United Utilities rolls out AI across network as trial yields huge energy savings

Company says its AI platform, called HARVI, can assess vast amounts of data on a wide range of factors such as weather, demand for water, pump performance and electricity prices. Tony McDonough reports

water, tap
United Utilities supplies water to homes and businesses across the North West

 

Liverpool city region’s water supplier United Utilities is to be the first water supplier in the UK to introduce artificial intelligence (AI) across its entire North West Network.

The Warrington-based utility firm says its new AI platform, called HARVI, can assess vast amounts of data on a wide range of factors such as weather, demand for water, pump performance and electricity prices.

This is used to help make decisions on the most cost-effective and efficient way to run pumps, detect burst pipes and minimise the risk of discoloured water.

United Utilities has signed a framework agreement with EMAGIN, a Canadian technology firm. The deal follows on from a successful trial which began in February after EMAGIN was selected as a finalist in United Utilities’ Innovation Lab.

The Canadian team was given access to the water firm’s huge wealth of data, systems and expert knowledge to incubate their ideas and help shape their technology for the UK and European water markets.

In the 12-week trial, which took place across Oldham in Greater Manchester, HARVI demonstrated energy savings of 22%. United Utilities now plans to deploy the artificial intelligence platform in phases across the whole North West region by the end of 2019.

Chief operating officer, Steve Fraser, said: “Water networks are complex systems, and technology like this is going to play an integral role in our drive towards ‘systems thinking’, helping us make more sense and better use of big data.

“It will free up our people to be more proactive and that’s going to have a direct impact on levels of service. Water companies are going to have to start thinking in this way and embracing new technology if we are to meet customers’ expectations on value and reliability.

“The pilot scheme clearly demonstrated the huge potential for efficiency and energy savings which will help reduce our operational costs. This is going to be vital over the coming years as we aim to reduce customer bills by 10.5% in real terms from 2020.”  

United Utilities and EMAGIN are now considering running further trials of the technology in other applications such as wastewater operations and leakage reduction.

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