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CONSERVE technology to tackle flooding cost to the UK


February 24, 2016


The recent winter flooding in the UK is a stark reminder of the environmental threat the country faces.

Rapid urbanisation in the country, combined with a warmer wetter climate means 3.2 million people in the UK alone will be at higher risk of flooding by 2050. This latest spell of flooding alone is expected to cost as much as £5bn.

Other than spending billions on costly flood defences, what else can be done to reduce the risk and the damage?

As part of a new project funded by Innovate UK, the UK’s Innovation agency, the team at Cisco’s CREATE laboratory are looking to the internet of things (IoT) for the answer.

Working with a host of partners, they are building a proof of concept that will put real-time information in the hands of first responders during disaster situations. Glasgow is being used a test-bed, and if it works, the system has got the potential to be rolled out globally, where flooding risks occur.

Why are we doing this?

If we want to reduce the risk of flooding and environmental catastrophes, we have to proactively look at the technology and infrastructure around us.

Being able to instantly respond to rises in water levels in certain areas could be the difference between people getting away safely or not.

If you’re able to help the vulnerable before flood waters have risen, for instance, that’s going to have big benefits for everyone.

The idea behind CONSERVE is to create an integrated platform that predicts and helps co-ordinate first responders in disaster situations such as floods.

The platform first draws down huge amounts of information from numerous sensors and sources. Smart algorithms are being built to mine the data, to predict flooding events.

The North of the UK is still counting the cost from the recent winter flooding, so any steps that can help reduce the risks to lives and property are welcome. And the weather doesn’t look like it’s going to be getting better (or drier) any time soon.

Speed and intelligence is crucial

In an emergency situation such as this, having a platform which can get your resources and people to the right place, at the right time is critical. Duplication of resources is something you just can’t afford.

The platform in going to be designed in such a way that first responders are only given the information they each need, streamlining the information increases the efficiency of operations.

The project kicked off at the start of the month, and will be running for the next 18 months.

The Cisco CREATE team is working with engineering firm Finmeccanica, Bronze Labs, and the University of Strathclyde as part of the consortium to build the proof of concept.

It’s a great example of how different industries could work together to tackle a real issue that impacts everybody.

For us this is about creating something new, getting the best out the technology available today and evolving it into something much better. Being able to work with these different partners is exciting, as each brings a unique set of skills and expertise to the table.

The innovation that’s happening on the proof of concept here is not only ground breaking in the field of data aggregation and data analytics, but also in security and the merging of private and public data for the greater good.

Stay tuned for more!

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18 Comments

  1. I live on the banks of the Clyde to the east of Glasgow, and if we hadn’t managed to fight off a development on open ground on the opposite bank, we would be among flood victims whenever the waters rise.
    Many local politicians favoured the development, despite expert advice wanting agains; the whole thing was on a knife edge for years. And there are still rumblings about minor building enroachments, that we fear could escalate.
    I hope that Glasgow doesn’t see flood warnings as the solution.

  2. Local changes in crops, porosity of surfaces (tarmac, concrete) and use of land use (vegetation and ponds) upstream must also figure in any modelling as should local events(Glastonbury will change the problem!). Resorting to the old system of walking the banks and using your eyes and a dipstick also has much to recommend it!

    BTW I’m available for consultation.
    Best wishes,
    Jim
    (Somerset Emergency Planner, Ret’d)

  3. Along with colleagues I was involved in writing flood response plans for Somerset before the millenium. These integrated warnings from National Rivers Authority (killed by Gov) with District and Emerg Services (cut by Gov), transport by local companies (derestricted and underfunded by Gov) with emergency centres (in schools about to be removed from local council control by Gov) created to accommodate displaced people.
    Earlier comments re building on flood plains are relevant as is more sophistcated data collection and analysis, but it must also take account of local short-term changes

  4. Yes,im Ok …Amo la Mia famiglia

  5. We might also help ourselves by looking at the reasons that flooding of properties is becoming more frequent in some areas of the UK.

    Flood plains should be used for what nature intended – flooding. Digging channels and flood defences to move the water away faster simply moves the problem further downstream. Flood plains allow the water to settle and then reduce slowly, as nature intended, creating far fewer problems – as long as we don’t build properties on the flood plains…

    The Netherlands takes a totally different approach to flood management – take a look here for one example: http://grumpyecologist.blogspot.co.uk/2015/05/thinking-dutch-on-flood-defence.html

    Of course, there may be different reasons that flooding occurs in different parts of the UK, so I did a quick internet search to see what I could find. Here are a few links:

    http://markavery.info/2015/12/29/i-will-lift-up-my-eyes-unto-the-hills/

    http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/apr/13/500000-tree-planting-project-helped-yorkshire-town-miss-winter-floods

    http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/mar/27/subjugating-nature-not-the-way-to-defend-against-floods-somerset-levels

    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/feb/17/farmers-uk-flood-maize-soil-protection

    I would like to make it clear that I am not a Guardian reader. I simply did an internet search for a few examples of articles that look at reasons that flooding occurs and ways in which we might work with nature that produces a win for us and a win for nature.

    Yes, it might be useful to have sophisticated flood warning systems in place for the areas at the highest risk and I can totally see the sense in that. However, if we stepped back and looked at the reasons the floods are becoming more frequent and then sought long-term solutions, working with nature and not against it, perhaps there would be less flooding to worry about.

  6. Nick, We would live to become part of this project and have a great interest in this area. We work closely with the resilience community in the UK and abroad including all blue light partners and Search and Rescue organisations.

  7. Reading your article offers many improvements upon antiquated systems presently used especially by the Environment Agency, who then inform the local District Councils, they have the responsibility of protecting communities when in a severe flooding situation, the problem being that usually it is always a horse and stable door situation.
    I live in the ONLY undefended village (Girton, Newark, Nottinghamshire) along the whole of the River Trent from its source in Stoke on Trent through to where it discharges into the River Humber Estuary.
    All of the hard defences constructed by the EA over the past 20 years to protect Urban communities and Industrial complexes, now brings flood water wherever it may occur along the Trent Basin (and all of the Tributary Rivers along the way, like the Derwent, Dove, Wye and Soar) down to my village as it is ‘managed’ by the EA to clear these areas. Girton is the largest Flood storage Area on the Trent and here it sits until the EA can get the volume out to the Humber. 2012/2013 Christmas we were 10 full weeks under water and not one announcement regarding our plight. we live a life of ‘Russian Roulette’ with EVERY winter from Septamber to March with the Spring Tides coming up the Humber off the North Sea, meeting the Fluvial watrer coming down the Trent. Girton is the actual cusp where the two meet! Over and above this we have TWO other water courses coming into the village 24*7/365 alleviating 65 Sq Kms of Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire yet we do not have any flood protection. We are fighting for recognition with the EA but they adamantly state Girton with 58 properties, (they only acknowledge 22 being at risk) on a cost/benefit ratio will never qualify for Capital Expenditure from them!!! We are therefore ‘DOOMED’ to extinction in the not too distant future. No! this is NOT exaggeration, my Parish is ‘Girton & Meering’ there were TWO villages – the village of Meering disappeared in the 1930’s through constant inundation and abandonment of properties and that is our fate unless we can get the EA to meet their obligation by protecting us, whilst using the village to solve problems along the Trent for others.
    In conclusion, any information in advance of impending flooding would be an advantage. It does NOT however, solve any problem toward the cause!.

  8. Intradeting and technology has indeed a role to play. One would hope that this initiative is part of a more integrated strategy to address the important triad; PREVENT-ALERT-PROTECT. focusing on one aspect in isolation will not yield the desired effect.

  9. If we’re going to deploy IoT tech then we need to be smart about we use it. As well as early warning, it should be used for for flood prevention – weather stations automatically talking to barriers, to sensors, to storm tanks, to flow metres, to drains and opening/closing/diverting to prevent flooding.

    Until then, rainwater attenuation through harvesting systems is a way for each of us to take responsibility individually and action a solution – it’s an easy way each house and business can help prevent localised flooding. It’s technology that’s available now and it works.

    It’s not too difficult to imagine in the near future, a network of rainwater harvesting systems, in homes and businesses all part of the IoT and all speaking to each other, feeding information to a central point – providing real time water level data for more informed flood management decisions.

  10. As a first responder this project is interesting. One of the most useful areas of focus could be technology that gives early alerts to where sections of the drainage system are exceeding normal flow or are failing. Manual monitoring of such large systems is obviously flawed. I have seen whole streets flooded because an iso container was dropped in a brook and then caused a blockage downstream.

  11. I live in a slight depression in high land land. Thirty four years ago housing development was allowed. The run-off water flooded a section of our Street. It was an interesting study to see how the locals adapted to the flooding. They eventually accepted the technique of driving slowly so that the wave they created reduced the depth of water that they drove through. Another adaption was for opposing directions taking it in turn and driving along the side of the road which was highest. This way they did not encounter the wave created by the opposing direction traffic.
    Drivers not familiar with the area frequently had water in their ignition system.
    The pond which traditionally collected the water was enlarged. The broken drainage system which drained from the pond to the surrounding land was repaired.
    Still The Street flooded. I had four articles published entitled “Intouch with Reality” in our local ‘Intouch’ magazine in which amongst other things I offered to dig a channel so that water in the roadside ditch could get into the pond. Our M.P., Dan Poulter, had seven meetings with the claimed aim of solving the problem.
    The meetings concentrated on irrelevances such as the height of an inadequate blocked pipe which was to have the function of a ditch.
    Illegally and against opposition I dug the required ditch which reduced the flooding to a depth of 5″ on one side of The Street.
    One building still got splashed due to the lack of a gutter. A meeting was held at which it was emphasised that the correct verbiage was not being used. It was a linear drain not a gutter that was required. The name of the person responsible for the decision as to whether a gutter was required was withheld despite. After extensive work, without a gutter being created, it proved that a gutter was required for a section of The Street. I expect that pedestrians will get splashed in the next section of The Street, when, as every yea,r part of The Street will have sunk for puddles to form but the water will have no means to drain away. Suffolk Council have 79 similar problems to solve. They do not appear to understand the Roman technology of gutters or ditches.

  12. I live in a slight depression in high land land. Thirty four years age housing development was allowed. The run-off water flooded a section of our Street. It was an interesting study to see how the locals adapted to the flooding. They eventually accepted the technique of driving slowly so that the wave they created reduced the depth of water that they drove through. Another adaption was for opposing directions taking it in turn and driving along the side of the road which was highest. This way they did not encounter the wave created by the opposing direction traffic.
    Drivers not familiar with the area frequently had water in their ignition system.
    The pond which traditionally collected the water was enlarged. The broken drainage system which drained from the pond to the surrounding land was repaired.
    Still The Street flooded. I had four articles published entitled “Intouch with Reality” in our local ‘Intouch’ magazine in which amongst other things I offered to dig a channel so that water in the roadside ditch could get into the pond. Our M.P., Dan Poulter, had seven meetings with the claimed aim of solving the problem.
    The meetings concentrated on irrelevances such as the height of an inadequate blocked pipe which was to have the function of a ditch.
    Illegally and against opposition I dug the required ditch which reduced the flooding to a depth of 5″ on one side of The Street.
    One building still got splashed due to the lack of a gutter. A meeting was held at which it was emphasised that the correct verbiage was not being used. It was a linear drain not a gutter that was required. The name of the person responsible for the decision as to whether a gutter was required was withheld despite. After extensive work, without a gutter being created, it proved that a gutter was required for a section of The Street. I expect that pedestrians will get splashed in the next section of The Street, when, as every yea,r part of The Street will have sunk for puddles to form but the water will have no means to drain away. Suffolk Council have 79 similar problems to solve. They do not appear to understand the Roman technology of gutters or ditches.

  13. It’s all well and good to try to inform people about a flood sooner rather than later but the whole point of flood defense is to try to PROTECT yourself from it. not just sit back and say “well we all got flooded and we were informed” what good is that. the placed were we build our houses is the cause and the water is the effect. either build somewhere else or Chanel the water somewhere else

  14. Do as the americans do build flood channels.

  15. This sounds very interesting, but is it not treating the symptom rather than the root cause? Yes, it is great to get the information to people in advance, but that will do little to reduce the damage, much of which is structural.We appear reasonably good at getting people out of the areas and minimising fatalities, I guess this would help with moving of stock etc. but can’t see how it would reduce the £5bn cost of such floods? Would be great to see a follow up article with some of the data behind choosing to tackle information to first responders and also how this data will be utilised in the future.

    Is this going to also include modelling to look at where to/to not build domestic/commercial properties or whereby smart methods such as hydraulics can be used to raise structures and reduce damage?

  16. Sounds like a great project. Any possible way to get involve with such a project ? Will be happy to help.

  17. In my opinion, there is no point in having an early warning system for flooding in operation without having a defence system.
    The comment made earlier was true, why build houses and commercial business premises on flood plains, for the government to gain revenue.
    The people who have purchased the property suffer the floods, then the government do nothing to help them after.
    There are now a lot of houses and businesses that cannot get any insurance because of the results of flooding.
    Who would want to buy a house that floods after a rainstorm.?

  18. With respect to Scotland. How will you compliment or exceed what the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency already offer? I already get flood warnings from SEPA while my security and central heating systems already give me weather warnings. The simple solution to avoid the cost of flooding is to stop developers building on well known and documented flood plains that can be impacted by storm cycles…which admittedly seem to be increasing. The IoT will never control the weather but may help first responders if you can make existing government agencies and emergency services more efficient. Any new technology or system must simplify not increase complexity. Entropy unfortunately rules even with the introduction of new technology and systems.

    PS My postcode is AB35 5UX. I do not believe IoT would have prevented Storm Frank from doing the damage it did but I hope you can prove me wrong… as FlexiDB.com is all about linking IoT to iPhones and Androids.