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UK: The increasing importance of AI, IoT and cybersecurity in integrated water-cycle management was recognized at the most recent British Water event, which took place in London recently.

As part of its annual data conference, British Water hosted a competition to highlight new talent working with the Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to bring benefit to the sector. It was sponsored by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) Hartree Centre – supercomputing, data analytics and AI research and innovation facility – along with multinational technology corporation IBM.

The winner was UK-based start-up Headlight AI, which produces integrated multi-sensor solutions for enhanced data collection and processing in extreme environments, their solution for the water industry is known as Telesto.

Their mission is to assist organizations in assessing and digitising their critical infrastructure across the most extreme environments, in all weather conditions, any time of day, above and below ground. Their initial focus is underground environments where integrated sensors and electronics, with proprietary software, enable robots to collect and process data where it would be unsafe or challenging for humans.

This approach not only improves health and safety during data collection but also provides a scalable solution with enhanced survey information for infrastructure inspection and maintenance.

“Winning this award is a great honour and is testament to the hard work of the Headlight AI team, as well as the partners we have worked with, who decided to make use of these new technologies,” said Headlight AI Co-founder and Chief Executive Dr. Jameel Marafie.

“British Water is so well respected within the industry, and their support means we can get the message to an even wider audience and encourage greater buy-in from the water sector for new technologies, including AI and machine learning,” he added.

The judging panel was comprised of Data Scientist Louise Butcher from the Hartree Centre; Lan Hoang from IBM Research and Justin Doran, a BIM4Water representative.

Shortlisted companies included:

  • Camnexus: A UK-based start-up that has created a real-time IoT water platform that uses low-energy to allow long-distance communication and connectivity
  • HULO: Based in Leeuwarden, Netherlands, the company works with clients to develop bespoke algorithms to detect, localise and categorise leakages.
  • Kinsetsu: An IoT asset management technology company based in Belfast, Northern Ireland

Dr. Mar Batista Segui, Head of Programmes at British Water said, “Growth in urbanization, population density and the resulting environmental impact is putting huge pressure on the water sector. Many of the inefficiencies of water utility systems can be addressed using cutting-edge technologies that allow utilities to continuously track, predict and respond to water issues in an effective and sustainable manner.

“That’s why it is so important to recognise the talent and innovations happening in this area.”

Joseph Weston, Business Development Manager at the STFC Hartree Centre added, “As the capability and ubiquity of these technologies increases, and they become more integrated into water company operations, the benefits provided by these technologies will continue to amplify via network effects. Increasing reliance on digital technologies will also require innovation in new cybersecurity technologies to ensure that our critical services are secure and resilient, and stakeholder privacy is secured.”

The British Water Data Conference was built on the discussion around making digital transformation possible for the water industry. Alongside the New Talent award, the conference looked at how data can help the water industry to achieve its future challenges including zero leakage, net-zero carbon emissions and asset management, especially with open data collaboration.

Participants also heard from regulator Ofwat on the new H2Open: Open Data in the Water Industry report, which was released in October 2021. The document outlines water companies’ open data strategies.

The event also included panel discussions on how changes in procurement, business models and innovation can help the industry match the pace of the data developments.

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