BT among firms running AI trial to create ‘intelligent sewer network’

severn trent ai sewer

UK telecoms group BT is teaming up with water company Severn Trent and others on a trial to plug in AI into waste water systems to make them more efficient and predict upcoming watery problems.

The project will see AI systems and real time monitors predict weather conditions, forecast maintenance, and control waste flow, and will allow pumping stations to operate independently.

The full gang working on it is BT, Severn Trent, Rockwell Automation, 8 Power, Blackburn Starling, University of Exeter, Thames Water and South West Water. It will take place in Alfreton, Derbyshire, and is set to run until 2025.

The idea is the system will lead to less ‘overflow activations’ and better management of the water network in storm conditions. The announcement boasts that this project – which doesn’t appear to have a name – will’ help create the blueprint of how waste networks can operate effectively using AI in the future.’

“This project has the potential to transform our waste networks, and it’s truly exciting that innovation and technology are at the heart of it,” said Rich Walwyn, Head of Head of Asset Intelligence and Innovation at Severn Trent. “By turning to innovation and developing the artificial intelligence, this technology is able to forecast and get the network in prime condition. So, when we know heavy rain is predicted, the network will automatically optimise the network’s storage ready for the extra flow and divert flow away from overflows and hot spots reducing the risk of flooding and pollution.

“This means our customers and environment are more protected, and we can better control the flow of the extra rainfall to the treatment works. The AI technology will help the network be forward thinking and prepare itself in the event of storm conditions.”

Danny Longbottom, Director of England and Wales for BT added: “This is a vitally important project for the water industry and a great example of how we can use technology for good. We are providing the predictive maintenance technologies required to help address challenges around waste flow. We will also demonstrate how smart technology can be the bedrock to build an intelligent sewer network.”

Who knows how it will go, but it could end up being one of those not so glamorous but actually quite useful implementations of tech to existing infrastructure. It also sounds like the sort of thing the EU and US have in mind when they announced yesterday their collaboration on supporting AI projects for the ‘public good’, such as climate change, natural disasters, health and medicine, electric grid optimisation, and agriculture.


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