The North West water company, which introduced the UK’s first water sniffer dogs, is blazing yet another new trail.
This time United Utilities has teamed up with inventors to develop artificial intelligence capable of hunting leaks across their network of pipes.
Meet FIDO – the cutting-edge AI platform and in field device – which uses rapid machine-learning to ‘listen’ and interpret the unique data trail left by leaks. Then, a bit like sniffer dogs, it tracks them down to pinpoint the exact location of a leak.
As FIDO gets more effective at finding tricky leaks - like those in noisy areas where traditional listening methods are difficult – it is raising United Utilities’ game in the field of tech-led operations.
United Utilities is well known in the water industry for pioneering new and emerging technology to monitor every element of the company’s huge regional system and interpret this big data in real time to improve efficiency and customer service.
Now in daily usage, FIDO Tech’s leak detection technology has a greater than 85 per cent success rate, improving the rate leaks are found and outperforming traditional leak detection methods.
FIDO is the latest industry-rocking development to emerge from United Utilities’ highly respected Innovation Lab, which launches its next hunt for bright ideas next month.
FIDO Tech Ltd co-founders Victoria Edwards, CEO and Neil Edwards, Chief Technical Officer initially struggled to gain traction with their clever use of technology, but joining United Utilities’ Innovation Lab was the catalyst they needed to turn their idea into a market-ready game-changer in leak detection.
Victoria said, “The reason FIDO is easy to adopt and deploy in field is that it’s simple, rugged and easy to use. You just shake it to wake it and it fits into your back pocket. Once activated, it picks up sounds, vibrations and kinetic data and feeds them back to our growing leak library for real-time analysis, to say where the leaks are, to within a distance of one metre. It can either be used above ground as a listening stick or, like a dog, tethered to a lead and put inside the pipe itself.”
United Utilities Network and Capital Delivery Director Kevin Fowlie said FIDO had the potential to be a game-changer in leakage detection, especially as many leaks never showed above ground, and were difficult to find.
“We have thousands of loggers and monitors installed across our network to detect the barely perceptible sounds and vibrations which can be indicators of leaks, but it’s difficult for humans to interpret which data is a leak, and which could be a pump, traffic noise or something else. FIDO gathers all this data into its AI leaks library and it learns fast. It can even calculate, with increasing accuracy, how severe the leak is, helping us prioritise. It really is revolutionising our response to leaks.”
United Utilities’ Innovation Lab has been hugely successful bringing fledgling and emerging tech into the UK water sector over the past two years. Selected projects undergo an intensive 10-week incubation period, working with United Utilities teams, with unparalleled access to the water company’s data and expertise.
In FIDO Tech’s case, this involved everything from spending time on the streets of Manchester with leakage teams, to creating a bespoke testing site at the firm’s site in the North West.
Victoria added: “I’d like to thank United Utilities for their commitment to their Innovation Lab and their team’s support and encouragement over the past year. This type of collaboration rarely happens, but it’s given rise to a valued long-term relationship.”
“What we have now is a truly, global technology. Whether you’re using your own data loggers in New Zealand, a FIDO listening stick in the Sudan, or a FIDO Pro in pipe in Wigan, everyone can access our deep learning, leak library. This means, the world over, we can all play our part in helping to detect leaks and save water.”
United Utilities will launch its third annual Innovation Lab competition in June, and will again be looking for innovative companies with solutions to key issues, so the company can better serve its customers and make sure our colleagues have everything they need to deliver.
Successful applicants will get the chance to test their solutions in a live environment, while gaining access to and building relationships with senior United Utilities executives, with the potential to lead to longer-term commercial partnerships.