Could Leakster be the key to reducing leakage?

Meet Leakster, one of the suppliers joining our Innovation Lab.

Could you tell us how you found out about the Innovation Lab and why you decided to pitch your idea?

We were first made aware of the Innovation Lab through a LinkedIn post liked by a contact of the company. The UK was always one of our defined target markets, as water pipeline leaks and bursts due to aging infrastructure continues to be an area of concern.  In addition, the UK announced a regulated requirement to reduce leakage amounts over the next five years.  This target has a clear alignment with the benefits of implementation of our technology.

Leakster is currently an Australian based start-up and entry into the UK market would be challenging without additional knowledge about the regulatory requirements, commercial drivers and defined technical specifications.  After reading more about the innovation lab we decided that the program was a perfect fit for our stage of development and our target market.

In simple terms, could you please summarise what your product does? 

Leakster has developed a world first pipeline condition monitoring solution for water utilities providing real-time information about the water network. Our Internet of Things (IoT) Active Sensors are permanently installed throughout a water network without shutting off water supply.  

We use advanced analytics, signal processing, and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to provide various insights about the condition of the pipe, including:

  • Identification of precise leak locations with an accuracy of 1 metre, up to 2 kilometres away from each sensor
  • Water loss statistics for each leak identified, with monitoring of leak changes over time
  • Identification of pipe segments at risk

What is the ultimate benefit your idea will bring to water customers in the North West? 

Safe efficient delivery of the most critical resource is the key role of any water distributor.  Our solution deployed as scale will ensure a more efficient delivery of water, saving time, money, and water, all while increasing service levels. 

Reactive maintenance associated with a burst event can lose huge amounts of water, shut down parts of the network and be expensive to repair, particularly in an urban setting. Water is often shut-off in order to repair the issue as it happens. 

Moving a water utility to a real condition-based maintenance regime allows the company to understand the condition of their assets and ensure that maintenance activities are prioritised.  This saves time, and money, and ensures better levels of service to the customer.  

All of these factors ultimately influence the customer relationship for the better, as customers will enjoy cheaper bills and higher levels of service. 

How are you hoping to develop your idea through the Innovation Lab? 

The lab program will enable us to trial our technology in an overseas market.  While we have a detailed understanding of the issues facing the water sector in Australia, we do not have first-hand experience with utilities in the UK. 

While the problem statement translates geographies, the implementation will likely need to be tweaked to suit local requirements.  For example, the desired connection into the network, and the pricing models that are most attractive to utilities, and the practicalities of operating in pipe materials that are not present in Australia. 

A working trial in United Utilities’ network will allow us to understand whether the existing algorithm is able to easily adapt to a new network without collection of new training data for the system, or whether new data is required before the system is optimised. 

This program will be our first steppingstone to entry into the UK market, and we hope to build a long-lasting commercial relationship with United Utilities. 

How important do you think programmes like the Innovation Lab are for developing ideas? 

The Innovation Lab run by United Utilities is extremely important for start-ups in the water and waste-water sector.  The ability for a start-up to get advice from the end customer early on provides an invaluable experience.  It ensures that technology companies are getting early product market fit and designing the right solution for the end customer.  This is extremely important, particularly when operating in a sector with high regulatory barriers, where access to data and assets is difficult.  It reduces the barriers to entry and ensures more innovative products are successfully brought to market. 

What does innovation mean to you in three words? 

In the words of Seth Goodwin “imperfectly seizing the unknown”

If you fast forward two years from now, where do you see your product?

In two years, we would like to be making a huge impact on water waste, ensuring water is delivered more efficiently to the end customer.  Our goal is to roll-out the technology first into developed countries (US, UK and Australia) to prove the benefits.  We are forecasting that a wide-spread roll-out of the technology will reduce water wastage through leaks and bursts to below 10% in the networks in which we operate.

In two years' time we will look to implement the technology in developing countries as we look to help tackle the Sustainable Development Goal of availability and access to clean water.