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Real time control: Project Neptune

Smart technology is being investigated as a way of optimising the operation of water distribution networks.

Seven British universities are collaborating with two water companies (Yorkshire Water and United Utilities) to investigate the potential for sensors within pipes to monitor not just leakage and pressure, but also energy use.

"Project Neptune is about developing smart technology for sensing what’s going on in the system and for helping make decisions about controlling supply," explains Richard Ashley, professor of urban water at Sheffield University.

The project is making use of new smart sensors that cost very little to incorporate in the network, and do not need power - or can run on power generated within the water main itself.

These sensors are coupled with "genetic algorithms" to turn the data collected from the sensors into a model that learns from history and comes up with optimal solutions in close to real time.

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