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11 June, 2018 - 19:47 By Tony Quested

Cambridge technology aims to prevent future Grenfell-style disasters

A Cambridge business has secured Innovate UK funding for a £1 million project to work with academia and enhance a new asset tracking technology to minimise risks of future disasters such as the Grenfell Tower tragedy.

RedBite Solutions has secured the funding to transform its asset tracking tool ‘itemit’ into a revolutionary, multi-stakeholder asset management application, fuelled by transparency and openness. It will leverage advanced AI and machine learning algorithms to maximise effectiveness.

Recent, tragic, events in social housing have brought to the forefront the need for change in the way assets that are owned, managed and used by different parties are monitored and maintained. 

It is necessary that asset end-users, such as housing tenants are able to access up to date and accurate information on asset maintenance and inspection schedules. In addition, feedback, reports and concerns from end-users should be valued and used to enhance and inform asset management decision-making.

RedBite is leading the £1 million Social Networked Smart Infrastructure Assets (SoNIA) project, collaborating with the combined research partner the Distributed Information Automation Lab (DIAL) and CSIC, at the University of Cambridge Department of Engineering (CUED) along with the housing association Settle (formerly North Hertfordshire Homes) and the Estate Management department of the University of Cambridge.

RedBite Solutions CEO Alex Wong said: “The Grenfell Tower tragedy highlights the need for a drastic change in the way assets that are owned, managed and used by different parties are maintained and monitored. As documented in the Tower's fire risk assessment report (Nov, 2012), the condition of critical assets was directly linked to the extent of the tragedy. Our aim is to empower members of our society at a very poignant time to engage with a transparent and trustworthy change that addresses pertinent concerns that are shared by so many.”

The Redbite team will work towards creating a user-centred digital asset management solution that provides transparency to asset end-users about the assets they rely upon and interact with as well as working to ensure incoming data from maintenance contractors and end-users is analysed and incorporated into decision-making. 

This project will extend St John’s Innovation Centre-based RedBite's fully-owned product, itemit – 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.

The itemit asset management solution proposed is unique in that all parties with an interest in an asset will be using the same integrated system to engage with assets. 

Dr Ajith Parlikad, senior lecturer in industrial systems at Cambridge University’s Institute for Manufacturing and CSIC Investigator, said: “The output from this project is an innovative, digital platform for all asset stakeholders that incorporates new algorithms developed together with 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”  

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. In line with the Horizons' Human-Rights priority area, people must have the freedom to participate in decision-making that affects their lives, says Alex Wong.

• PHOTOGRAPH SHOWS: Alex Wong, CEO of RedBite Solutions

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