Planetek’s going underground to keep our assets in check

Meet Planetek, 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? 

I found out about the Innovation Lab through the London World Water Tech summit in March 2020. I got in touch with United Utilities, and after the summit, I received information about the Lab from both LMarks and United Utilities.

I decided to pitch Rheticus® Network Alert because it can help provide a better service to its customers, improve its activities, and prioritise and optimise maintenance spending. Monitoring the infrastructures' stability is an important activity to ensure people's safety, environmental protection, and the safeguarding of assets at all stages of the life cycle of infrastructures, from design to production, management, and maintenance.

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

Rheticus® Network Alert improves inspection planning and efficiency of water and sewer networks, providing actionable reports of critical pipe segments to prioritise inspection activities and improve inspection efficiency.

The service enables predictive maintenance to prevent structural failures by using ground subsidence as an indicator of the likelihood of failure. The millimetre-scale ground movements are calculated, and quarterly updated, through the satellite's radar data processing.

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

The service offers an update and complete view of the entire pipeline network through actionable reports and GeoAnalytics. Inspections and maintenance activities are thus scheduled more efficiently and simplified as a whole. This activity led utilities to unlock cost-effective water-supply and sewer network management. Consequently, customers receive a series of benefits, such as:

  • Avoid usual inconveniences derived by a network failure (e.g. traffic, road interruptions)
  • Bill reduction thanks to the predictive maintenance, which avoid utilities to pay a considerable expense for repairing a failure
  • Citizens security. Climate change due to global warming are affecting also soil stability. The continuous monitoring provided by Rheticus® Network Alert can prevent significant damage and thus keep citizens safer

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

  • Introduction to the preventive maintenance approach and what information Rheticus® Network Alert provides United Utilities with keeping a specific focus on sewage. Training session on how to use Rheticus® Network Alert the best way, how to extract useful information from the business intelligence dashboard, and how to highlight specific segments of the network to keep an eye on
  • Integration of the Rheticus® Network Alert predictive maintenance approach with the United Utilities’ traditional procedures for network maintenance
  • Provide United Utilities with a detailed analysis of the preliminary critical segments
  • Scheduling a first in situ campaign of sewage inspections. Training on the information that the field campaign has to collect about damage classes
  • Analysis of the results of the first in situ campaign
  • Analysis of the Rheticus® Network Alert together with the ancillary data, if any
  • Scheduling a second in situ campaign of inspections
  • Analysis of the results of the second in situ campaign
  • Integration of Rheticus® Network Alert service with the traditional technique, determining a complementary approach to implement the predictive maintenance perspective

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

These programs are fundamental for developing ideas for several reasons. They allow:

  • To develop pilot projects for testing services/ideas and resulting in case history to share with interested users
  • To adapt services/ideas to different operational environments from the ones the developing ideas are usually able to operate
  • To develop relationships with new partners in a different market/ country, in attempt to create resellers who will contribute in providing assistance and field survey services useful for the complete exploitation of the services/ideas
  • To increase the knowledge of other organisational models and different regulations, procedures and operational frameworks of water and sewage services operated in other countries

What does innovation mean to you in three words?

Listening, Research, Development

Listening to the needs or interests; do research to find out, interpret, and analyse results; develop a method, an idea, and evolution of efficiency.

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

By two years from now, I foresee a spread adoption of the predictive maintenance approach by utilities and, thus, of Rheticus® Network Alert. 

I genuinely believe Rheticus® Network Alert represents an excellent innovation for utilities because it allows achieving significant benefits with a low/medium investment. As of today, most of utilities have an inspection planning process. The addition of an up-to-date and system-wide view on Likelihood of Failures (from Rheticus® Network Alert) will create an even more robust approach and will help identify those segments that are most at risk and in need of immediate inspection. 

This confirms the goodness and effectiveness of a service that, once integrated into the utilities' systems, it can become a standard part of their processes.