The first phase of Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole (BCP) Council and Poole Harbour Commissioners’ innovative AI water quality sensing project, in partnership with UK AI company UnifAI Technology, has gone live this month.
The project forms part of the work that BCP Council’s Economic Development team are delivering as a partner on the Interreg 2 Seas ‘Smart Ports Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Development (SPEED) Programme’ which aims to develop the conditions for a leading smart ports innovation.
In early October, Dan Byles from UnifAI went to sea with the Poole Harbour Commissioners Navigation Aids Team to install a series of remote, wireless sensors on existing navigation buoys and markers across the harbour, including the oyster beds.
Designed to be easy to install, self-contained and require little maintenance, the wireless sensors regularly measure several key variables in the water and transmit the data automatically to the Cloud. UnifAI’s artificial intelligence then interprets this data and provides real-time insights into the water quality. It does this by detecting a wide range of indicators for potential pollutants such as bacterial build up, sewage, fertiliser run-off and industrial discharges. These can be harmful for aquatic ecosystems, creating a build-up of algae which can be detrimental to water quality.
UnifAI’s artificial intelligence has been trained with 83 million lines of water quality data from the Environment Agency and other sources. For Poole Harbour, UnifAI has used local sample data to train the AI for local conditions, and will continue to train and improve the AI with additional live data over the course of the project.
This project is ground-breaking and represents the first live deployment of a network of low-cost remote and continuous sensors using artificial intelligence to monitor the health of a protected water ecosystem such as Poole Harbour, anywhere in the world.
Poole Harbour is one of the world’s largest natural harbours and has been recognised internationally as an important area for nature conservation and is designated a Special Protection Area. The harbour supports extensive wild and aquaculture shellfish beds, and water quality is vitally important for this key local industry.
The project represents the latest example of innovation from BCP Council, who are embracing the opportunities new digital technologies can bring in improving infrastructure and services. It is being undertaken in association with Poole Harbour Commissioners, the Environment Agency, Digital Catapult’s Things Connected Bournemouth, Southern IFCA, Barclays Eagle Labs and support from Rockley Watersports and Natural England.
Dan Byles, Chief Commercial Officer at UnifAI Technology, said:
“Our goal at UnifAI is to use technology and artificial intelligence to help improve the health of people, infrastructure and the environment. We see the Poole Harbour project as a fantastic example of how imagination and technology can combine to create an exemplar project that benefits both the natural environment and a local economy. We believe that what we are doing with BCOP and the Poole Harbour Commissioners is a world-first when it comes to using the power of AI to monitor and protect a coastal ecosystem in this way.”
Matthew Robson, Senior Economic Development Officer at BCP Council, said:
"We are excited to be working with UnifAI Technology on this ground-breaking project, because we were impressed with their ability to use artificial intelligence to improve our environmental monitoring. This technology is game changing for us. The AI enables us to cost-effectively gather more data, better data, and more often, which significantly improves our understanding of what is going on in the water, so we can better manage this precious ecosystem."