Photo Neil Denham

‘Life assistant’ software could filter through the masses of data that reach us each day, choosing what information we see and when, while artificial intelligence could help us to shape how and where we work, based upon personal preferences and behaviour.

These are just some of the ideas that came out of Northumbrian Water Group’s NWG Innovation Festival, a week-long event that attracted people from around the world to explore innovative thinking and new technology. At the end of the festival, ideas that can be developed for future use were presented to an audience of water industry leaders and other guests.

The proposals will now be worked on by Northumbrian Water Group and partners from business and academia that took part in the festival, including headline sponsor CGI Group, which helped to lead a special look forward to the working world in 2030.

During the week, a five-day “sprint” saw around 50 people focussing on the issue of future working, taking it from an outline of the problem to ideas that can be developed. Sprints apply leading design thinking techniques to real world issues.

The sprint, entitled Tomorrows World’: What will living and working look like in 2030? was one of six activities carried out at the same time at the NWG Innovation Festival, which took place at Newcastle Racecourse.

Ideas that came out of the sprint, and which will be developed by Northumbrian Water Group in partnership with a range of other organisations, include:

  • A ‘life assistant’ that filters through the increasing volumes of information, from areas such as e-mail and social media, to prioritise what is delivered to users when.
  • Infrastructure that allows people to work in the environment of their choosing, or a personalised workspace, without becoming detached from their team.
  • A personalised artificial intelligence device to learn about the environments and schedules that best suit the wearer, helping them to adapt their working practices accordingly.
  • An artificially intelligent system that links with digital personal assistants, such as Alexa, Cortana and Siri, to liaise with service providers, such as plumbers or handymen, save home owners’ from having to do so directly.

Martin Jackson, Lead Architect at Northumbrian Water Group, said: “You can have all sorts of fun and come up with some wild and whacky ideas about what the future might hold, and this is something people have been doing for decades, or even longer.

“However, the NWG Innovation Festival gave us a great opportunity to get people in the room who could really focus and give social and technological insights into what people are likely to need in the future, and how these things might be implemented. We also brought in human resources professionals, so that we could really look at things that could work for employers and employees alike.

“Some of the ideas are already being developed further and it’s really exciting to see a possible future take shape, where we might actually see some of these developments exist and play a positive role in making people’s lives better.”


Photo by Neil Denham