Last week, the Northumbrian Water Group Innovation Festival took place – and it was a huge success! 510 of the world’s leading businesses and most innovative minds gathered for this event to tackle 13 major social and environmental challenges.
As detailed in our previous blog, our sprint team’s role at the festival was to create the first combined underground map of the region in collaboration with key stakeholders such as utilities, local authorities and partners. The idea was to create a Combined Infrastructure Map (CIM) for Newcastle and its surrounding area including water, wastewater, gas, electricity, telecoms and other underground services.
We have to say, the Northumbrian Water Group Innovation Festival is a truly unique event. It focuses on several societal and environmental issues and, throughout the five day festival, those involved apply design thinking techniques to try and solve them.
Naturally, we have jumped at the chance to get involved. As geospatial data and mapping experts, we are addressing the issue of whether an underground map of the UK can be created. As part of the ‘Combined Underground Infrastructure Map’, we will be leading a sprint team to explore the possibility and consequent benefits of creating a collaborative underground dataset and map of the UK.
Are you a local authority, a utility company or a highways agency with underground assets? If so, you may be interested in our Project Iceberg industry workshop on 27 June.
Project Iceberg is a collaborative project between us, the British Geological Survey (BGS) and Future Cities Catapult (FCC) to explore how to better capture, collect and share data about underground assets and geological conditions.
Guest blog by Andy Ryan, Senior Technical Product Manager
When I go somewhere new, I usually look up a map (OS of course) before I go. I’m not quite sure why I do, but it’s a habit of mine which my children tease me about. In the world of business, when location is involved then you probably do the same, often without realising it. Using a sat nav to route a delivery van, ascertaining if a house you want to buy is on a flood plain, reviewing a site for a new development, or planning some underground pipe replacement all involve ‘maps’. But what if the map was blank or only partially complete, or you had to ask lots of other different people to send you bits of information that you had to stick together and even then you were not quite sure if it was complete?
When you need to work under the ground this is how it can feel. Lots of organisations have information, but it can be hard to share the information quickly and to common standards. This creates delays, unanticipated disruptions, extra costs and danger to those working in these areas. This is a widely recognised problem and the direct costs to the UK of accidental damage to utilities alone has been estimated at £150 million, with associated indirect costs, such as traffic disruption, of ten times this*. If other potential costs or savings are factored in, for example assessing the potential of brownfield sites, identifying infrastructure at risk from subsidence or tree roots, then the benefits of a map that includes what lies below ground increases significantly. The Treasury estimate that greater cross-sector collaboration with infrastructure networks across GB could save the economy £3 billion#.