The ground-breaking consultancy agreement between EXPLORE-AI, a Cape Town based technology consulting company and British water utility Thames Water has been extended, with EXPLORE-AI confirmed as a prefered Data Science partner.
In 2019, EXPLORE-AI, the consulting division within the EXPLORE Group (which also houses the Explore Data Science Academy), was tasked with delivering the analytics involved in monitoring the water flow within Thames Water’s vast distribution piping network.
One initiative built an app to help Thames Water’s leakage technician identify which pipes are most likely to have leaks, enabling them to improve their productivity. The project has been an unmitigated success, as shown by the fact that the EXPLORE-AI ’s app has received “highly commended” accolades in both the Thames UK App of the Year and the Productivity App of the Year categories in the United Kingdom and has recently been shortlisted for the Data Analytics, Cloud and AI Project of the Year.
Aidan Helmbold, Explore AI’s executive in charge of the project, says, “We are delighted with being named as a prefered Data Science Partner, which not only signals our success in this endeavour, but also gives us the platform to further build on our unique ‘Intelligent Water Solutions’ capability.“
The partnership has grown exponentially in two years. “We now have more than 70 data scientists and engineers working specifically for Thames Water across 10 product squads. These teams deliver products that reduce leakages, respond quickly to supply interruptions, prevent blockages and flooding and thereby save money, reduce wastage and eliminate environmental pollution,” says Helmbold.
Thames Water is the largest private water utility in Europe and daily supplies over 15 million customers within London and the greater Thames region with 2.6 billion litres of drinking water, while also treating 4.4 billion litres of wastewater. Over 500 operational sites assist in the treatment of its water or waste.
Helmbold explains how the partnership began, “During Cape Town’s 2018 critical drought conditions and resultant water crisis, data science students at EDSA were tasked with creating a database using historical water consumption data by suburb, available on Cape Town’s open data portal. It was here that the data analytics insights and analytical tools were developed. The ultimate goal of the project was to provide insights into the city’s water shortages and provide recommendations to alleviate the crisis.”
At the time, Thames Water’s Chief Digital Officer, John Beaumont, said, “The decision to appoint Explore AI was based on its in-house data science capability and its proven expertise in mapping the various data sources that contribute to understanding the factors affecting Cape Town’s water supply. By working with Explore AI, Thames Water has entered an unprecedented new era in disruptive technology that enables us to digitise our business in ways previously not possible.”
One aspect of the technology has been the growth in low-cost sensors and devices that collect data from within the water delivery system. “These low-cost sensors allow Thames Water to measure the level of waste water in a sewer. Depending on the geometry of a sewer, there is a minimum headroom space required to avoid a blockage, flood or pollution. If we can detect abnormalities in the headroom levels digitally, we can deal with potential problems quickly,” Beaumont explained.
Helmbold concludes, “Explore AI’s pioneering development of Water Intelligent Solutions, which enables utilities to manage these precious resources more effectively, has proven itself to be successful in one of the largest, most sophisticated and demanding environments in the world and we are justifiably proud of this. But more than this is the clear fact that South Africa now possesses the skills, dedication and aptitude to compete in the tech field with anyone in the world.”