Looking into the future

04.11.2013

A North East water company is giving its customers a glimpse of what life might be like in the future with a new addition to its recently launched website www.nwplanningforthefuture.co.uk.

Northumbrian Water’s Future Horizons offers an insight into how the company proposes to respond to the challenges and opportunities it may face between now and 2040.

The website includes predictions about potential changes to the world we live in, based on trends and expert projections, and features imaginary case studies of a cross section of future society.

They include Elle, a ten-year-old girl who is doing a school project about water and has an intelligent robot for a tutor, and Jo, who is in her Sixties and has been with Northumbrian Water as a counsellor since 2015. Jo’s latest role is to support employees as an EISA (Emotional Intelligence Support Adviser), using her long experience and natural empathy to maintain the human touch in a world increasingly dominated by machines and artificial intelligence entities.

By 2040, the population of the North East is expected to increase by 7%. This, in part, is due to longer life expectancy - a child born today is 30 times more likely to live to 100 than someone born in 1912. The number of people aged 65 or over will represent more than a quarter of the population as a whole - more than the younger generation aged up to 14 - while the number of people living alone is also expected to increase further.

Heidi Mottram, Northumbrian Water’s chief executive, said: “Add in predicted climate change involving hotter summers and warmer, wetter winters and ever evolving technology, and it is easy to see why we have to plan well ahead to deliver the level of service our customers rightly expect and demand.

“Technology will continue to change rapidly and we can only imagine what the future might bring. However, we are committed to having the right skills and resources available for the benefit of our customers and the environment.”

In the future, as well as having real-life human customer service advisors, Northumbrian Water expects its online self-service options to use smart systems including artificial intelligence in the form of computer generated advisors.

It also envisages sewers being constantly monitored electronically to provide alerts of problems such as high flow levels, blockages or equipment breakdown that could lead to flooding or pollution. Robotic devices could also be used to inspect, clean and repair sewers from inside the pipes, avoiding traffic disruption and inconvenience caused by digging up roads.

Heidi Mottram added: “Future Horizons is intended to be thought provoking and in no way claims to be definitive. We can’t accurately predict the future any more than anyone can, but we are determined to be as prepared as possible for the challenges that lie ahead.

“Whatever life is like in 2040 we want to make sure that we are providing affordable, world-class water and waste water services so that our customers can be sure they are receiving the best possible service that we can provide.”

To find out more about what Northumbrian Water believes the future may hold, go to www.nwplanningforthefuture.co.uk and click on the Future Horizons tab.

For more information contact Mike Chipchase on 0191 301 6720.

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