Hitting underground pipes and cables costs the UK £2.4bn a year. We need a data platform for that, says government

Atkins wins £23m deal to build National Underground Asset Register

The UK government has awarded management consultancy Atkins a £23m contract to help it get to grips with accidental damage to underground pipes and cables, which is costing £2.4bn a year.

The Geospatial Commission, an independent expert committee within the Cabinet Office, has awarded the work to help it build "a secure data exchange platform providing a comprehensive, trusted and secure digital map of where buried assets are located."

Documents attached to a competitive tender notice point out that when digging up roads or attempting any other subterranean engineering, workers suffer the considerable difficulty of finding out what other human-made structures might be down there.

But there is no uniform process for "asset owners" – the gas, water, telecoms or electricity companies who dig up roads to lay pipes and cables – to share their data about where exactly they have put everything.

All of this "means prior to excavating a site, operators are required to contact all organisations who own or may have owned assets in the area, wait for each to respond, then compile information so it can be read and understood by workers," according to the tender documents.

"This process is slow, inefficient and makes inaccuracies leading to accidental damage more likely," they say.

In 2019 and 2020 the commission carried out two pilots, one led by the Greater London Authority and the other by Ordnance Survey in the North East of England, in the hope of proving a national data-sharing platform was a feasible idea. By April 2020, the pilot concluded it was. It was also "highly desirable by asset owners and their supply chains," it said.

The primary use case for the "National Underground Asset Register" (NUAR) is to avoid hitting pipes and cables already underground – "strike avoidance" in technical language – and increasing the efficiency of project planning and data exchange, according to the commission.

The core platform is the part of the system where the system data is ingested, stored and exposed to other subsystems via APIs, subject to security controls and role-based access constraints.

The Geospatial Commission has committed in the UK's first Geospatial Strategy to preparing for the rollout of NUAR, which is also included in the government's National Infrastructure Strategy [PDF] launched in November last year.

In the DevOps style, it also expects the first release of the data platform to be available within three months of the contract award. It expects Atkins to begin national rollout 19 months after the contract starts, officially 31 August.

The commission estimates the industry could save £350m a year by avoiding accidental asset strikes, improving the efficiency of works and better data sharing using the platform, according to an accompanying press release.

In a pre-canned statement, Nigel Clifford, deputy chair of the Geospatial Commission, said: "Our National Underground Asset Register will be a momentous step towards providing the UK with a shared national data asset of significant value." ®

Similar topics

Other stories you might like

  • Prisons transcribe private phone calls with inmates using speech-to-text AI

    Plus: A drug designed by machine learning algorithms to treat liver disease reaches human clinical trials and more

    In brief Prisons around the US are installing AI speech-to-text models to automatically transcribe conversations with inmates during their phone calls.

    A series of contracts and emails from eight different states revealed how Verus, an AI application developed by LEO Technologies and based on a speech-to-text system offered by Amazon, was used to eavesdrop on prisoners’ phone calls.

    In a sales pitch, LEO’s CEO James Sexton told officials working for a jail in Cook County, Illinois, that one of its customers in Calhoun County, Alabama, uses the software to protect prisons from getting sued, according to an investigation by the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

    Continue reading
  • Battlefield 2042: Please don't be the death knell of the franchise, please don't be the death knell of the franchise

    Another terrible launch, but DICE is already working on improvements

    The RPG Greetings, traveller, and welcome back to The Register Plays Games, our monthly gaming column. Since the last edition on New World, we hit level cap and the "endgame". Around this time, item duping exploits became rife and every attempt Amazon Games made to fix it just broke something else. The post-level 60 "watermark" system for gear drops is also infuriating and tedious, but not something we were able to address in the column. So bear these things in mind if you were ever tempted. On that note, it's time to look at another newly released shit show – Battlefield 2042.

    I wanted to love Battlefield 2042, I really did. After the bum note of the first-person shooter (FPS) franchise's return to Second World War theatres with Battlefield V (2018), I stupidly assumed the next entry from EA-owned Swedish developer DICE would be a return to form. I was wrong.

    The multiplayer military FPS market is dominated by two forces: Activision's Call of Duty (COD) series and EA's Battlefield. Fans of each franchise are loyal to the point of zealotry with little crossover between player bases. Here's where I stand: COD jumped the shark with Modern Warfare 2 in 2009. It's flip-flopped from WW2 to present-day combat and back again, tried sci-fi, and even the Battle Royale trend with the free-to-play Call of Duty: Warzone (2020), which has been thoroughly ruined by hackers and developer inaction.

    Continue reading
  • American diplomats' iPhones reportedly compromised by NSO Group intrusion software

    Reuters claims nine State Department employees outside the US had their devices hacked

    The Apple iPhones of at least nine US State Department officials were compromised by an unidentified entity using NSO Group's Pegasus spyware, according to a report published Friday by Reuters.

    NSO Group in an email to The Register said it has blocked an unnamed customers' access to its system upon receiving an inquiry about the incident but has yet to confirm whether its software was involved.

    "Once the inquiry was received, and before any investigation under our compliance policy, we have decided to immediately terminate relevant customers’ access to the system, due to the severity of the allegations," an NSO spokesperson told The Register in an email. "To this point, we haven’t received any information nor the phone numbers, nor any indication that NSO’s tools were used in this case."

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021