Before the Hub was created, the first challenge was to define precisely what was required to make it a reality. A data sharing agreement was developed so that all parties, Northumbrian Water, Northern Gas Networks, Northern Power Grid, Openreach, Durham County Council, Newcastle and Sunderland City Councils, Cranfield Soil and Agrifood Institute, British Geological Survey and Ordnance Survey, could agree to beforehand. This included combining the data sharing principles of 11 commercial and public sector stakeholders into a single agreement.
In addition, the project needed to:
- Allow access to the variety of different data layers through an easy to use API.
- Design customised front ends on desktop and mobile devices to allow planners and field engineers quick access to underground and above ground data.
- Build the business case from the perspective of utility companies, national and local government, and from a customer or citizen’s point of view too.
Ordnance Survey worked with Northumbrian Water on a template to bring out the business benefits of sharing data for utilities and local authorities, which was developed and shared amongst the parties.
All parties agreed that the data sharing architecture selected by OS avoided the need to introduce a separate data access portal but to link the existing business systems to the Hub. True interoperability was demonstrated with three different GIS systems consuming the combined underground data. The data could be ingested into GIS systems with internet access, regardless of format.
Ordnance Survey then created a web interface to enable excavation teams in the field to access the data relevant to them via a mobile device.
Northumbrian Water Group estimated that the Hub will deliver savings of approximately £1 million from a fully integrated system. These savings will come from a combination of reduced back office effort to produce safe working maps and plans, reduced costs associated with utility strikes and avoidance of abandoned jobs due to lack of information.
The Hub will improve data quality by making it easier for utilities to tell each other when they find inaccuracies in the map. The utilities map will also reduce the need for trial holes with their associated costs and inefficiencies, significantly lessening customer disruption by minimising street works and their duration.
The Hub also contributes to a reduction in utility strikes – every £1 in direct cost in utility strikes relates to £29 indirect costs. Source: Birmingham University. Fewer strikes will also reduce insurance costs.