Winning smart city of the year UK 2020 in October last year boosted Sunderland’s international reputation as a digitally connected urban centre of the future. Housing Industry Leaders caught up with Liz St Louis, Assistant Director of Smart Cities at Sunderland City Council, to explore the city’s journey to becoming the UK’s smartest city and to find out first-hand what the future holds.
The city hugely prioritises digital transformation for wider benefits that not only provide an array of services but also enhance opportunities for communities and businesses in Sunderland.
The plans have also enabled partnerships between the council, businesses, and educators that all focus on enabling digital growth across the city.
Liz St Louis told Housing Industry Leaders: “We are investing in numerous projects and partnerships as we continue to accelerate our journey.”
“These projects go beyond improvements in broadband speed and availability, and aim to overcome barriers to digital progress, including improving digital literacy and utilising smart technology to improve business efficiencies; and developing smart housing, leisure and commercial areas to futureproof our city.”
By 2030, Sunderland will be a dynamic smart city with more and better jobs, a low-carbon economy, and a great choice of housing. It will be a leading digital city, deploying smart and sustainable technologies for the benefit of residents, businesses, and visitors.
With the recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic a high priority, sustainable and smart technologies will enable the city to overcome both economic and social challenges for many years.
Free ultrafast Wi-Fi and developed Assistive Technology are several of the projects being centred
A huge rollout of free public Wi-Fi, set to have downloads speeds faster than the first 5G cities, will elevate opportunities for community hubs and education as enhancements will heighten the convenience and reliability across the classroom and the city.
Liz also told Housing Industry Leaders: “By improving connectivity across Sunderland, we are continuing to invest in our 5G technology, upskill businesses and residents, plus supporting the development of digital resources within the region.”
“Numerous projects include improving local school, Hudson Road Primary, internet speeds increased from 13Mb to over 650Mb, enabling virtual teaching and on-line coding clubs, social housing tower block tenants in the city centre also benefiting from free ultrafast connectivity and transport solution for traffic mapping to inform future traffic flow and allow real-time traffic management.”
The cities digital goals are also enabling the drive on research and development around Assistive Technology and telecare solutions.
The ‘Social Health Enabling Independent Living App’ (SHEILA) was developed by the city to allow advances to adult social care in Sunderland. It enables residents to live as independently as possible and have a choice in how they do this.
Liz said: “We began developing technology-enabled care as a core element of the social care offering in the city. SHEILA helps families to use GPS and other IoT devices to identify when a family member needs assistance and provide the response that is required to keep them safe.”
The SHEILA app uses a range of next-generation technologies, connectivity and data to support the wellbeing of residents. Sensors, push alerts and data analytics are just a few of the features of the SHEILA app, which has received praise for its transformative innovation in the Covid-19 pandemic.
The development of this app has also been recognised by the Technology and Entrepreneurship Centre at Harvard University and won the 2020 Civic Innovation in Technology award.
The app has transformed adult social care in Sunderland and is currently active in over 1400 homes, allowing significant improvement to the way people receive care.
The digital projects also provide many opportunities for business growth across the city
The plans also allow for 1000 sustainable new homes and one million square feet of modern offices and commercial premises, creating new sites for businesses to grow. Working with Riverside Sunderland, opportunities for partnerships, community involvement and benefits for residents and businesses are on the rise.
Ensuring the sustainability of these projects is paramount to the city’s success. Liz St Louis mentioned the importance of this: “Every project, activity and decision is based on this philosophy as we collaborate for the wider success of our city and our joint future.”
“Our investments and partnerships in digital transformation underpin an overarching aim to provide a significant USP and further stimulation of inward investment and economic recovery, to boost the prospects of the city and its residents and businesses to compete and thrive well into the future.”
Winning Smart City of the Year 2020 was a great achievement for Sunderland. Liz summed up: “The recognition of our collaborative efforts at a national level was a huge achievement and a very proud moment.”
“It shows the wider impact of these achievements and really highlights the prevalence of our digital agenda in driving positive change and positioning Sunderland as an extraordinary place to live, work and play.”
Liz St Louis will be speaking at Housing Industry Leaders’s Virtual Smart Tour on September 22nd. To find out more or to become a delegate, click here.