Published: 11 July 2017

Major companies share their perspectives on Surrey’s industrial ‘6th sense’ technology

Industry players including Unilever, IBM, Dyson, Petrofac, Fluor, Sellafield and UKPIA (UK Petroleum Industry Association) visited the University to discuss the potential of ‘6th sense’ technology – a future system which will enable companies to predict events within industrial plants.

Taking place on 28 June, the first Industrial Advisory Board meeting of the £1m EPSRC ‘6th sense’ project saw academics from Surrey’s Department of Chemical and Process Engineering, 5G Innovation Centre (5GIC) and Surrey Space Centre (SSC) getting together with high profile industry partners.

The aim of the meeting was to gather information and perspectives from companies across the engineering and technology sectors which will inform research and guide development of new technology within the £1m ‘Stepping towards the industrial 6th sense’ project.

"We need to be able to safely manage the high risk environments we work in." - Andy Cooney, Sellafield

Funded by EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council), this project aims to develop a world-first Industrial 6th Sense demonstration facility with sensing, data mining and a simulation network capable of generating a vision of the future for industrial plants. Highly ambitious and multidisciplinary, the project is a collaboration between the Department of Process Engineering, 5GIC and SSC, along with industry partners.

During the meeting, which was chaired by Mark Howard – a Visiting Professor at Surrey and former Vice-President of BP Conversions – industry delegates shared insights into how sixth sense technologies could transform their plant operations.

Richard Bucksey, Innovation Operations Lead at Fluor, commented: “Fluor wants to be on the crest of the wave for any new technologies that are coming in. We are also interested in new safety practices and how likely they are to be implemented.”

Andy Cooney, Technical Manager at Sellafield, said: “We need to be able to safely manage the high risk environments we work in. I’m interested in the care and maintenance of redundant facilities and long-term safe storage of waste – and the security risks associated with doing this.”

Professor Sai Gu, Head of the Department of Chemical and Process Engineering, said: “The clear message that came from the meeting was that industrial companies are very keen on the 6th sense technology and its implementation. We now need to ensure that the technologies we develop directly address their needs – for example cyber security has emerged as a major issue and will be integral to our research.

“Our next task will be to create initial models which demonstrate the potential of 6th sense technology: we need to translate our collective research at Surrey into a knowledge that industry can understand and use.”

The project’s next Industrial Advisory Board meeting will take place in December.

Read more about ‘Stepping towards the industrial 6th sense’.

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