Tag Archives: water supply

Safeguarding the UK’s future water supply- pirates aside

Keeping our future water supply secure- except maybe from pirates.

It might sound silly that on this little island of ours- surrounded by water- we could find ourselves running out of fresh water in as little as 40 years, but as things are, this may well be our reality. It is estimated that by 2050, the UK will have shortages in our water supply of up to 10,000 million litres a day. Innovations in technology and services will be necessary if we want to avoid this grim prospect.

Ten small/mid-sized companies in the UK stand at the ready to deliver feasibility projects designed to help businesses keep our future water supply covered. If successful, these innovative projects could be applied both here and abroad.

With business investment, the total cost of these projects is just over £1 million, with an excess of £500,000 in funding from the Technology Strategy Board, and a potential £100,000 by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), with contributions from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) as well.

The aim of these projects is to give businesses the means to develop the preliminary ideas necessary for the creation of innovative new technologies. These may then become larger projects with the potential to create the new markets of the future.

It is estimated that around 1.6 billion people currently live in countries where scarcity of water is a serious issue, making it a clear and weighty environmental issue for the world as a whole.

The Technology Strategy Board intends for this new venture to find solutions for safeguarding our future water supply, but also create a market opportunity by funding companies that can find new, profitable ways of using the water sources we have at present, more efficiently.

The challenge has been set- every company that is successful will be charged with creating new technologies and processes that can either save or recycle 1,000 million litres of water a day.

Of the intended projects, a couple of particular interest are those of Xeros, and Aquamesh:-

-Aquamesh will be using their knowledge of the mining industry to create a low energy sensor network for farmers, which should significantly reduce the amount of water used in irrigation, and potentially increase the yield of crops.

-Xeros, most recently in the limelight for their innovative new washing machine which use virtually no water. Xeros will be working with the leather industry to find a way of cleaning leather without consuming vast amounts of fresh water, and reduce the polluting toxins in the huge billion pound industry.

Connected cities are needed to survive the urban growth

The UK government wants the UK to be the technology centre for Europe this year. But to achieve this, they will have to look at every part of their economy. One area that is being closely looked at lately is our cities. To drive growth, cities need to be more connected. These highly connected cities need to be driven by super-fast connectivity and they can help drive the British innovation over the next few years.

But if the UK wants highly connected cities in the future, they need to start planning things now. And they already have been thinking about this. An example is the Intel Collaborative Research Institute (ICRI) for Sustainable Connected Cities. ICRI is a joint effort between two of London’s top universities: University College and Imperial College London.

Social, economic and environmental challenges need to be tackled and it’s up to this new institute to investigate how technologies can help tackle these issues. They want London to become a ‘smart city lab’ and they want to create a blueprint for ‘connected cities’ in the UK.

So the researchers of this new institute will investigate some of the new intelligent technologies to use on our cities. An example is the network of sensors that can be used to quickly access data on trends for traffic, pollution and water supply. If they have all this data, they can analyze it to see how well the city is operating. Norway already has a centralized data platform like this called ‘CityData’.

A real-life application of this can be the traffic monitoring. Traffic congestions can be monitored and analyzed to develop smart transport timetabled and alerts. Councils could start to target areas to send more wardens, re-route traffic or provide warnings on mobile apps.

But this can only work when you have a huge amount of data at hand. So the right tools and bandwidth need to be in place first before you can start capturing and carrying these high volumes of information. When the connectivity isn’t restricted to just big businesses but to all of the city, innovation and growth can be stimulated and can flourish.

So using data more wisely is a very good new innovative approach to cities. London is already embracing this with as an example the London Gird for Learning (LGFL). All 33 London local authorities are involved in LGFL, and it’s making the most out of a dedicated public services network. It’s already providing schools with new technologies like e-learning tools such as video conferencing, virtual learning platforms and podcasts.

By 2050, there will be about nine billion people on this world, and most of them will be living in urban spaces. If cities don’t prepare systems to manage every aspect of the way a city operates, they will be challenged in all sorts of ways.  So cities need to start investing today in forward-thinking research and super-fast connectivity that will make the ‘connected cities’ reality.