What Do Water Pipes And Roof Tiles Have In Common? They Aren’t As Boring As You Think

Hollie Higa

In 2018, the message of innovation was clear: the foundation of change is simplicity.

Through innovation simplicity, we are identifying everyday challenges at work and home and overcoming the problems we face collectively as global citizens. But more importantly, we are designing intelligent solutions to combat them in ways that work for everyone.

Pipes and tiles find new life with the Internet of Things

This brings me to the boring subject of water pipes and roofing tiles. In the UK, we waste on average 3 billion liters of water every day – a huge problem, considering the global water shortage. But how can you innovate a pipe?

At the UKISUG IoT Symposium in June 2018, AgilityWorks senior consultant Utsav Chobe showed attendees a live demo of how smart sensors in water pipes can be used to capture real-time data that is pushed into the backend for processing. This Internet of Things technology can generate automated requests and create work orders so field engineers can find and fix the faults faster. This results in a huge reduction in water waste and enables back-office staff and field engineers to work more efficiently. Suddenly, the humble water pipe becomes an everyday hero. How exciting is that?!

If that isn’t thrilling enough for you, don’t worry – roof tiles are also being innovated.

Last year, head of SAP technology Gareth Ryan discussed how imaging and machine learning can be used to assess objects (or “assets”) to identify whether there is minor damage that can be repaired or a full replacement is needed. Data from image assessments is captured and, similar to the water sensors, pushed into the backend where it can be used to automatically prioritize and assign work orders. Machine learning functionality enables this system to get more intelligent – assessing assets with increased efficiency and accuracy. Essentally, the modest roof tile becomes an unassuming vehicle for artificial intelligence.

The roof tile is only one application of this smart imaging technology. Take drones, which are primarily used for photography. These ultra-mobile and always-connected applications are used in a multitude of industries, including oil and gas, construction, mining, and transport. When you consider the roof tile example in the context of everything you could possibly photograph with a drone, suddenly, the possibilities are unlimited.

So, what about simplicity in designing the systems behind this?

It should come as no surprise to many that design thinking is behind this simplicity.

At the AgilityWorks Innovation Forum in June, we ran a design thinking session, which focused on the “explore” phase of the approach. Attendees went back to basics and did an exercise that asked them to think about the system’s end users. What is their name, their role, and what challenges do they encounter on a day-to-day basis? By taking this simple, granular approach at the beginning, you can create a system that is easy to use and solves real challenges, rather than innovating for the sake of it.

If you take away anything from this blog, I hope it is the understanding that even the most boring subjects can become some of the most exciting opportunities for innovation. You’ll never look the same way at a roof tile again.

Want to learn how SAP Leonardo can help your business to innovate the ordinary? Take a look at our SAP Leonardo Explore workshop.


Hollie Higa

About Hollie Higa

Hollie Higa heads up Marketing at AgilityWorks, and is excited by how the latest innovations in technology can transform the way we live. She works closely with Practice Directors and Industry Leads to find ways to bring the story of business transformation with SAP to life.