoRaWAN, which covers the whole of the city, and our IoT sensor network is already helping us to understand and better manage: air quality, traffic and pedestrian flow, road temperatures and rainfall. Many more use cases are also in development, such as legionella monitoring, bin fill level sensors and energy efficiency projects, demonstrating our continual appetite to leverage the power of technology to futureproof our city and support our net zero ambitions.
“Our private 5G network is supporting more interactive and fun events for residents and visitors alike, enabling public safety opportunities and preparing the way for self-driving shuttles which will operate in the city from 2024.
“Sunderland will continue to respond to change and disruption with an agile approach as our smart city vision fast becomes a reality.”
For more information about Sunderland’s smart city journey, visit the Sunderland Our Smart City website here.
Quelle/Source: Smart Cities World, 04.05.2023