Amey turns to augmented reality in fight against ‘unflushables’

Infrastructure services provider Amey will be turning to a new augmented reality app to help fight “unflushables” in sewers. 

The app uses technology commonly used in video games to show householders right before their eyes how flushing the wrong items would block their drains and sewers.

Amey has partnered with ClicksandLinks, a specialist supplier in the augmented reality field, to develop the app. It will be piloted across the Severn Trent area, which serves 4 million properties and 8 million customers.

The app allows sewer operatives to “overlay” a typical sewer network on a customer’s property or surrounding area on their mobile phone. The app then runs animations which mock-up how “unflushable blockages” are formed – in real time.

Currently, blockages are the most frequent waste issue reported to all water companies, with around 70% of sewer blockages on the network caused by unflushables such as fats, oils, grease and wet wipes.

Previously, operational teams have issued print-based guidance informing customers of what should, or should not, be put into their drains. However, research shows that 25% of unflushable blockages will happen again within 12 months of the customer being notified, suggesting this method of communication may not be effective. 

Amey is hoping that the app will be an effective way to increase customer understanding about the impact unflushables have on the water network, and help to prevent future blockages. 

Speaking about the app, Ben Hawkins from Amey’s innovation team said: “The UK water industry spends about £90m a year clearing sewer blockages. Many of these are caused by putting unflushables down the drain. This app is the first of its kind and demonstrates Amey’s commitment to using new technology, in increasingly tech-reliant times, to help our customers visualise and solve these issues.” 

From the next Asset Management Period (2020-2025), the penalties for poor blockage reduction performance will increase for water companies. Amey is aiming to assist clients educate their customer base, to tackle the problem.

The app will be launched in 2020.

Image: Amey hopes its new app will help prevent sewer blockages (Dominic Alves/Flickr)

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