As the water industry moves towards digitisation, one of the key challenges is gaining user acceptance of new technologies. Here, Brock Tunnicliffe, Customer Compliance Officer, Customer and Community, at City West Water talks about how the utility is implementing Virtual Reality (VR) into its operations.

Ahead of his presentation at Digital Utilities 2018, running from 19-20 April in Melbourne, Mr Tunnicliffe said that City West Water is currently exploring opportunities to utilise VR to enhance customer engagement, undertake engineering design review and deliver safety training simulations.

“Since late 2017 we have been working toward delivering virtual sight tours of our stormwater harvesting assets, starting with Lake Caroline Stormwater Harvesting Scheme. In order to create the tours, we have acquired a 360° camera to capture views of the area, which will provide us with a new avenue to enhance community engagement,” Mr Tunnicliffe said.

“We are also looking to apply this technology to engineering design review to increase efficiency in design and better identify hazards that are not obvious in 2D designs.”

Mr Tunnicliffe says that despite VR being relatively new to the water sector, the technology has the potential to reform training practices for staff, enhance safety and dramatically increase accuracy and efficiency across the board.

“When it comes to staff training, VR has the ability to not only immerse users into a fully interactive and realistic space, but to also train an individual’s muscle memory which is far more effective than learning from pen and paper.”

Mr Tunnicliffe said it is important to encourage people to be excited about using VR by helping them understand the associated benefits.

“VR is particularly difficult to explain verbally, or show on a 2D screen, so we must openly encourage staff and customers to put themselves in this virtual environment to allow them to explore and learn,” Mr Tunnicliffe said.

“Cost is also a challenge when sharing the benefits of VR, as cheap headsets can significantly limit the user experience as compared to high end systems i.e. The HTC Vive.”

Is your utility implementing emerging technology like VR?

Hear more from Brock Tunnicliffe about the impact of Virtual Reality on water operators in his presentation at Digital Utilities 2018, running from 19-20 April at the Pullman Hotel in Melbourne.

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