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Welsh Water streamlines operations with immersive visualisation

07 February 2016

With an innovative new Pod360° immersive visualisation centre, Dwr Cymru Welsh Water is fine-tuning its design concepts, improving its teamwork, and conducting virtual site visits to far-flung locations.

Housed within a 6m-diameter projection cylinder, the Pod360° is enabling engineers to step inside and fine-tune their design concepts. It is also capable of displaying Google Street View data

As part of its new £1.7 billion AMP 6 capital investment programme, Dwr Cymru Welsh Water is identifying new ways to work more efficiently and sustainably. And a brand new immersive visualisation centre, developed by 360° projection specialists Igloo Vision, is already making a definite contribution.

Housed within a 6m-diameter projection cylinder, and located at Dwr Cymru Welsh Water’s new offices at Celtic Springs Business Park near Newport, the Pod360° is being used by teams from across the organisation. For example, by projecting computer-aided design and building information modelling (BIM) data in 360°, it is enabling engineers to step inside and fine-tune their design concepts.

By displaying Google Street View data, it is also helping construction teams to get better acquainted with the details of the environments in which they will be working.  And, by projecting panoramic imagery of faraway locations, it is reducing the need for multiple site visits – a particular consideration given the diverse geography of Wales.

In contrast to virtual reality headsets, the Igloo system enables entire teams to work collaboratively within the centre, with everyone viewing the same thing at the same time.  And, because it uses open architecture software and standard computing components, it is possible to import a wide range of different data types and formats directly into the Igloo Vision platform.

So far, the teams using the Pod360° have begun to import their BIM models into the system, and to incorporate it into their design reviews.  Meanwhile, a largely unanticipated benefit has been the projection of Google Street View data, which is improving planning processes. For example, by travelling virtually around a proposed construction site, teams can work together to discuss traffic management issues, plan routes, understand lines of sight, manage risks, and consider ways to minimise the impact on nearby residents.  A future plan is to overlay Welsh Water’s design data directly onto the Google imagery.

One of Dwr Cymru Welsh Water’s priorities is to ensure that the Pod360° becomes established as a practical, everyday planning tool that is routinely used across the organisation. To this end, the company is organising a series of training days for engineers and designers, which demonstrate the capabilities of the system and show how, using a simple smartphone or tablet interface, anyone can quickly learn how to operate it.

Having originally installed the Pod360° in July 2015, Dwr Cymru Welsh Water worked with Igloo Vision to configure the system to meet the company’s particular needs.  By the end of the summer, it was being used around 25 percent of the time and the aim is to quickly increase this to 100 percent.

“Within the next five years we will be investing £1.7 billion in our infrastructure, and have made a commitment to do so safely, efficiently and sustainably,” says design manager, Anne Carroll, who is a member of Dwr Cymru Welsh Water’s AMP 6 Capital Delivery Alliance leadership team.  “Looking at emerging technologies, and investing in tools like the Pod360°, is one way that we can live up to this promise.”

Igloo Vision started out by creating immersive dance venues at music festivals. Although the company still delivers some cultural and corporate events, most of its work is now in the fields of visualisation and simulation. It has installed systems around the world and, alongside Dwr Cymru Welsh Water, works with clients such as BP, Skanska, Arup, CH2M Hill, Capita, The Hong Kong Academy of Medicine and the British Army.

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