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New AI-based technology enables water companies to instantly assess drainage network impact from potential housing growth

Posted: Monday 26th November 2018

An innovative AI-based technology is set to transform how water companies plan strategically for housing growth. EnginSoft UK’s strategicGIANT quickly and accurately assesses the impact of specific housing developments on the local water infrastructure, enabling planning and costing times to be significantly reduced. The technology was developed in consultation with Anglian Water and is currently being beta tested prior to full release.

“The Infrastructure charge legislation means water companies must predict the impact on their drainage services up to 20 years into the future, over many different development scenarios and growth rates,” says EnginSoft UK Managing Director, Bipin Patel. “Up to 300,000 new homes are expected to be built in the UK over the next year alone, making it essential that water companies can accurately predict and plan for the growth in demand on their local flood and drainage infrastructure. This is a significant new task which Anglian Water foresaw five years ago; they asked us if our machine-learning expertise could automate the process and make it more responsive to any development scenario.”

EnginSoft UK’s strategicGIANT is based on the company’s AI and machine-learning expertise that has been proven in the manufacturing and automotive industries. It enables the sidestepping of extensive manual assessments and provides enhanced flexibility to respond to changes in growth forecasts for upgrade plans and project scheduling. The system could revolutionise the evaluation process and streamline development of the water collection infrastructure for new housing yet requires no specialist modelling skills.

“We believe that strategicGIANT can help water companies cope with the uncertainties of housing growth by significantly accelerating traditional simulation processes that have been both labour and cost-intensive, and extremely inflexible,” explains Patel. “Once a digital twin of the drainage network has been created, the time required for new housing growth impact assessment is cut from weeks to minutes. This is especially timely as the industry prepares for AMP71 which transfers risk to water companies, potentially resulting in over or under investment in network upgrades.

“One of the major benefits of the technology is that strategicGIANT requires no specific skills to operate or interpret,” he continues. “Data can be used to swiftly and accurately predict requirements, enabling the user to analyse the impact of numerous scenarios and devise an optimal upgrade strategy without the need for disparate, fragmented studies.”

Network flooding simulations were previously required as a response to a planning application: a water company would assess the potential impact of a proposed development on the water drainage network as part of the planning process. Infrastructure charge legislation now means developers pay water companies a per-dwelling fee for assessments to forecast future capacity requirements. Patel says, “Modelling is possible when the inputs are known – but when inputs are unknown, advanced machine learning techniques come into their own”.

Gareth Barker, Developer Growth PR19 Programme Manager for Anglian Water, says, “strategicGIANT is ideal for Anglian Water to operate effectively in 2018 and beyond, and we’ve worked hard with EnginSoft UK to create a system which responds to the key issues we face in the industry, such as high risk and low flexibility. We can now develop truly strategic plans for the next three, five or ten years knowing that we can instantly model any permutation of growth scenario –we don’t have to wait for prohibitively long modelling studies.”

Barker continues: “Nuanced legislative changes are driving the need for water companies to evolve their ability to instantly assess the impact of wastewater. We can now generate strategic plans with a high degree of accuracy, reducing the risk for us of either over- or under-allocating funds – which in turn smooths stakeholder relations and increases confidence.”

Assessments provided by strategicGIANT are graphical, interactive and easy to interpret. The software has been designed to offer intuitive navigation and data input, with a clear understanding of the impact of growth from the solution output, including ‘what-if?’ analysis. “We aim to ensure that water companies can avoid the problems we’ve seen in other cities around the world and can plan so that housing growth receives the headroom it needs, when it needs it,” finishes Patel.

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