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Using what3words to help map London's vast trunk sewer network

Friday 5th November 2021 15:48

Engineers in PPE walk through a sewer

A mobile-first app that provides a detailed overview of London’s vast trunk sewer network has been adopted by Thames Water as part of its industry-leading digital transformation. 

SymTerra allows the Strategic Pumping & Trunk Sewer team at more than 1,000 locations across the capital to record and access all aspects of a job, whether remotely or on-site. 

With ‘what3words’ embedded across all features of the app, communication and safety is improved by enabling engineers to record the location and condition of assets and generate real-time updates of progress and issues. 

A fully searchable cloud-based photo and knowledge library can also be created that integrates with Thames Water’s existing mapping and modelling systems, making it quicker, easier and cheaper to plan for future work. 

In one example, the app was used to help maintenance teams work out the best entry point into a sewer near St James Square. 

They used SymTerra to document if traffic management or parking restrictions were needed, the location of manholes and the condition of ladders, and to take photos of the pipe and the height of the water flowing through it. 

Richard Dennett, Thames Water’s operations manager for strategic pumping & trunk sewers, said: “Some of our work can be complex, with unclear information, conflicting priorities and blurred accountability lines. 

“There are also many stakeholders involved, which can lead to confusion and frustrations, but with SymTerra we have raised the bar and, with the use of what3words, have gone back to basics to identify confined space entries, assets and locations.”  

Sarah Crawley, co-founder of SymTerra, said: "Thames Water’s collaborative approach to working together on SymTerra has been great.  

“The trunk sewer team has been open to new technology and challenged the status quo, demonstrating how you can better capture and leverage real-time updates and insights from the teams on the ground.  

“This has helped improve visibility and asset assurance as well as quickly detail key works information, including what3words locations to share with other teams."  

Meanwhile, Thames Water is the finalist in seven categories at the UK IT Industry Awards on November 10 

The awards are the largest and best-known event in the technology industry calendar, setting the performance benchmark in IT, recognising exceptional people, projects and technology innovation. Thames is the only utility firm in the finals – and the most recognised operational company.