Posted: Friday 30th June 2017

Experts from global giant Microsoft will come from around the globe to lead the search for answers on the problem of water leakage, as part of Northumbrian Water's Innovation Festival.

A three day hackathon will see expert data crunchers from across the country join a Microsoft team comprising specialists from the UK, America and Hong Kong, to focus on tackling the subject of water leakage.

In a rare move, the hackathon will run alongside a special week-long sprint, where a second team of industry experts, academics, students and members of the public will work together to develop ideas to reduce water leakage.

Both activities will take place at Northumbrian Water's NWG Innovation Festival, which takes place at Newcastle Racecourse from July 10 to 14.

The hackathon will feature around 30 analysts working on data relating to leaks, soil types, water pressure, pipe materials and many other elements that may feasibly impact upon the likelihood and location of leaks. This is gathered from a wide range of places, including Northumbrian Water's own data, the Met Office, and social demographic information sources.

The festival is supported by headline sponsors IBM, Microsoft, Reece Innovation, CGI, Ordnance Survey and BT, who will be leading the search for answers in special focussed sprints, which apply leading design thinking techniques to problem solving and will run parallel to the hackathon.

One of those sprints, led by Microsoft and Northumbrian Water, is titled Keep It Flowing: what do we know about leakage from water pipes and how can we fix it?. The sprint will start on the Monday, when the gathered delegates will scope the nature of the problem, and work through the week to develop key ideas that will be subjected to scrutiny from members of the public. At the end of the week, the sprint's findings will be presented to a gathering of industry experts and regulators.

The NWG Innovation Festival aims to bring together the best innovative minds, using design sprint thinking to explore and create new solutions to some of the biggest social and environmental challenges we face.

Nigel Watson, Northumbrian Water's Group Director of Information Services, said: "Hackathons are a great way to place expert eyes on as much relevant data as possible, in order to gain a fresh insight into the subject of leakage. The more we understand on the subject, the stronger we make our chances of finding innovative ways to address leakage, reducing the amount of water that is lost from water pipes by companies across the world.

"The fact that we are running the hackathon and sprint alongside one another is pretty rare, so it's going to be quite exciting to see what comes from it. The idea is that we will come away with some really tangible ideas that could make a big difference to how we reduce leakage and the way we respond to leaks.

"We are hoping for some really ground-breaking ideas to come forward from the work being done on leakage at the NWG Innovation Festival, as well as in the other areas being tackled in the week of sprints."

The NWG Innovation Festival runs from Monday, July 10, to Friday, July 14, at Newcastle Racecourse.

It will see major national and global companies working with other businesses, universities, schools and members of the public to look at a range of issues, including flooding, the environment and social inclusion.

Also involved in running the special focussed sprints, which apply leading design thinking techniques to problem solving, will be the headline sponsors, IBM, Microsoft, Reece Innovation, CGI, Ordnance Survey and BT.

The work to tackle six key problems will take place in a true festival environment that will also feature live comedy and music, as well as inspirational talks.

The big questions under consideration during the week are:

Rain, Hail or Shine: How can we reduce flooding? Led by headline sponsor IBM

Keep It Flowing: What do we know about leakage from water pipes and how can we fix it? Led by NWG and headline sponsor Microsoft

Preparing for the Future: How do we upgrade our infrastructure for the 21st Century effectively and affordably? Led by headline sponsor Reece Innovation

Tomorrow's World: What will living and working look like in 2030? Led by headline sponsor CGI

How Green is Your City?: What can businesses do to improve the environment in the North East? Led by headline sponsor Ordnance Survey

21st Century Reach: How can we optimise a mobile workforce for a complex network business? Led by headline sponsor BT

The NWG Innovation Festival is also being delivered in association with Newcastle University, Durham University, Genesys, Interserve in partnership with Amec Foster Wheeler, Costain Resources, PC1, Tech Mahindra, Mott MacDonald Bentley (MMB), Wipro, Virgin Media Business, Schneider, Wheatley Solutions, Sopra Steria, Accenture, 1Spatial, Infosys, Unify, ITPS, Esh-MWH, and Pen Test Partners.

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