AI, Funding, Net Zero, Collaboration – Topics covered at Utility Week Live and Traffex

At both Utility Week Live (21-22 May, NEC Birmingham) and Traffex (22-23 May, CBS Arena) it was clear that utilities and highways are industries full of great minds, and that they’re as technologically and socially engaged as any other.

The inspiring talks – from suppliers, consultants, managing directors, politicians, and local authority policy makers – working in both highways and utilities made that clear.

Speakers at Utility Week Live looked at ways of accelerating delivery for Net Zero while future-proofing infrastructure, protecting customers, and helping the environment.

There were plenty of highlights. Matt Stewart from Atkins Realis emphasised the urgent need to tackle emissions from utilities, highlighting the role of technology and cross-industry knowledge in fostering sustainable solutions. Bharani Sri from Severn Trent detailed their use of advanced drones and sensors for continuous emissions monitoring, underscoring the importance of data sharing and collaboration. Emily Jutson of IcebreakerOne.org introduced initiatives to unlock the potential of open data in utilities, aiming to drive carbon reduction and cost efficiency through enhanced data sharing and regulatory frameworks.

Traffex featured a similar set of themes. Future-proofing and making the most of industry-realities, such as adjustments needed to reach Net Zero and the need for collaboration in areas such as recruitment and data sharing, popped up throughout the two days.

Highlights included a fascinating talk from Maria Chli of Aston University, who presented her impressive AI research into traffic signal control. She stressed how traffic issues cost a lot, both financially and environmentally and showed how AI was able to improve traffic flow in Coventry junctions to an incredible degree, halving crossing times.

With the UK having made so much progress towards Net Zero in one swoop – via the near total elimination of coal and the greater reliance on renewables and nuclear – future progress will depend on small improvements throughout the entirety of big infrastructure. The kind of improvements Maria Chli mentioned, multiplied across every junction in every town and every city, will be a huge part of this.

Net Zero dominated many other talks, including a large part of Bill Esterson’s Shadow Ministerial Address. He stressed Labour’s plan for potential governance, including the creation of public-owned Great British Energy and an emphasis on making the most of green opportunities and collaboration between the public and private sectors in order to help drive ecologically sound growth, create new jobs, and drive prosperity.

Net Zero is a topic that needs to be embraced in all of the industries that Re-flow serves, but there’s no avoiding the stats that about a quarter of the country’s carbon emissions come from transport, and that the vast majority of that is related to freight and other long journeys.

Thursday at Traffex included talks addressing these issues – Angela Halliwell, Head of Carbon and Air Quality Group at National Highways, showed how setting maximum carbon intensities for the three core materials of concrete, steel, and asphalt, was achievable. She laid out a plan for helping businesses to adapt, providing over 200 options for improvements, giving companies flexible solutions able to fit their specific needs. But she also stressed how companies would need to be incentivised, and how collaboration across big infrastructure to agree on dates for enforcing lower-carbon materials was essential.

Some other themes resonated throughout:

  • After a decade or so of underfunding from the UK government and cuts, councils have no money. Just maintaining the country’s aging infrastructure is a zero-positive activity that dominates already strained budgets. Attracting people to Local Authorities, helping planning processes and approvals, is difficult under the constrained financial situation found in councils.
  • Recruitment issues are not getting any better elsewhere either. Collaboration is needed across the industry to promote highways or utilities in schools and universities. Career paths need to be made clear, and technological solutions embraced in order to win the attention of future workers and encourage them away from high-paying tech companies.

Digital management solutions have a huge part to play in the issues raised throughout both Utility Week Live and Traffex. Re-flow, an easy-to-use piece of field management software and accompanying app, helps companies make the kind of efficiency savings that make a huge difference, both financially and environmentally.

The app – the digital forms, the drag-and-drop scheduler, the knowledge base and digital job packs, and more – streamline processes like risk assessments and general management of resources and reduce unnecessary travel between office and site. These are examples of some of the multitude of improvements to company workflows possible and very achievable right now via the Re-flow software.

On that note, Re-flow’s show teams were pleased to talk to old clients and new clients alike, and to build and develop those inter-company relationships.

Trade shows are a great place to find out more about Re-flow and the many ways it can help your business. If you want to know which show they’re heading to next, take a look at the full road map.

Learn more about Re-flow’s award winning software

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