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Cambridge Centre for Smart Infrastructure and Construction

Transforming infrastructure through smarter information

A collaborative project that presents a digital approach to the way assets owned, managed and used by different parties are monitored and maintained has secured £677,000 in funding from Innovate UK.

Recent tragic events in social housing have led to calls for owners and managers of assets to be held accountable for their decisions. Events highlighted the need for asset end-users, such as housing tenants, to be able to access up-to-date and clear information on asset inspection schedules, and for feedback from end-users to be treated as valuable information to improve asset maintenance and scheduling.

The Social Networked Smart Infrastructure Assets (SoNIA) project will see four partners working towards a shared aim of creating a user-centred digital solution to ensure maintenance schedules are up-to-date and incoming data from assets, such as fire extinguishers and emergency lighting, is analysed and acted upon. End-users will be able to use the same system to report asset concerns and faults and view maintenance records for reassurance. Currently end-users' feedback is often invited via phones or websites which fails to uniquely identify problem assets and lacks the transparency needed in light of the Grenfell Tower tragedy.

The project team comprises four partners. RedBite Solutions (RedBite) is the lead partner and Distributed Information Automation Lab (DIAL) and CSIC, at the University of Cambridge Department of Engineering (CUED), is the combined research partner. Settle (formerly North Hertfordshire Homes) will provide 200 social houses and the Estate Management department of the University of Cambridge (EM), will provide five buildings for deployment.

Artificial Intelligence and machine learning algorithms will be developed to interpret the data received from all parties in order to compute a condition assessment score, determine appropriate intervention actions and develop a decision-support system for asset management. The result will be enhanced decision-making based on the value of infrastructural assets to tenants, asset usage and feedback from end-users. 

“The Grenfell Tower tragedy highlights the need for this approach to managing assets owned, managed and used by different parties. As documented in the Tower's fire risk assessment report (Nov, 2012), critical asset condition directly affected the extent of the tragedy. Our aim is to empower members of society through digital technologies at a very poignant time to engage with a transparent and trustworthy change that addresses pertinent concerns that are shared by so many,” said Dr Alex Wong, RedBite’s CEO and Co-Founder.

The project proposes a user-centred digital solution that will address cloud infrastructure scaling of social-network-type loads and incorporate a technological breakthrough in advanced role permissions providing numerous stakeholders with a different view of the same asset data set. This includes a dashboard of real-time big data analysis derived from structured maintenance schedules with unstructured social interaction semantics powered by machine learning and artificial intelligence techniques. Required health and safety standards are also taken into account.

“The output from this project is an innovative, digital platform for all asset stakeholders that incorporates new algorithms developed by CUED. Two public reference sites, in the social housing and university markets, will be created by the project. These combined innovations are disruptive in that, for the first time in the infrastructure industry, users are given the opportunity to provide actionable input to asset managers,” said Dr Ajith Parlikad, Senior Lecturer in Industrial Systems at the Institute for Manufacturing (IfM) at the University of Cambridge.

In line with the Horizons' Human-Rights priority area, people must have the freedom to participate in decision-making that affects their lives. This project will extend RedBite's fully-owned product, itemit asset management – an enterprise asset management solution and app – to create an innovative digital platform for stakeholders to interact with assets and revolutionise the way asset data is conveyed and analysed.