Advancing open data
Northumbrian Water has joined the Industry Data for Society Partnership (IDSP) to advance more open and accessible private-sector data to tackle some of the world's biggest challenges.
As the name suggests, open data is openly accessible, exploitable, editable and shared by anyone for any purpose.
The private sector has long been called upon to work more collaboratively with their data to tackle some of the world's biggest challenges such as climate change, pollution, energy and a plethora of water challenges.
Other companies joining the group include GitHub, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), LinkedIn, Microsoft, R2 Factory and UK Power Networks.
We firmly believe in the power of data and have a long track record of using data to fuel innovation.
IDSP members commit to the following:
- To open data or provide greater access to data to help solve pressing societal problems in a usable, responsible and inclusive manner
- To share knowledge and information for social benefit
- To invest in skilling a broad class of professionals to use data effectively and responsibly
- To protect individuals’ privacy in all these activities.
"We firmly believe in the power of data and have a long track record of using data to fuel innovation,” said Nigel Watson, group information services director at Northumbrian Water Group.
"Since our first open, annual Innovation festival back in 2017, we have run almost 200 sprints, hackathons and data dashes and most of these have been powered by data from our own company along with that of our peers and partners."
How does 'open data' relate to water?
Open data seeks to remove the challenges from siloed operations.
For example, if a utility is collecting data on leakage or water uses, another utility might be able to use that data to corroborate its findings and push for investment in a solution to fix the challenge.
This is not the first time Northumbrian Water has pushed for open data in the water sector.
At the start of 2022, Watson proposed the idea of 'Stream', an open data project involving 11 water companies' chief information officers.
Anglian Water, Dwr Cymru, Scottish Water, SES Water, Severn Trent, Southern Water, South West Water, Thames Water, United Utilities, Yorkshire Water, Aiimi, Costain, Open Data Institute (ODI) and Sia Partners are all participating in the water industry open data project alongside Northumbrian Water.
Ofwat supported the pilot with £880,000 as part of its Water Breakthrough Challenge, with the organisation hoping for successful completion of Phase 1 will let them re-submit for up to £8 million in funding.
Open data challenges
According to Watson, the industry hopes to share open data on leaks, pollution, flooding and energy use — all of which are central to water companies' business problems.
The next challenge will be getting the water companies to agree on a common data format.
It’s crucial for the water sector to come up with new, innovative ideas to fix the challenges that the sector – and society – faces.
Watson believes that the datasets will decide on whether the utility opts to go centralised or in some way distributed/hybrid.
John Russell, senior director of strategy, finance and infrastructure at Ofwat said: “It’s crucial for the water sector to come up with new, innovative ideas to fix the challenges that the sector – and society – faces