Innovation Demo Day

Last year, we received funding from Future Cities Catapult to demonstrate a “proof of concept” of our smart rainwater management system, something we’re building on and taking further in our OrganiCity project.

Photo credit: Digital Catapult 

In the summer, Digital Catapult and Future Cities hosted an Innovation Demo Day with “ten of the hottest start-ups ready to shape the future of IoT”.

Watch the full video here.

Photo credit: Digital Catapult

Caroline Gorski, Head of IoT at Digital Catapult, said the evening was about “celebrating the new technologies that we’ve supported through the Things Connected programme”.  She added it was “exciting” to see how these “innovators” had progressed, built on the ideas they had, and started to move closer to the marketplace.

Photo credit: Digital Catapult

Of the 120 SMEs that applied for the ‘Things Connected’ programme, OTA Analytics were one of only 25 that were selected. Around 60% of these SMEs (including OTA) had ‘graduated’ by the demo day event in July, meaning they had built and tested solutions, met customers and created a prototype to take forward.

Photo credit: Digital Catapult

The event brought together a variety of different applications of IoT and allowed innovators to share their experiences with an audience of like-minded trailblazers.

Photo credit: Digital Catapult

Dr Mike Short, Vice President of Telefonica, said some of the SMEs he’d met that evening were “very creative” and that he could see how collaboration could take them to “another level”. He added that IoT will connect more people and things “beyond our possible imagination”… and that the “opportunities are huge”.

Photo credit: Digital Catapult

Mark Harrup, Strategy and Business Development Director at BT said he’d seen “well-rounded ideas and slick presentations” but the thing they like the most is “the transformation of opportunities that  IoT brings”.

We’re hoping to continue that transformation and develop our idea further through our ongoing OrganiCity project. Keep following us for updates on twitter at: @OTAanalytics  and @OrganiCity_eu

OrganiCity Installations

This week, OTA began the installation of our smart rainwater tanks in Southwark. John and Jimmy set off to London on Monday evening, and have been laying the foundations for the four community tanks to be plumbed in.

Hossein will join them later in the week to attach the smart technology and sensors that will allow us to collect data and monitor the tanks’ performance for our OrganiCity project.

After a quick tour of the residential sites, Lorna and I visited a local primary school to discuss educational workshops we hope to deliver to encourage community participation and engagement with the technology.

For more information, updates and photographs follow us on Twitter at @OTAanalytics or @OrganiCity_eu

 

 

 

 

 

Team work and tank assembly

Just before the festive break, Team OTA gathered at their HQ to assemble the smart rainwater management systems (RMS) that will be installed in London next week. After their hard work bringing everything together, they celebrated 2017 with a Christmas meal in Exeter!

The tanks, built in the penultimate week of December, will be used to: manage the local water resources, and help to mitigate sewer flooding;  provide water for community gardening projects; and educate school children, through a series of creative and technical workshops linked to RMS.

Hossein, Peter, Dan, and John set to work assembling the fittings and loggers for the tanks which will be used in our OrganiCity project, “RainSense“.

They assembled four tanks, which will be installed at four London locations in collaboration with Southwark Borough Council, and an extra one which will be kept at OTA HQ for benchmarking.

OTA’s smart “Internet of Things” technology will be powered entirely off-grid, using solar panels. The data will be used to validate whether smart RMS can be cost-effectively deployed throughout UK cities as autonomous stormwater flood prevention and drought mitigation assets.

To find out more about what we’re doing in Southwark with OrganiCity, follow our progress on twitter @OTAanalytics or @OrganiCity_eu

 

Safe and SuRe: “Saving Our Water” Event

As a recent Alumnus of the University of Exeter (graduating from his Engineering Doctorate last week),  our CEO Peter recently attended a Safe and SuRe event, “Saving Our Water: Innovations in Urban Water Management.”

The Safe and SuRe team, led by Professor David Butler, aim to deliver resilient urban water systems to cope with today’s global challenges… much like OTA Analytics! Photos from the event are available here. 

Here’s a sneak peak of Pete in action, showing attendees some of the pilot installations we have already completed in London.

Photo Credit: University of Exeter, Flickr.

Pete also delivered an interactive game to show how we can better manage our resources, and what the smart cities of the future will be like! Find out more about what we’re doing by following us on twitter @OTAanalytics

Power to the People

We were recently awarded OrganiCity EU-funding for 2017-18 (@organicity_eu). Our Community Engagement Manager, Lorna Devenish, explains why our project, “Magic Water Management” is important.

Have you noticed how water in the urban space is always a problem? There’s either:

A) too much of it,

B) too little of it,  and

C) it’s always in the wrong the place.

Since the Victorians’ culverts, we’ve taken some pretty heavy-duty engineering steps to hide it out of sight andmake it less of a problem.

Some of those culverts are as big as a church. Some of the more modern open ones are like a two-lane highway.

That’s a lot of bricks and concrete to tame a stream.

The one thing we really haven’t tried is adapting so that we just…live with it…

Wouldn’t it be great if we could:

A) re-use “too much water” to limit flooding,

B) prevent “too little water” by capturing it in the first place and

C) by doing both at the same time, help our cities to adapt to what the future throws at them!

Gardeners at Southwark Council are struggling to access enough water for their water planters and green spaces. They’ve turned to us, as rainwater harvesting experts, for a solution.

We’re putting in a series of 800 L tanks fed from roof downpipes to capture rainwater for use in community gardening projects. The success of this project could see more deployed across London’s green spaces.

I’ll be working with those communities to explain what we’re doing, and, I hope, help to ensure the long-term viability of community projects.

Photo courtesy of May Project Gardens.

I’ve spoken to a lot of customers in RainWise Projects at OTA Analytics, and people love the concept of rainwater harvesting. They totally get it.Their passion for it makes me think back to a conversation I had when I first started in the water industry.

I was working in an area of the country where water bills were pretty expensive, and this was causing a lot of pain to customers. Part of my job was to justify the cost. A wise old head, the then Environment Manager, explained to me the visceral nature of people’s relationship with water. In olden times, the feudal landlord controlled the well and whoever controlled the water had the power. Putting water back in the hands of people gives them the power to grow food for themselves.

“Power to the people”, you might say? But we prefer “Community CloudCatchers…!”

Let us know what you think, tweet us… @OTAanalytics

My American Dream

Guest post by Lorna Devenish: 

It’s easy to take for granted a temperate climate, where the rain* brings all the watering you need for a pretty lush front lawn. Most things grow, with a bit of a helping hand, often too much.

*I live in Devon

I recently visited America, to stay with my sister and brother-in-law. I was astounded that everywhere I looked there was a perfect, uniform, bright green lawn, which had been watered, fertilised and laced with herbicide.

 

 

Weather varies widely across the continental USA: the Southwest is arid, the Northwest is cooler and wetter, and the Midwest and Northeast have four distinct seasons. Generally speaking, summer in America is hotter and drier than we’re used to in the UK. So the desire to grow (and water) lawns left me somewhat confused.

“Why do they do that”, I asked my sister, “It’s terrible for pollinators, water quality, biodiversity…you name it.”

She informed me that it was a status symbol, and sort of expected within a neighbourhood. I was itching to suggest ways to harvest rainwater, to reduce the amount of highly treated potable water sprinkled on the grass. She was sort of sympathetic and my American brother-in-law quite liked the idea of converting the grass to wildflowers, but they were not fully convinced.

As the heat of the day came in, we stepped inside for a glass of water. Herein came the second problem. Whilst taste is a personal preference, the water I drank did not taste good, and I was left wondering whether the high volumes of water being used (water use per capita is twice as high in the USA than the UK), were taking their toll on the pipes in the network.

With a growing population and less predictable rainfall patterns, we (i.e. inhabitants of the spaceship we call Earth) need to use what we have more wisely. Promoting water conservation is a necessity. Water should be viewed as a precious, scarce and lovingly treated resource. Rainwater should be seen as an opportunity, not a threat.

I wonder if a step change can be made culturally, in the deep-seated need to preserve a non-native, water-guzzling, green desert outside of our homes. Doing so, could create space for smart, sustainable, and (with careful design) aesthetically pleasing raingardens and planting.

Living the American Dream is one thing, but I can’t wait to get back to working towards a Sustainable Dream. Making small changes in planting, rainwater capture and day to day behaviors can help the UK become an exemplar to others on how to manage our precious water more sustainably.

Lorna Devenish is our Community Engagement Specialist, with 20 years+ experience in water sector communications. She has led co-design workshops for green space and urban realm projects. 

Dreamers and Do-ers at NWG’s Innovation Festival

Last week, OTA attended the closing day of the Northumbrian Water Group’s Innovation Festival. Spread over five action packed days, the festival took six challenges that face our environment, and asked its participants to apply design thinking techniques to try to solve them. The feeling of a summer festival, with a tented village and engaging evening events, made the venue and experience unique.

Festival-075.jpg

Photo: Nigel Watson and Heidi Mottram of NWG.

The resilience of existing business models to societal and environmental challenges was questioned across the following design ‘sprints’:

  1. Rain, Hail or Shine: How can we reduce flooding?
  2. Keep it Flowing: What do we know about leakage and how can we fix it?
  3. Preparing for the Future: How do we upgrade our infrastructure?
  4. Tomorrow’s world: What will living and working look like in 2030?
  5. How Green is your City: What can businesses do to improve the environment?
  6. 21st Century Reach: How can we optimise a mobile workforce?

Photo: PR19 banner artwork.

OTA attended the first ‘sprint’ on flooding, led by NWG’s R&D Manager, Chris Jones. Over five days, this sprint refined 1500 ideas to 4 solutions they felt were most deliverable and impactful, including:

  1. Flood Ranger – a combination of a digital platform and a man on the ground, to identify risk and flood events, and use this to inform the local community.
  2. Marketing Genius – based on the premise of making the situation “less scary for Mary (a typical customer).” The concept involves providing advice, information and education relating to flooding.
  3. Rain to River – using technologies and sustainable drainage strategies to keep surface water on the surface. Based on a network of blue-green corridors, connected through the landscape.
  4. FAST: Flood Assistant Service Technology – an app/ AI technology providing a single point of contact for the customer/end user, allowing them to prepare for, respond to and recover from floods.

Photos left to right: flipchart development of FAST; Rain to River artwork; a section of the banner artwork depicting the sprint’s core message (predict-mitigate-respond).

The solutions were supported by excellent artwork – creating something tangible that NWG could take away from the event and use to get the cogs in motion to kickstart these ideas. The afternoon session provided an opportunity for those who had been completely immersed in one sprint to see the innovative solutions and technological advances proposed by the other sprints. From moss trees, to ‘wombling’ (underground, overground…) mobile sensors and a life assistant named LISA, the festival didn’t disappoint in its quest to generate ideas.

Festival-078.jpg

Photo: The artist at work.

With NWG confirming a second festival next year, and many sponsors echoing their interest in participating again, the event can be chalked off as a big success. What remains to be seen, is how many of these smart ideas will be implemented. Heidi Mottram’s (CEO NWG) closing remarks,  summed up the OTA ethos…

“The world needs dreamers, and the world needs people who do things. More than anything, however, it needs people who do the things they dream about”.

We’re looking forward to collaborating with partners to deliver solutions to these challenges in the months ahead.

Innovative solutions to flooding in Glasgow

Last week, our Water Management Engineer, Sarah, attended the 3rd European Climate Change Adaption Conference in Glasgow (ECCA, 2017).  OTA had been given a slot to pitch in the Glasgow Innovation Challenge,  organised by Climate-KIC, Europe’s largest climate innovation agency and Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency, in partnership with the Metropolitan Glasgow Strategic Drainage Partnership (MGSDP).

The ECCA Innovation Day aimed to create opportunities for businesses, from micro- to multi-nationals, to join with researchers, students and other groups in tackling the adaptation challenges of cities and local governments.  There were two specific challenges to address:

  1. flood mitigation systems that can be retrofitted to commercial or residential properties
  2. innovative ways to engage stakeholders and communities to take-action in addressing Glasgow’s urban environmental challenges

We entered challenge 1,  where judges were looking to “identify interventions to reduce flood risks” specifically through “retrofitable solutions which act as a buffer for surface water flow, to temporarily hold water before slowly releasing it back into the environment or drainage system”. The pitch needed to showcase a solution which was easily retrofitable, attractive for private households/ businesses to adopt, low cost (£250/ household) and ‘ready to go’. If the solution could provide secondary benefits (such as water use or education),  be manufactured in Glasgow and be easily removed, if required, it may score a few bonus points!

Selected applicants initially pitched in a “Dragon’s Den”-style format, in a closed room, solely to the judging panel. After this, the judges selected their Top 3 to present to a wider audience at the conference, before selecting an overall winner.

We were selected – along with Jarred Lester from Rainwater Harvesting Ltd., and Peter Robinson of C&D Associates – to present in the final 3 pitches in the afternoon to an audience of 80-100 conference delegates.

The innovation presented by C&D Associates, SuDSBox, was chosen as the winner, and was therefore, the recipient of up to £20k to develop their innovation in Glasgow with MGSDP partners. We were delighted to be given the opportunity to pitch in an exciting competition, and to win a place in the Top 3!

 

 

The future of water in London and Budapest

This morning, OTA’s CEO, Pete made his way to the IWA Young Water Professionals conference in Budapest. Pete had been invited as a guest, after his prize winning presentation in Bath last month. 

The 9th Eastern European YWP programme is focused on “uniting Europe for clean water” by ensuring “cross-border cooperations” to identify problems, find causes and develop solutions. The packed 2-day programme hosts speakers from all over the world, with topics including innovative sampling and monitoring strategies; hydrodynamic studies; impacts of climate change; and flood risks.

Before his flight, Pete had time for a quick visit to Southwark Borough Council, in London, to discuss opportunities for rainwater harvesting in green spaces.

 

UK drought on the cards this summer?

At the weekend, the BBC reported the south east of England has received less than half of its annual rainfall since July last year.  Over 3 million customers have been advised to reduce their water use by:

  • not using sprinklers in the garden
  • replacing a long soak in the bath with a quick dip in the shower
  • turning off the tap in between teeth-brushing
  • using dishwashers and washing machines less frequently

The  risk of flooding from heavy downpours, and stresses on water resources as key threats from climate change to the UK. Models suggest we will be five times more likely to have wetter winters, with around 1 million homes, business and infrastructure at risk of flash floods by 2080. Extreme events such as droughts and heatwaves are forecast to become increasingly common, amplifying the pressure on our water resources and general services (such as healthcare).

Water UK, said everyone should consider using water carefully.

“We always advise that everyone use water wisely – especially during a period of dry weather – and to follow the advice of their water company should water saving measures be required.”

Many water utilities will supply water saving devices for free e.g. Northumbrian Water offer a package which includes a tap insert and universal plug amongst other devices such as a flush reducing gadget, and South West Water’s free water saving kit includes a water- and energy-saving shower head and a timer to limit your water use.

Furthermore, this article lists some of the best devices and technologies you can use to reduce water use. From shortening your shower time, to slowing the flow of your tap, and reusing water, the suggested technologies will provide benefits for the environment and your bank balance.

“Speaking of water butts, it’s always a good idea to have one lying around to collect rain. Much more eco-friendly than running the hose when the sweltering weather returns…”

Does this mean we’re in for a summer drought? There’s certainly plenty of speculation: with the wettest place in England  currently ‘bone dry’; gorse fires in Oban, and reservoir levels in Cornwall lower than in the last official water shortage.

This short video from the Met Office suggests there will be higher pressure surrounding the UK, meaning higher temperatures and less humidity… although these are just projections and “the favourite in a horse race, doesn’t always win”.

Either way, it’s always best to be prepared and consider investing in some water-saving devices. For more information about the products offered by OTA Analytics, contact us.