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UK's United Utilities water company to splash a possible £270m on analytics, control and monitoring platforms

'Ethical insight and competitive advantage' in the pipes if project goes to plan

UK water company United Utilities is in the market for control, monitoring and analytics platforms in a deals that could be worth up to £270m.

In a tender document, the £1.8bn-revenue company said its ambition was "to drive digital transformation, systems thinking and improved service for our stakeholders, customers and community by development of our advanced analytics and information management capabilities, using data tools and skills to deliver ethical insight and competitive advantage."

The utility firm, which supplies around 1.8 billion litres of water every day, said that with increasing complexity and variety of data available and rapid technological development of sensor and data technology, it needed "to facilitate the processing and analysis of more data in more complex forms."

"By design, our data and analytics platform must deliver data and analytics democratisation as self-service is a key strategic objective. We also need to create the ability to operate at both laboratory and factory scale to facilitate exploration and innovation to support our longer-term strategic aims," the document said.

There are two sides to the procurement. Supplementary documents detailed Lot 1 as seeking a platform for monitoring and control, analytics, visualisation and optimisation. A research and development phase for a solution is set to be built upon a Microsoft Azure cloud platform in the hope of developing production-scale analytics capabilities.

The second lot outlined hopes to acquire a sensory capability stack. Also set to be built on Azure, it is to collect data from United Utilities' assets – industry-speak for machinery, pipes and stuff – as well as third-party assets and the environment. The plan is to transfer that data in real time to a central location and "apply descriptive, diagnostic and predictive analytics to identify any deviations in the system that are likely to result in a loss of performance in the network."

United Utilities' annual report [PDF] for 2021 said it is "investing in digital transformation for sustainable performance improvements." This included "deploying breakthrough technology at pace and scale to deliver better service for customers," which could mean just about anything. It commits to spending £300m on infrastructure and digital projects.

The water firm's move follows a spurt of investment in the sector. Last year, Thames Water awarded contracts worth up to £100m to a group of 13 IT consultancies while Anglian Water appointed – but did not name – a supplier on a procurement designed to help with DevOps, Agile, and big data "transformations". ®

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