The Geospatial Commission has launched a new discovery project to determine if and how additional benefits could be delivered by increasing access to the National Underground Asset Register (NUAR) data.
NUAR is an emerging digital map of underground pipes and cables that is revolutionising the way we install, maintain, operate and repair our buried infrastructure. Initially NUAR is being made available to underground asset owners and their supply chain to support the ‘safe dig’ use case.
This exciting new discovery project, part funded by the Government Office for Technology Transfer, will explore the potential benefits of widening access to NUAR and the constraints surrounding new propositions. We believe potential opportunities include making NUAR:
- available to other user groups for safe digging purposes, such as landowners and developers
- available to support other use cases (e.g. electric vehicle charge point rollout, flood risk planning, emergency response, conveyancing, property development, etc.)
- accessible via third party intermediaries / APIs (application programming interfaces), rather than solely via the NUAR user interface
However, these opportunities do not come without constraints and risks. Our discovery work aims to assess both the feasibility and value of such opportunities, with only the ideas that prove to be truly feasible and have the support of our asset owner community and national security stakeholders taken forward in future years.
The need for further discovery work
Since the inception of NUAR, we have regularly been contacted by individuals and organisations interested in accessing NUAR data for purposes beyond the ‘safe dig’ use case currently permitted. In a public consultation we held in 2022, 75% of respondents stated that they were supportive of expanding the prescribed use cases for NUAR beyond ‘safe digging’.
Many respondents suggested specific additional use cases, which could help maximise the value and benefit of the data held within NUAR. We have also been contacted by several data service providers, asking how they can support asset owners in ensuring NUAR data is used in as many excavations as possible.
To date we have intentionally focused our efforts on delivering the critical safe dig use case. However, with the minimum viable product (MVP) now available across the whole of England and Wales, and work progressing on updating existing legislation, we believe that now is the right time to explore potential opportunities from widening secure and controlled access to NUAR.
The discovery process
Over the next year we will be carrying out discovery work, collaborating with individuals and organisations who are interested in emerging opportunities, to test the feasibility and value of different propositions.
Starting in spring 2024 we will be running a series of half day in-person workshops, to explore potential future uses in more detail. As themes emerge, we will reach out directly to potential participants with further details.
The evidence collected will inform our thinking on whether to extend access to National Underground Asset Register (NUAR) data, based on an improved understanding of the potential outcomes, benefits and uncertainties. This supports the Geospatial Commission’s mission to ‘drive greater use of geospatial applications and insights across the economy’.
You will be able to stay up-to-date on how the discovery project is progressing by reading project updates as and when they are published.
Stakeholders wishing to participate can contribute in several ways, with varying levels of time-commitment required.
You can now email Nuar.Support@atkinsrealis.com with any ideas that you would like us to explore. Suggestions could span the areas of planning and design, asset management and maintenance, strategic planning, innovation or something else altogether.
If you are already familiar with NUAR, try not to constrain your thinking to what already exists. Do not feel you need to present a polished use case as we intend to work with respondents to shape new ideas during the project.
If you are less familiar with NUAR but are curious about the potential of the data, then please do get in touch, even if this is simply to express your interest. We are keen to hear from as wide a range of stakeholders as possible. We are also planning activities to help new audiences learn more about NUAR and generate ideas for potential future uses. These will be promoted soon.
Once you have contacted the team, we will let you know if any further details would be useful and stay in touch about the ways you can participate in our ongoing discovery process.
Please share this blog post with anyone in your organisation or beyond that might be interested or have suggestions we could consider.
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