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Bringing AI to sewer scanning – can you help?

Please note that as of 9th August this challenge is now closed to further entrants due to the high number of parties involved. 

Challenge update February 2022: After completing initial trials of company offerings, we are currently testing three companies in a more live business as usual environment to see how the products work day to day both in terms of accuracy and usability. We will update on progress shortly. 

Every year Wessex Water surveys 400km of sewers via CCTV – with staff watching the footage live and manually recording the issues seen in our sewers. This is a costly process, with over £1m spent each year. We want to improve the efficiency of this spend – can our staff survey more sewers through the use of AI?

What do we use the footage for?

This CCTV footage forms a key part of our asset management strategy, providing information on the state of our sewers and allowing us to prioritise maintenance programmes to those areas most in need of repair. But with just 400km surveyed every year on a network of over 35000km, we have a long way to go before we have a view of the condition of a significant portion of our network.

What do we want?

We want to be able to use our CCTV teams more efficiently. Rather than spend time controlling the cameras and manually logging the footage at the side of the road, can our teams simply ‘drop and collect’; drop the CCTV vehicle in one manhole, and collect it further down the line, with the footage collected analysed using an AI based ‘Defect recognition algorithm’ technology to automatically produce a log of issues. Our teams can then spend time reviewing specific parts of the footage as indicated by the logs, rather than the whole length of the pipe.

We want to share some of our CCTV footage taken over the years and see if there are any companies out there who can develop an AI algorithm from it – we know there are some early movers in this market, so by sharing some of our footage we hope we can speed up the development of this area.

AI Process

AI Results

Images courtesy of Josh Myrans, Exeter University

How to get involved

We have published some short clips of our CCTV footage  for interested parties. If you’d like to get involved then please:

  • Email [email protected] registering your interest
  • We’ll hold an information session (via skype) on the 26 July, 10am – 11am (UK time) for you to ask any immediate questions
  • We’ll then share the footage with the participants (sadly this site isn’t designed to be a YouTube replacement – 20km of CCTV survey footage would cause us server issues!)
  • You then have 3 months to see what algorithms you can develop
  • We will then share a further set of files for you to test your algorithm against
  • By the 29 November we’d then like any parties who believe they have developed a functional algorithm to send us the logs, compliant with the British Standards (CSV file is acceptable, which we will run through in the skype session), for this second set of footage
  • We’ll then review those logs against those taken by our teams. If we see at least an 80% success rate compared to the manual method, we’ll engage with those companies to understand the costs and implications of implementing the scheme more widely.

Note that there may be multiple companies who develop an algorithm at this stage. This may result in a tender being required to identify a partner company. Any tender will of course be subject to cost.

Interested? Email [email protected] to get involved.

Important points

  • If we contract with a party, we’d be looking to secure a discount against the market rate charged in the future as recognition of the contribution made in developing the algorithm that can be sold to the wider water industry.
  • Taking part in this marketplace challenge does not guarantee a contract at the end for provision of AI services on CCTV surveying. A tender may be required, and Wessex Water reserves the right to stop the project at any time.