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.


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.


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. 

A curious visitor…

As OTA’s installation team opened the door of their trailer in Exmouth today, an unexpected visitor was found lurking in between the equipment….

Pete’s cat, Bungle, had hidden amongst the equipment in the trailer overnight and found herself delivered to a SuDS retrofit Scheme.

Whilst John made a litter tray for Bungle using gravel in his van, Pete called his wife who made the 45 minute drive to pick her up!

Bungle was clearly keen to see, first hand, OTA’s great work!




OTA’s CEO awarded best presentation at IWA YWP Conference

Over The Air Analytics impressed at the 18th IWA Young Water Professionals conference, “A Water World Without Boundaries“, with CEO, Peter Melville-Shreeve,  awarded “best talk” on the final day of the conference.

His platform presentation, “Rainwater Harvesting for Water Demand Management and Stormwater Control in the UK: A Pilot Study” was based on research carried out during his STREAM IDC engineering doctorate (EngD) at the University of Exeter.

The conference, hosted by the University of Bath, included topics ranging from the provision of safe drinking water; to approaches for addressing the water-food-energy nexus; and capacity development and knowledge sharing in the water sector.  The Young Water Professionals programme was set up to develop “opportunities, ideas, skills and best practices” through interdisciplinary engagement and career development.

Over The Air “Catapult” to the Future

With an ever-growing population, an unpredictable climate, and stretched resources, the city of London faces challenges every day. Future Cities Catapult, whose mission is “to advance urban innovation, to grow UK companies, and to make cities better” launched an open call to solve some of London’s challenges: from tackling noise pollution to making cycling safer. The call, Things Connected, created an opportunity for businesses, universities and city leaders to work together to solve some of the cities problems, using devices connected  to London’s Low-Power LoRaWAN (Long Range Wide Area Network).

Our sister company, KloudKeeper, was one of six UK SME’s awarded a share of the £50,000 funding. KloudKeeper used this to demonstrate smart rainwater capture, reuse and release hardware, which can minimise flooding and reduce water demand. We’re currently working hard to build on this smart rainwater harvesting trial, using our SYMBiotIC software. We will roll out more trials in 2017 with project partners at the University of Exeter,  University of Sheffield (TWENTY65) and University College London.