Thames Water splashes £1bn on digital transformation dive

The UK's largest water and waste company says its "taking the old and making it fit the future"

Thames Water van

Thames Water has announced a 1 billion digital transformation project to revolutionise its business over the next five years.

The company is aiming to boost its efficiency and customer experience with digital upgrades. A new command centre will be used to monitor trunk mains, take live readings from up to 200,000 sewer depth monitoring points and link its engineers to a smartphone app. This app will provide underground network visibility at street level, so the engineer can pinpoint where they need to be.

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"This is a landmark and transformative moment in our company's rich history, taking the old and making it fit for the future," said John Beaumont, Thames Water chief digital officer. "We're doing this by building a digital-first water company that will deliver an ever-improving service for our customers and dramatically boost efficiency across the board.

"Real-time data management and visibility will allow us to anticipate issues before they happen, speed up and personalise service, protect and enhance the environment, and keep taps flowing. We're extremely ambitious in our targets and relentless in our drive to use the most effective, modern tools to ramp-up performance and deliver a brilliant experience to our customers."

Thames Water is already using data management to monitor its underground network of pipes. It gives live insights into how much water is being produced across the firm's treatment works, how much customers use and its reservoir levels.

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As part of the technology adoption, Thames Water said it will further improve frontline operational capabilities through a digital app that monitors water pipes and sewers using sensors and acoustic loggers to create a real-time nervous system to help anticipate and prevent incidents or speed up response times.

This digital revamp comes after Thames Water was hit with a 65 million fine by regulator Ofwat last year after an investigation found the firm had failed to adequately control leaks. The company has already launched a new app, which helps engineers locate and resolve issues such as burst pipes.

The UK's largest water and waste company said the funding forms part of its five-year business plan to tackle the challenges of population growth and climate change. But an initial review by Ofwat earlier this year slammed Thames Water's five-year plan, saying it fell significantly short of the regulator's view of cost-efficiency.

As such, this is an example of a digital transformation strategy applied in a fashion that uses the latest technology to solve problems and inefficiencies in business operations rather than simply evolve IT systems for the sake of it. 

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