Tom Gardner, Head of IoT, CKH IOD

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Fast-tracking the move to digital services in 2021

Digital transformation in some sectors has been underway for over a decade, but there’s never been an accelerator like COVID-19. The immediate changes that were forced on people and businesses in 2020 have given proof to digital investment business cases that would have previously required extensive research and a reasonable acceptance of risk in order to implement.

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Northumbrian Water Innovation Festival – IoT innovation to improve efficiency and safety of field workers and assets

Utilities, as we’ve mentioned previously in our posts about digital transformation, face the unique challenge of having a highly dispersed and often aging infrastructure that comprises a diversity of moving and stationary parts. But there are clear opportunities to get better visibility and control using IoT, especially for these moving parts, including heavy field equipment and vehicles.

This is an issue that we’re excited to be addressing at Northumbrian Water's Innovation Festival on 14-17 September, sponsoring a design sprint that tackles this question: how could IoT give field technicians better, faster information about the availability, usage and location of mobile assets like diggers, lorries and other equipment?

Furthermore, field technicians work in a highly dynamic environment that can include hazards. Can IoT be used to deliver timely warnings about known unsafe operating conditions, especially when technicians are conducting repairs on urgent outages that must be fixed quickly?

Driving out paper and driving up efficiency

The scale of the challenge with a utility like Northumbrian Water is significant. It serves 1.3 million properties in Northeast England and provides over 1 billion litres of water a day, across a vast infrastructure that includes almost 400 pumping stations.

Already the technology deployed to manage its operation is immense, including SCADA systems that deliver reliable information about the operational side of the water network.

But while these accurately alert on incidents and outages, we believe SCADA data could usefully be enriched and enhanced if the physical infrastructure -– right down to a physical asset –- were more visible, using IoT sensors that could detect vibration, movement, pressure, temperature or other changes of condition. The same sensors could potentially be deployed on all mobile assets and equipment, which is the subject of this year’s Innovation Festival sprint. By connecting these physical assets with IoT, the utility could then develop new digital work methods that eliminate paperwork, logbooks and other manual processes around use and location of equipment.

Cranes, diggers, lorries, trucks, and other tooling needed to maintain the water pipeline includes heavy equipment whose location could be pinpointed using IoT, and the performance and utilisation of assets could also be monitored.

That means better, richer data that not only helps optimise efficiency, but also helps the organisation understand and justify its investment in field equipment. The potential for improved worker safety is also clear, as connected equipment and connected workers would make it possible to send and receive safety alerts -- including distress calls and real-time alerts on hazards.

Design thinking and focussed innovation

We’re delighted that despite the challenges of 2020 this year's Innovation Festival is going forward as a fully virtual event, allowing us to bring together solution partners in a condensed, four-day version of the typical festival timeline.

CKH IOD will be assembling a team of partners to collaborate on what will now be a four-day sprint, with a presentation to management on Day 4. As in previous years, we’ll be taking a design thinking approach, examining the entire challenge of mobile asset tracking, and looking at what kinds of information would be most beneficial to business and to technical stakeholders.

This is focused innovation, assembling our skilled partners around how to create a solution that advances both the business and the technology objectives of the customer. Rather than a process lasting months, a working model is ready within days for presentation to management, who can then take on board what's been achieved and assess whether to move forward with a fuller project.

Facilitating rapid time-to-value for utilities and IoT

Last year CKH IOD, actually took First Prize for a hack-a-thon showing how a data integration solution can minimise water supply interruptions. This year, although the festival will be virtual, we look forward to again doing what we do best: facilitating collaboration with the right partners, and helping explore new ways to get better, faster, richer information that drives down cost and improves efficiency.

Business problems, particularly for utilities, are always holistic rather than isolated. The Innovation Festival provides an excellent opportunity to look at problems in the round, mindful of the wider context and investment of the organisation.

For more information and to see the full line-up of the 2020 Northumbrian Water Innovation Festival, visit

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IoT and automation help reduce social contact and keep businesses moving

The Covid crisis of 2020 has obviously changed daily life, but it's also changing companies' ideas about technology, and how more automation and more connectivity can help them stay productive during lockdown and social distancing.

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Utilities: the IoT trendsetters

For utility companies, digital transformation has a unique complexity and urgency. With dispersed infrastructures, including network elements that may be decades or even centuries old, it's challenging for utilities to achieve business objectives and meet regulatory requirements, which in the UK include a net-zero carbon emission deadline of 2050. And as regulated entities, utilities don't set their own prices, so driving efficiencies is the only way to realising a profitable business.

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IoT digital transformation Utilities and Infrastructure

IoT in 2020 and beyond

By 2025 there will be 42 billion connected IoT devices generating almost 80 zettabytes of data. But what benefits are enterprises gaining from these connected devices and all of that data? As we enter into a new decade, Tom Gardner, Head of IoT & MVNO at CKHIOD outlines how IoT is making an impact in the retail, transport and utilities sectors.

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Why Every Global IoT Deployment Needs eSIM

Global IoT services can prove challenging for organisations to implement efficiently, cost-effectively and with certainty throughout the device lifetime. Fortunately, eSIM makes this go-anywhere, always-on connectivity feasible.

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IoT Partnerships Virtual SIMs