September 2019 saw the return of the United Utilities Innovation Lab!

We have once again joined forces with an international group of suppliers to develop and test new technologies with the potential to enhance our processes to better serve our customers. 

With the 10-week innovation programme now underway, we would like to introduce the first of the eight companies selected to join the Lab.

This week we met up with Victoria Edwards, Co-founder of FIDO (Free Inserted Data Objects), to find out more about the team’s ambitions for the Lab and to understand what innovation means to them. 

Hi Victoria, great to have you in the Lab! So, let’s start at the beginning… What is FIDO?

FIDO was designed to fulfil a need to find leaks accurately, efficiently and cheaply. We work on the power of three: we inset three free-floating objects into pipes that collect data on noise, turbulence and gyro movement every millisecond. The difference in these data sets between the three FIDOs gives leak accuracy to within one meter and can also indicate the size of the leak. This means that we can help utilities companies to make sure that the right engineer with the right kit can go to the right location, to fix leaks on the first attempt.

What made you want to join the Lab?

I was at a Twenty65 conference and got strong-armed by Keiran! He said, ‘You’ve got to apply’. I’m not a natural form-filler – I’m actually a musician by trade – but the L Marks and United Utilities teams were brilliant at chasing us and making sure we completed our applications. 

How will FIDO benefit United Utilities’ customers in the North West?

United Utilities’ customers will see environmental as well as financial improvements. Being able to empirically detect a leak location and size gives a better chance of a first time fix, reducing the environmental footprint of lost water and fossil fuels needed to replace this. Also, FIDO will help to prevent large leaks and the disruption that comes with them, saving time, money and improving service.

What do you want to achieve over the next 10 weeks in the lab?

I’ve been really impressed with how committed United Utilities are to the Innovation Lab. It’s not something I’ve seen elsewhere in the UK and I think it should be shared as best practice throughout all sectors. I’m a big believer in collaboration – I think having a ‘build it and they will come’ attitude would be arrogance on our part. Over the next 10 weeks we want to really focus on collaborating with United Utilities, gathering feedback and making changes to FIDO, so we can make our product the engineer’s best friend on all United Utilities vans.

In three words, what does innovation mean to you?

Obsession, hope, belief.

Looking ahead, where do you see FIDO in two years?

I want to see FIDO in the back of every engineer’s van, helping to find leaks and making sure they get fixed first time!