The South East Queensland utility will tap into the Queensland tech company’s expertise in artificial intelligence and automation for pipe defect detection and failure prediction.

The partnership will facilitate the future development of Pipe AI – a software which uses machine learning to assess the condition of sewerage, water and stormwater pipes.

Unitywater CEO and Chair of the Asia Pacific Smart Water Alliance Network, George Theo, said innovative and smarter solutions for condition assessment of pipes will be invaluable.

“Automation is the way of the future and we believe Pipe AI is going to play a significant role in the future of asset management,” Mr Theo said.

“Our partnership with Pipe AI will see Unitywater leading in operational performance and digital customer solutions.”

CEO of Pipe AI, Brian Pilkington, said the partnership of a forward-thinking utility, a technology leader in artificial intelligence and automation and a market leader in the urban engineering field is a winning combination.

“We’re extremely pleased that Unitywater has decided to partner with us to further accelerate Pipe AI’s use by the utility industry,” Mr Pilkington said.

“Pipe AI combines 50 years of engineering excellence with the automation and accuracy of an artificial intelligence capability and the industry expertise of a world class utility.”

Mr Theo and Mr Pilkington agreed there is an opportunity in the marketplace to showcase smart applications that will improve asset maintenance processes while delivering essential water and sewerage services for the end user.

“Pipe AI will remove manual duplication of processes and reduce inspection costs by using technology to improve and speed up water management processes,” Mr Pilkington said.

“Utilities can save on maintenance and repair bills and offer an uninterrupted water supply to customers.

“Currently, accepted industry practice often sees up to four sets of eyes review a single CCTV video.

“Considering there are typically multiple pipes and associated CCTV footage to review, post construction and then maintain by the asset owner, the number of hours spent viewing that data can be significant.

“The innovative software is well suited to the new generation of workforce, who are data driven and familiar with automation.”

Like many utilities, Unitywater currently undertakes manual reviews of CCTV recordings from pipe inspections as part of its maintenance program.

Mr Theo said the initial trials of Pipe AI have been extensive, with the software accurately identifying and classifying faults from more than 3,000 videos.

“The success of the trials has given us confidence that Pipe AI can reliably and consistently identify faults and reduce possible outages and impacts to our 355,000 customers,” Mr Theo said.

Mr Pilkington said the original Pipe AI product has already evolved from a simple defect detections software offering and now has two modules available – Pipe AI Predict and Pipe AI Review. 

“Pipe AI Predict has been developed to focus on risk classification for pipeline assets and it will be used in conjunction with Pipe AI Review to automate the process of risk attribution to sewerage, water and stormwater pipes,” Mr Pilkington said.

“Using predictive analytics, based on the current conditions of the pipes, and using historical pipe maintenance and failures data, along with other various data sets, Pipe AI Predict can create maintenance schedules for repairs and replacements to ensure the maximum life of the infrastructure can be achieved without compromising on safety through failures and reduce the impact of unplanned interruptions on customers.”