Computer experts from around the globe are coming together for a three-day hackathon to find answers to the problem of water leakage, as part of an Innovation Festival being run by utility company, Northumbrian Water.

The hackathon will see expert data crunchers from across the country join an international team from computer giant Microsoft to focus on tackling water leakage. The 30 analysts will be working on data relating to leaks, soil types, water pressure, pipe materials and many other elements that may feasibly impact upon the likelihood and location of leaks. The data will be gathered from a wide range of sources, including Northumbrian Water’s own data, the Met Office, and social demographic information.

Nigel Watson, Northumbrian Water’s Group Director of Information Services, said: “Hackathons are a great way to place expert eyes on as much relevant data as possible, in order to gain a fresh insight into the subject of leakage. The more we understand on the subject, the stronger we make our chances of finding innovative ways to address leakage, reducing the amount of water that is lost from water pipes by companies across the world.

In a rare move, the hackathon will run alongside a special week-long Design Thinking ‘sprint’, where a second team of industry experts, academics, and members of the public will apply Design Thinking techniques to develop ideas to reduce water leakage. Design Thinking is a methodology used by designers to solve complex problems, and find desirable solutions for clients.

Nigel continued: “The fact that we are running the hackathon and sprint alongside one another is pretty rare, so it’s going to be quite exciting to see what comes from it. The idea is that we will come away with some really tangible ideas that could make a big difference to how we reduce leakage and the way we respond to leaks.

Northumbrian Water’s NWG Innovation Festival is supported by headline sponsors IBM, Microsoft, Reece Innovation, CGI, Ordnance Survey and BT, who will be leading the sprints in parallel with the hackathon.

One of the sprints, ‘Keep It Flowing’, will work through the week to develop key ideas that will be subjected to scrutiny from members of the public. On the final day, the sprint’s findings will be presented to a gathering of industry experts and regulators.

“We are hoping for some really ground-breaking ideas to come forward from the work being done said Nigel, “as well as in the other areas being tackled in the week of sprints.”

The NWG Innovation Festival runs from 10 July to 14 July 2017 at Newcastle Racecourse.


• ‘Rain, Hail or Shine’: How can we reduce flooding? Led by headline sponsor IBM

• ‘Keep It Flowing’: What do we know about leakage from water pipes and how can we fix it? Led by NWG

• ‘Preparing for the Future’: How do we upgrade our infrastructure for the 21st Century effectively and affordably? Led by headline sponsor Reece Innovation

• ‘Tomorrow’s World’: What will living and working look like in 2030? Led by headline sponsor CGI

• ‘How Green is Your City?’: What can businesses do to improve the environment in the North East? Led by headline sponsor Ordnance Survey

• ‘21st Century Reach’: How can we optimise a mobile workforce for a complex network business? Led by headline sponsor BT

The NWG Innovation Festival is also being delivered in association with Newcastle University, Durham University, Genesys, Interserve in partnership with Amec Foster Wheeler, Costain Resources, PC1, Tech Mahindra, Mott MacDonald Bentley (MMB), Wipro, Virgin Media Business, Schneider, Wheatley Solutions, Sopra Steria, Accenture, 1Spatial, Infosys, Unify, ITPS, Esh-MWH, and Pen Test Partners.