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Edmonton tech firm aims to help solve water crisis with machine learning

How an international collaboration is making these businesses ‘better together’

An international partnership developed between a local tech firm, Rogue7, and a UK-based firm Hydraulic Analysis Group (HAG) is providing real solutions to companies in the Middle East that are tackling big challenges when it comes to water scarcity.

HAG is a world leading engineering consultancy using advanced modelling technology to optimize efficiencies, improve safety, and reduce environmental impacts in the water distribution sector. With more than 50 years of experience, and over 10,000 projects completed, or underway worldwide, traditionally HAG’s focus for optimization and real-time monitoring was in the energy and petrochemical sectors. They’ve earned the trust of some of the world’s largest players in these industries, completing projects with leading multinational companies. In fact, one of the company’s defining moments came 20 years ago, when they were approached by BP to provide a real time application of their modelling tool that could be installed in BP control centres to provide operators with real-time information around detection of leaks and bursts in a long-distance crude oil pipeline. Since then, HAG has provided solutions for companies all over the world – from China, to the UK, to the Middle East, to North America – and has expanded into new sectors, most notably, the water distribution sector, which has been facing a lot of similar challenges to what the energy sector has had to solve.

“What we’ve found is that the water industry needs the solutions that our combined technology can provide more than ever,” says Glyn Addicott, Operations Director at HAG. “Globally, water scarcity is becoming a bigger and bigger issue. When we look at places like Dubai for example, water is a more valuable commodity than oil and gas. Regions like this, and throughout the Middle East in particular, are looking for ways to ensure that distribution systems are optimized in a way that minimizes waste, particularly through leaks or bursts in pipelines.’

Glyn mentions that the Middle East is leading the way when it comes to technology adoption in this sector.

“It’s really clear that companies are looking for the next step in terms of technological innovation, and that next step is the application of artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies. It’s an expectation at this point,” says Glyn. “And our recent partnership with Rogue7 is allowing us to deliver on this expectation.”

Rogue7 is an Edmonton-based machine learning focused company that provides SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) adjacent ML products for organizations using SCADA systems to control and operate pipelines in the oil and gas industry as well as the water distribution industry.

When Quinn Goretzky, COO of Rogue7 describes the value that an experienced SCADA operator can bring to an organization the value of their ML tool becomes really clear. A pipeline operator isn’t like a Homer Simpson character, sitting in his control room at the nuclear power plant monitoring a bunch of screens, switches, lights, and gauges, waiting for that one alarm that will force him to react to the potential crisis that the system has alerted him too. In reality, pipeline operators are some of the most highly valued employees in organizations using these systems. And when it comes to those with experience, this is doubly true. It takes a lot of background knowledge to process the amount and types of data being generated and to use that data to make smart decisions that effectively optimize efficiencies within the system and identify problems before they become bigger issues. Using Rogue7’s software gives organizations the ability to elevate the work of a junior operator to that of a senior level.

Because SCADA systems generate a great deal of data, it’s a really great environment to add predictive data analysis through machine learning.

“What we’re seeing is that more and more data is being generated all the time,” says Quinn. “But this doesn’t necessarily help. Operators are being overwhelmed with data. There’s a limit to what the human brain is capable of paying attention to and processing. But when you apply ML to a system with that much data, the algorithm notices things that humans miss. Our product can make predictions up to 3 hours into the future, meaning operators can make better and faster decisions to optimize operations while enhancing safety and reliability.”

Rogue7’s digital assistant powered by ML is a huge asset to companies like HAG whose clients want to move beyond real-time to predictive analysis.

“While HAG’s modelling is really great at feeding information about what is happening in real time, it doesn’t have the capability to rapidly predict what is going to happen in the future,” says Glyn. “That’s where ML can provide advantages. For a while, I thought this was something that we’d have to develop in house. We looked at a number of potential partners, including some big multinational organizations to find a good fit, but we really weren’t impressed with what we saw. So many of these companies are data-rich but information poor. In other words, the data isn’t being translated into useful information. When we met the team at Rogue7, our experience was completely different. When they walked us through their product it was like a light bulb went off. We thought, ‘This is true machine learning.’”

“When they walked us through their product it was like a light bulb went off. We thought, ‘This is true machine learning'”

Rogue7 ‘s first Machine Learning as a Service (MLaaS) application was developed to optimize pipeline operations in the oil and gas industry, but there are a large number of other potential applications including water distribution, electricity grids or even railways. Glyn is quick to point out that from his perspective, the fact that both organizations got started in the energy sector makes a lot of sense.

“What people need to understand is that experience from the oil and gas sector is a valuable asset,” says Glyn. “This sector has already solved some of the biggest challenges out there in terms of pipelines, resource distribution, and safety. It makes sense to leverage that level of expertise for other industries. And that’s what we’re doing with our partnership with Rogue7. The team there is just this group of amazingly technical, highly skilled, and incredibly smart people and I have absolute trust in the outcomes that their technology can deliver for our clients.”

As for Rogue7, they’re excited to see where this partnership takes them.

“The first product module was built for the oil (liquid) pipeline industry, but now we have built a water product and this relationship with HAG will take our product across the globe,” says Quinn.

You can see a demonstration of Rogue7’s product here:

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