Blog - Nine Teams, Six Themes #waterdata15

On the 10th and 11th of July, Yorkshire Water held a two-day data dive at ODI Leeds. They brought data and prizes. ODI Leeds provided food and WiFi. Over 40 attendees, from Mainframe engineers at Fujitsu to Graphic Design students at Bradford University, did the rest.

Usually I'd be analysing data and building things but this was a chance for me to assist, observe, and share some of my previous experience. I really enjoyed speaking to every team and seeing how their ideas evolved over time. I even had some time to help out where I could.

It's hard for any one team to achieve much in a day and a half. But out of the work of the nine teams there was an emergence of six themes. I think that focusing on these could provide huge value to everyone who attended in the future and beyond.

Points not pounds. Flushes not litres

The challenge was to help Yorkshire Water consumers save 5 litre per person per day. Within a few hours we'd all realised that this didn't mean much.

Whether by gamifying water savings as points or by converting litres per person per day into understandable units like toilet flushes every team looked to redefine the challenge in more meaningful units.

Making a business opportunity a user opportunity

The experience of the team from Arup and Fujitsu was obvious in their insight that most customers probably don't care about saving water. Saving water is certainly a priority for Yorkshire Water but probably not for customers who stand to gain very little individually.

The key to any successful product will be to share a company priority with customers by rewarding them in other ways. Yorkshire Water's work with Water Aid is already an excellent example of this and it was great to see the other teams take on board this idea during the final presentations.

Creating open data as well as using it

Every team used open data but many teams additionally created prototypes that allowed self-reporting of water use. Some even worked on the technical details of how this data could be shared back to both Yorkshire Water and then out to the wider public as new open data.

Creating open data as well as using it is essential to getting the most of it. It was great to see this idea so ingrained in so many of the teams.

Just some of the people who came to Yorkshire Water's first data dive Just some of the people who came to Yorkshire Water's first data dive

Neighbourhoods not just households

Successful products and campaigns like Parkrun and School Vouchers at supermarkets show that community is often a stronger driver for action than any number of individuals.

Many teams built tools to compare water quality and historical water use across communities. This gives people an idea of how they're but also lets them take ownership of their water use to share ideas for improvement more widely.

Using existing tools and services better

Yorkshire Water already offer free water-saving packs. They already have an "In your area…" section on the website. Almost every team realised that recreating these tools was a waste of effort.

It was great that almost every solution pointed back to these tools, or improved upon them in some way.

Building new tools and services for the future

Invisible Flock's team designed a new products. Other teams imagine how they would use the data from products that are likely to come in the future. In both cases technological advances give us a chance to help people change their behaviour to save water.

Real-time information on water use gives us a real opportunity change behaviour and it was great to see that so many of the teams integrated this into their products.

Overall then, the Yorkshire Water data dive was a fantastic event. A huge, and hugely diverse, group of people from all over Europe explored how Yorkshire can lead in developing a blueprint for better water use in the future.

Tom Forth, ODI Leeds.