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UK water companies go to market for open data platform

Utilities want a platform “capable of enabling the easy publication of data in both a centralised and decentralised manner"

A pioneering project to open up heavily siloed water data from some of the UK’s biggest utilities continues to make progress – with procurement launched today (September 12) for the underlying data platform.

Northumbrian Water Group (NWG) is leading the project called “STREAM”, a consortium of 11 water companies and five partners.

It went to market today for the platform with a budget of up to £1.6 million (if extended to a maximum five years; initial funding is for two.)

It is seeking a platform “capable of enabling the easy publication of data in both a centralised and decentralised manner as well as enabling data re-users to easily search, understand and access those datasets.”

Centralised and decentralised data

NWG added for STREAM: “By centralised we mean data uploaded to a central repository within the platform, while decentralised data will be data hosted by the individual companies, but still discoverable via the centralised search and data catalogue. We expect the centralised data to be mainly smaller volume, and less frequently updated, while more real time datasets are likely to follow the decentralised model.

The contract notice added: “The platform must also enable both the sharing of fully open, public and shared data (as defined by the ODI Open Data Spectrum) and therefore will need to accommodate appropriate access controls under a range of licence types…”

A refresher, please?

Stream was first proposed by NWG CIO Nigel Watson at an informal industry dinner and subsequently submitted with industry backing, to the Water Breakthrough Challenge; an innovation competition led by the regulator and delivered by Nesta Challenges, Arup and Isle Utilities.

As Watson told The Stack in 2022: “I think Open Data can help us learn from each other about how we are operating assets, using energy -- the water industry is the UK's fourth most energy-intensive industry -- and reacting to the impact of climate change that's already baked in."

Melissa Tallack, Open Data Lead for NWG added to The Stack earlier in 2023 when the project won £3.9 million in funding that: “If all individual water companies do this on their own, not only are they duplicating effort, but you cannot guarantee the interoperability that's needed at the national level to deliver value in the most efficient way.”

Requests to participate are due by 27 September 2023.

Industry regulator Ofwat has also started pushing individual water companies to "identify datasets that have been released or public but not in machine readable format and convert these to appropriate formats whichc an be readily processed by a computer so that individual elements can be accessed and modified by users, for example releasing the data in .csv format... [and to] release datasets with an open licence to encourage use and reuse.”

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