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UK's crisis-wracked largest water company seeks help from “Digital Twins” amid crisis

Training, software, analysis, data migration support and more needed as company goes to market.

Troubled Thames Water is seeking a partner to help it build “digital twins” or virtual representations of its key water treatment plants – as the UK’s largest water company looks for help from tech amid an ongoing crisis.

The latest Thames Water crisis this week left it deploying 28 tankers, 24 hours a day, to bring bottled water supplies to local hospitals and residents after a major outage left 10,000+ people without water supplies – and critically low levels for the A&E unit at the Royal Surrey County Hospital.

It blamed the impact of a recent storm on a water treatment plant. 

Between March and July 2023 the utility took on more than £1 billion in emergency funding amid a burgeoning crisis as it warned that record temperatures, a drought and freezing conditions had put “unprecedented pressure” on its network; high energy and chemical prices had also hit its profits it said as it met just 55% of its annual performance commitments.

Mapping out the capacity and issues around its water treatment plant using digital twins may help, a new tender suggests. (Other utilities are using technology to great effect including to spot leaks, map crisis hotspots and capacity issues, with a consortium of other utilities also working to deliver a landmark programme on open data use.) 

See also: UK water companies go to market for open data platform

Thames Water is seeking a single partner under a three-year contract term with the option for a further three-year extension to:

“Conduct a thorough analysis of our organisation's processes to identify areas where the solution can bring improvements and efficiencies.
“Deploy a Digital Twin solution that addresses our specific requirements.
“Indicate and advise where vendor specific solution will require specific design, development, test, and deployment of code to meet TW requirements.
“Ensure seamless integration with existing systems and applications.
“Provide facility and resource to allow staff to view and use proposed solution prior to decision to purchase.
“Provide comprehensive training sessions for our staff to ensure proper utilisation of the software's features.
“Migrate existing data from our current systems to the new software solution without data loss.
“Offer technical support and maintenance services post-implementation, including regular updates and bug fixes.

Request to tender are due by 8 January 2024

Digital twins, or virtual replicas of a physical asset or process can be used for monitoring, simulation, and analysis amongst other uses and are often updated in real-time; linking the digital and physical worlds. These can be linked to other datasets, including from GIS – with physical details, the location of different structures and equipment like pumps, tanks, and pipes etc. They can be used to gather more dynamic data on asset usage – something that, in theory, could help Thames Water reduce outages although the demand for corresponding physical ifnrastructure development, of course, will not vanish...