We help our customers transform commerce & industry through complex, autonomous algorithms.

Most of the simple, single-discipline, approaches to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals have been well explored. The next phase of solutions will be more complex and multi-disciplinary, for example, combining AI, sensing, fluid dynamics and synthetic biology in innovative and unusual ways to create commercially attractive solutions.

This month we reveal two water-related technologies at Singapore International Water Week that help tackle some key sustainability challenges, and we have been innovating in the community at the Cambridge ‘Tech for good: Water quality in developing communities' forum.

Singapore International Water Week

The two demonstrations showing at Singapore International Water Week are examples of a powerful combination of disciplines.

AquaML, a smart-city IOT system which combines AI and a single pressure sensor on the water inlet pipe to a building, which can infer how the water is being used (shower, washing machine, taps, bath, garden hose, etc.). It disaggregates water usage and sends the information to the utility supplier for the building (house, flats, office etc.).

A detector which uses synthetic biology to sense non-biological contaminants in water. The detector is based on cell-free biological sensors in a test strip format. The sensor is made using engineered proteins and DNA which are then applied to the test strips. The benefit of this approach is that it harnesses the power of synthetic biology in a real world application but without the release of genetically modified organisms.

Uncovering the best synergies in complex multi-disciplinary collaborations

Solutions like these are made possible because we regularly tackle our clients’ problems by implementing new combinations of emerging areas of expertise such as AI, machine learning, synthetic biology along with more traditional disciplines. We’re continually learning where the most powerful synergies are between disciplines across the business. The knowledge of what works well for which set of requirements feeds directly into future projects.

‘Tech for Good’ – Collaborating in the community to tackle globally important problems

We’re based in the primary innovation hub of Cambridge – the Science Park, with a large local community of groups, meetups, forums and collaborative events. We’re active in this local community and involvement is very valuable and rewarding in terms of further broadening our exposure to different ways of thinking and emerging technology. It also gives us opportunities to contribute our problem-solving skills to tackle globally important problems.

Last week we attended the latest ‘Tech for Good’ forum organised by Cambridge Wireless – this month focussed on water management and water quality challenges in developing and emerging economies. Three ventures were showcased who are developing novel, affordable and appropriate water purification technologies. Following presentations from the ventures, we facilitated an hour’s workshop with one of the three companies – Majico (patented off-grid sunlight-driven water treatment for fast disinfection of E. coli), to look at two key challenges that they felt would benefit from a fresh perspective:

  1. In-line sensing of efficiency of the water filtration system.
  2. Using mobile technology integration to add value for end users and vendors of the system.

One of the skills we bring to community forums in addition to the knowledge of our engineers is facilitation of workshops, and it’s an engaging challenge to take two problems at very short notice, learn about them from a 15 minute presentation then spend a coffee break planning the structure of an hour’s mini workshop to tackle them. This is a rapid distillation of a workshop that we’d normally run over 1-2 days, pulling out parts of the process that can add some real value in the short time that the assembled local scientists and engineers have to tackle the problem.

  • Broaden our understanding of the problem and scope
  • Expand our awareness of the opportunity space by mapping the problem in time (before, during, after water dispense) and space (sub system e.g. the water, the user level and the meta connected system and community level)
  • Look at the key target users and explore their interactions with the system
  • Use this stimulus to generate ideas then rapidly refine down to a few that initially look like they meet the high-level requirements

We capture as much of the group’s ideas as possible so that they can be explored further following the workshop by Majico. The exploration of the problem space also helps provide starting points and fresh perspectives for them to consider the problem from. A variety of ideas spanning chemistry, fluid dynamics, sensing, operations, service came from the session to tackle the hard challenges and Majico welcomed the fresh perspectives generated by the multi-disciplinary group.

Get involved and get in touch

Cambridge Consultants will be exhibiting at the Singapore International Water Week from 8 July to 12 July. See https://www.siww.com.sg/ for more details.

Come join us and CW at the next Tech for Good session if you’re in the Cambridge area – September 26th where the subject will be Infrastructure AI & IOT. We look forward to finding which companies are involved and what problems we’ll be focusing on.

https://www.cambridgewireless.co.uk/programmes/cw-unplugged/

Get in touch if you have difficult problems that require smart combinations of multi-disciplinary cutting-edge science and engineering.

Co-authored by Iain Smith and Andrew Lintott.

Author
Iain Smith

Iain has 9 years of experience in the field of user centred design & research, systematic innovation process, mechanical engineering design and user requirements capture/elicitation.