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Meet the latest addition to our team: Neelabh Singh!

Meet the latest addition to our team: Neelabh Singh!

Prior to Vapar, Neelabh worked in both environmental services and in banking sector as a full stack developer. His passion is in design, optimisation and delivery.

Neelabh holds a master’s degree in Artificial Intelligence from University of New South Wales in Sydney and a Computer Science degree from RV College in Bangalore.

Getting to know Neelabh more, here are some things we found out about him.

Why did you join VAPAR?
I have always wanted to join an organisation that focuses on solving a complex problem in a “smart way”. I was impressed by the solution VAPAR provides for pipe condition assessment through AI and creating a smooth user journey.

You are a software engineer by profession, but what made you choose UI/UX design career as well?
Here are a few reasons why I chose UI/UX too. I feel having both skills aid me in bridging the communication gap between a designer and a developer. Also, UI/UX not only helped me in developing good decision-making skills, but also made me a creative and skilled engineer.

What do you like to do outside of work?
I got two things to do over the weekend. Either watch movies or play PC games (perks of being a bachelor).

If there is a book you would recommend to a person, what book it would be?
I would recommend reading “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho. It is a story about an Andalusian shepherd boy who chases a prophecy. It is an inspirational masterpiece.

For more information about the latest developments at VAPAR, you can connect with Neelabh on Linkedin here, or reach out to us via our Contact page.


Meet the latest addition to our team: Xinjie Lan!

Meet the latest addition to our team: Xinjie Lan!

Xinjie has more than three years of experience in software engineering and cloud computing. He has been involved with several “speed to market” demanding software as a team lead.

He has a passion for building innovative products and bring the future into people’s lives, and therefore really excited to join the team at VAPAR.

To share a little more about Xinjie, we asked him to answer some questions that illuminate the personality behind the talent.

What made you want to join the VAPAR team?
I always want to build something that can have a significant impact on our lives. For example, improve the efficiency of tedious manual tasks so the humans can use their time better on something more meaningful and challenging. Artificial Intelligence has been an area that has been studied for many years, but still can be a challenge when implementing it in the real world. When I met the team at VAPAR, I thought their ambitious goals and use case application were brilliant and very achievable using artificial intelligence. I knew that I would be able to contribute to the teams mission and make in impact with my work. 

What’s a joke that only people in your line of work have?
When you try to solve a bug, you still see the same error code after staring at it and tried many times. Next time you try it, you don’t know what happened, but this time you see a different error code. That is the moment of making my day. 

What current trend makes no sense to you?
I think it would be TikTok. I still haven’t download TikTok as I don’t particularly appreciate spending time on fragmented and randomised content. I prefer to process information in a completely logical format, just like a program.

If you were to own a restaurant, what kind of food would you serve. 
It would definitely be Korean Barbeque. I love it so much that I used to go to the same Korean Barbeque restaurant every week when I was in college. Of course, it was not healthy. I actually gained 20kg at that time! But who doesn’t love Korean Barbeque, right? Thankfully, I managed to shed the extra kilos and wouldn’t be able to eat as much as I was before, but if I were to own a Korean Barbeque restaurant, even smelling the meat sizzling on the grill would make me happy.

For more information about the latest developments at VAPAR, you can connect with Xinjie on Linkedin here, or reach out to us via our Contact page.


The VAPAR Team Continues to Grow – Welcome Mark Lee!

The VAPAR Team Continues to Grow – Welcome Mark Lee!

VAPAR recently brought on former Senior Asset Engineer, Mark to help give us new insights on how to deliver value to our customers.

Mark has spent more than a decade as an engineer managing the asset lifecycle of pipes. He’s been involved in design and construction through to condition assessment and decommissioning, including all that occurs between. 

He made the move from a public utility to VAPAR after seeing the industry’s need for improved modern solutions to pipe condition assessment and the associated management of data. Mark understands our customer’s requirements and is passionate about bringing efficient solutions to them.

We sat down with Mark to get some personal insights from him.

What made you want to join the VAPAR team?
ML: I’ve always been an advocate of using smart processes and technology to simplify, optimise and accelerate tasks. After seeing what VAPAR can do for pipe condition assessments, I knew it was a company I wanted to join.

What would we typically find you doing away from the office?
ML: I really enjoy running and am up at 5am every day. I have a great group of friends who meet and run early in the morning to start the day with some exercise, a quick swim at the beach and a morning cup of coffee.

What’s your favourite holiday spot?
ML: I love visiting Bright in Victoria. Relaxing next to the Ovens River and getting up into the Victorian High Country is the best. I’m rarely happier than when I’m standing on the summit of Mt Feathertop looking out over the panorama of surrounding peaks.

You’re Australian, but haven’t always lived here, is that correct?
ML: That’s right – my wife is from Finland and we’ve been lucky enough to spend some time living in Europe. We moved to Helsinki for a few years so our children could learn the language. It’s a beautiful country and was a great experience.


Our CTO, Michelle, has been named a ‘Women in AI Awards 2021’ Finalist!

Our CTO, Michelle, has been named a ‘Women in AI Awards 2021’ Finalist!

Exciting news – VAPAR CTO and Co-Founder, Michelle Aguilar, has been recognised as a finalist in the Women in AI (WAI) Awards for 2021, in the ‘AI in Innovation’ category.

WAI Award finalists are judged for their “innovation, leadership and inspiring potential, global potential and impact, and ability for the AI solution to do good for the community and citizens.”

The achievement is the latest in a string of public successes for the VAPAR team, who have also recently been named one of Australia’s Top ’10 Startups to Watch in 2021′ and took out the Future Water Networks Water Dragons Award at the Future Water Awards.

Recognition as a WAI Awards Finalist is well-deserved recognition for Michelle, who has spearheaded the transformation of VAPAR’s accuracy and capabilities into its current iteration over a few short years.

According to Michelle, the significance of the award went further than being recognised for her work in creating an innovative AI platform.

“Being named a finalist is a great way to kick off 2021, but I’m most proud to be recognised as an example for the next generation of young women interested in AI and STEM topics”, Michelle said. “I think it’s important to get as many women’s stories as possible out about making an impact in these fields, so to be highlighted as a success story myself is very humbling”.

With category winners being announced at the WAI Awards 2021 Gala Dinner on Tuesday, 23 February, the whole VAPAR team (and many others who have keenly watched Michelle’s rise) will keenly await the reveal of the overall winner.

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VAPAR named one of SmartCompany’s Top ’10 Startups to Watch in 2021′

VAPAR named one of SmartCompany’s Top ’10 Startups to Watch in 2021′

If the opinion of SmartCompany is anything to go by, 2021 is going to be the best year ever for VAPAR.

Recently, the leading digital publication has recognised VAPAR as one of their ’10 Startups to Watch in 2021′ – a list which they say is filled with companies “on the cusp of an explosion of growth” with “founders we think we will be hearing a lot more from in the new year.”

The result comes after a strong year for our team, working with many fantastic Utilities, Contractors and Councils to optimise asset planning and eliminate risk, including successful projects with City West Water, City of Ryde, and of course the award-winning Blacktown City Council project.

Needless to say, we’re very excited to be recognised as one of the Australia’s top startups, and are excited for the opportunities that 2021 will bring.

Check out the full list here.

Water Dragons

VAPAR wins Future Water Association’s ‘Water Dragons’ Award

VAPAR wins Future Water Association’s ‘Water Dragons’ Award

Rounding out an exciting year for VAPAR in 2020, we are very pleased to announce that we have been recognised by the Future Water Association as the Winner of their flagship ‘Water Dragons’ award.

Future Water Association describe the Water Dragons Award as their ‘main innovation award’, and outline that winners will demonstrate clear and distinct benefits in making or save money for water companies.

Presenting the award on behalf of Award Sponsor, Hydrosave, Director of Engineering, Matt Foster, commended VAPAR’s innovative approach and widespread application in his congratulations.

“VAPAR’s innovation in the rapid assessment of video recordings of internal sewer condition has immense potential to help the water industry get a grip on understanding the condition of its sewer assets. It will revolutionise what has hitherto been a labour intensive and slow process by using AI and Cloud-Based technology and could yield 1,000-fold efficiency savings in time and improve forward planning for investment in the country’s sewerage infrastructure.” Mr Foster said.

VAPAR CTO, Michelle Aguilar, was jubilant about the win.

‘To be recognised as an outstanding young innovative company through the awards is a great reward for the hard work which we’ve invested. In 2020, we’ve already helped asset owners and contractors in the UK, Australia and NZ to streamline their asset management process, and are aiming to continue this trend in 2021.’

If you’re interested in checking out the win as it happened, you can do so below:

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What the new WSA 05-2020 changes mean for you

What the new WSA 05-2020 changes mean for you

Get excited people, the new WSA 05-2020 version has arrived! 

WSAA announced on their website on August 12th that the Version 4.1 is available and will now supersede WSA 05-2013, Version 3.1.

I’ve actually been eagerly awaiting this new version to release for quite some time. A large part of my eagerness was because VAPAR took part in the final drafting of code during the public consultation period back in October 2019 – so I was keen to see what the outcomes were and what feedback was incorporated.

I’ve reviewed it and completed a side-by-side comparison with my 2013 copy to spot the differences. As a self confessed pipe nerd, I couldn’t help myself. 

Overall, it was an interesting read. If you want to jump straight to the impact of changes skip ahead to ‘What are the impacts of these changes?’. If you want more technical detail, read on.

The good news is that overall, WSA 05-2020 looks to be a win for asset owners – at least in the long-term.

Changes affecting condition assessment

The new version of the code has introduced some changes which will impact condition assessment, both from a structural and service point of view:

  • Lateral (connection or junction) defect scores will now be scored separate to the main conduit condition score.
  • A number of defect categories will now be reporting both as a structural AND service defect compared to the previous version where the majority of defects were considered EITHER a structural or service score (e.g. displaced joints, deformation etc.)
  • A number of defects have been added to the code (e.g. lifting hole damage for stormwater conduits)
  • A number of defects have additional characterisations and quantifications added (e.g. greater quantification of % cross sectional area reduction for service defects).
  • The scoring numbers for defects have been updated. On average, the scoring values have been decreased for structural defects and increased for service defects compared with the previous version.

What else has changed?

  • Inclusion of an acceptance inspection specification for newly constructed gravity sewers and stormwater pipes
  • Appendix A is much more comprehensive on software requirements
  • This version will be delivered via e-book delivery, not print

What is the impact of the changes to WSA 05?

The good news is that overall, WSA 05-2020 looks to be a win for asset owners – at least in the long-term.

Separating the grading of lateral and main conduit defects will provide improvements in the segmentation and granularity of data. This means greater decision-making power for asset owners because more information about your assets will be captured during inspections – always a good thing! It also means that asset owners can be sure that main conduit condition scores will no longer be escalated by issues that are related to property owner connections.

Here’s the catch – this is going to cause some headaches in the short-term. Right now, the market simply isn’t set up to record this distinction between lateral and main codes, meaning that we’re going to have data issues until we have the chance to make up some ground.

Similarly, adding defects, characterisations and quantifications helps with gathering granularity on asset condition (as above, yay for better decision making!). 

However, the question needs to be asked – is it actually realistic to expect that all these codes will be used correctly and consistently? Almost 200 additional defect categories have been added into this version of the code, representing almost a 50% increase in the number of categories that need to be learned and coded by field operators and auditors. Whilst, the majority of these additional categories are in fact the ‘characterisations’ and ‘quantifications’ of the main defect codes, the reality of implementing these additions meaningfully will still be very challenging.

One of the criticisms of previous versions of the WSA code is that it grades ‘too harshly’, resulting in asset owners needing to spend more time on further qualification and/or prioritisation in an effort to reduce their backlogs. The good news is that this version of the code has made some headway in addressing this. Structural defect scoring values in the 2020 version of the code have on average been decreased as compared to the 2013 version. With most (but not all) organisations using structural condition as an indicator for repairs, this general decrease in scoring values for this category may result in fewer assets being unnecessarily escalated to rehabilitation programs.

‘Structural defect scoring values in the 2020 version of the code have on average been decreased as compared to the 2013 version.’

Do the new WSA 05 changes affect my organisation?

WSA 05 is used Australia-wide as an inspection and reporting guide. But it has much farther reaching implications on the industry than just providing a standardised method to survey pipes. The condition gradings that come out of the inspection process go on to inform millions of dollars of CAPEX and OPEX budgets for years to come. In fact, the 1 (good) to 5 (failed) ratings are more akin to accounting standards than engineering ones. For this reason, it is important to be aware that this re-definition of scoring can present an opportunity (or challenge!) to your bottom line that relates to renewal backlog and future work.


It was encouraging to learn that the public consultation period for this version was very involved and I think the overall result is something that achieves the WSA 05 documents purpose – to provide a uniform standard coding system for recording and comparing defects. For me, the committee has done a good job in addressing the challenges from the previous version. The changes represent an overall win for asset owners, but not without presenting some challenges for the industry. But who doesn’t love a good challenge?


About the author

Amanda Siqueira is an Australian civil and environmental engineer who has worked in design, construction and remediation of drainage and sewer pipes in Australia, New Zealand and the UK for almost 10 years. She has passion for all things pipes and is also one of the co-founders of VAPAR.

VAPAR Matthew Pittorino

Meet our newest team member – Matt!

Meet our newest team member – Matt!

VAPAR has recently added a new team member to our ranks – we’d like to introduce Matt!

Joining the VAPAR team as our Digital Marketing Manager, Matt will be responsible for bringing new organisations to the VAPAR platform, helping them to optimise the tracking, repair and maintenance of their asset infrastructure.

We sat down with Matt to find out about his background and discover what makes him tick, both at work, and away from the office.

Nice to meet you Matt! Tell us a little about your background prior to becoming a Vaparino.

MP: Thanks for having me! I’ve held a variety of really cool roles prior to joining the VAPAR team. Most recently, I’ve worked for Engineers Australia, specialising in digital communications, content, and member engagement. I’ve also spent time as CEO of another digital start-up called Ezi Debt Collection. Professionally, I’d say that I most enjoy roles where I’m able to get audiences and customers excited with my work.

What made you want to join the VAPAR team?

MP: There’s a few reasons. VAPAR has already proven that it has an exciting, innovative platform which presents an easy-to-use, intelligent solution to an industry which has remained stagnant for decades. The personnel is also absolutely a selling point; the VAPAR team has a reputation for being supportive, creative and collaborative; based on my experience so far, this reputation is well-deserved. Finally, VAPAR is an exciting, growing company that has the potential to serve globally – who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?

What would we typically find you doing away from the office?

MP: I love going on adventures or camping with my partner, Lauren, and my dog, Dash. I really enjoy getting creative in the kitchen, especially cooking for my friends and family. I’m an avid fan of pretty much every kind of sport, particularly football, basketball, martial arts and Formula 1. If I’m looking to wind down, I’ll usually do so with a movie or a good book.

What’s your favourite holiday spot?

MP: I absolutely love the NSW South Coast, and go to Callala Beach in Jervis Bay regularly. Otherwise, I gravitate towards quiet, natural places – an amazing view is always a bonus.

It’s your last night on earth – what’s your final meal?

MP: My Nan’s chicken curry – nostalgia is the best seasoning.

AC grant business gov au

VAPAR doubles down on UK expansion following $490K government grant

VAPAR, intelligent engineering software using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to automate condition assessments for stormwater and sewerage pipelines, has announced it has received AU$490,000 as part of the federal government’s Accelerating Commercialisation grant scheme.

Following a AU$25,000 NSW Government Minimum Viable Product (MVP) grant received when VAPAR first launched in 2018, which was used to build the platform and hire developers, VAPAR has had extensive success in acquiring customers including Sydney Water, SA Water, City of Ryde, Blacktown City Council, Campbelltown City Council, Rural City of Murray Bridge and more. VAPAR’s platform is revolutionising the way infrastructure is tracked, repaired and maintained by automating what have been highly time-consuming and manual tasks for the industry.

NSW Minister for Jobs and Investment Stuart Ayres said it was great to see VAPAR making such an impact on its industry.

“VAPAR are based in the Sydney Startup Hub and they are such a great success story – the fact they are heading towards further national and international growth is inspiring,” Mr Ayres said.

“Our MVP program is designed to support promising pre-revenue startups just like VAPAR. It allows them engage with potential customers in the early stages of development, helping create innovative solutions that address industry needs or market gaps, right here in NSW.”

In addition to increasing their marketing traction in Australia, VAPAR’s deep learning models have also been used successfully to increase the efficiency of inspecting the sewer network for United Utilities, the water and wastewater services provider for the North West of England.

United Utilities Innovation Manager, Kieran Brocklebank, commented on the relevance of artificial intelligence to the water industry, “United Utilities is always on the lookout for ways we can provide world class services to our customers. Using artificial intelligence to provide insights that can be actioned before issues arise is why we are interested in partnering with companies like VAPAR, who stand out because of their agility, technical skill and willingness to work collaboratively”. United Utilities manages over 77,000 kilometres of sewer pipe and services 3 million homes and businesses in the North West of England.

The co-founders, Amanda Siqueira, CEO, and Michelle Aguilar, CTO, plan to use the government grant and Australian water utility work to further scale the business and make a focused effort on expanding into the UK.

Siqueira commented, “There has been significant demand for the VAPAR platform from day one, and our work with United Utilities is testament to the scalability and global value our services can provide. We had originally planned on proactively expanding into the UK market in 2022, but with this federal government grant we can now accelerate our plans and work on this sooner throughout 2020-2021.”

As VAPAR needs to meet strict engineering requirements for its utilities, public sector and government customers, the focus on quality has always been at the core of product development plans. While VAPAR disrupts and automates processes that have been in place for decades, Aguilar believes there is an opportunity for local solutions to global problems that are both reliable and innovative.

Aguilar said, “Australia has an opportunity to be a world-class innovation hub, and to futureproof our economy with a focus on technology and entrepreneurship. We’re proud to be a part of the innovation ecosystem in Australia, and to be hiring and growing our business locally as our customer base expands internationally. Expanding into the UK market is an exciting move, and we’re looking forward to continuing to showcase our Australian solutions on the global stage.”

Michelle Aguilar on site UU

Innovation approaches in the Water Industry

We have seen several different approaches to trialling and adopting innovative technologies or solutions, so here are some of our insights on innovation in the water industry.

In-house innovation

Who is better to understand the day to day problems than the people who are experiencing them? Hackathons and internal innovation projects are a great way to understand the challenges that are being faced, but also to identify and trial potential solutions without getting anyone external involved. One of the challenges with this approach is that water utilities and councils are typically not set up to support these “proof of concept” projects into “business as usual”. This is mainly because the person/people who develop the solutions need to have the ability to pass on the required knowledge to maintain the solution within an organisation that may not have people with the required skills to do so. 

Water utilities with open tenders

A longer term approach to innovation is where a utility will identify areas within the business that may need to be refreshed, and put out an open tender to see what solutions are on the market. This procurement method is quite common and is a staple for utility and government organisations, and its application to bringing in innovation is a growing area of interest. A great example of this model being applied for innovation adoption is the United Utilities Innovation Lab in the UK. This brings in potential innovation and implementation partners for utilities and helps United Utilities to understand the capability in the market across a range of options. The challenge with this approach is that typically open tender processes are prescriptive in nature, especially considering the ‘scope’ of the project that the utility is requesting services for. The low flexibility in this procurement process can however be less of an issue if, as with the United Utilities Innovation Lab, the utility has done a thorough ‘ideation’ process with internal SME’s to refine the problem statement as far as possible so that adoption of solutions can be streamlined.

Open Market Challenges

Where a water utility feels there is an opportunity for non-traditional suppliers to provide a solution, another approach is to put a ‘challenge’ out to the open market. This is less formal than a tender process (and therefore puts less pressure on the water utility for adoption) by inviting organisations and individuals to participate who may not be typical suppliers to the water industry, but have particular technical capabilities relevant to the problem statement. This model is also a transparent opportunity for suppliers to hear from water utility customers directly about their specific business challenges. An great example of this model is what Wessex Water (UK) do with their Wessex Water Marketplace Challenges. The main areas that organisations considering this approach should plan for is the volume and quality of submissions as well as information security management with the data that is disseminated to the open market.

Third Party Innovation Organisations

Having an ambitious innovation agenda is one thing. But delivering innovation is quite another. Another option is to bring in a third party organisation to streamline the innovation adoption process. This allows water utility internal staff to focus on the ‘strategy’ of adopting a successful innovation, without dealing with the finer details (e.g. sourcing innovation partners, legal, IP, etc.) that can delay pilot projects and trials. WaterStart, a water innovation technology aggregator, is an example of a third party organisation that partners with water utilities/municipalities as well as technology vendors to arrive at a mutually beneficial outcome. 

Utilities forming innovation groups

If you have ever sat at your desk thinking “I can’t be the only person with this problem”, then you’ve hit the central driver behind why water utility organisations that have similar challenges aim to combine their effort on the innovation and problem solving front. In addition to knowledge sharing between SME’s, pooling of funds to run pilot projects and trials is another advantage of this model. The learnings and outcomes from these projects can then be shared between the group. This option can also benefit the innovation vendor by providing them the opportunity to showcase their solution to a number of potential customers in a single project. An example that we have here in Australia is Victoria’s Intelligent Water Network, made up of 16 water utility member organisations.

As a summary of our experience, what works best is when the operations teams who will be affected are actively involved in trials and communicate what “success” of a trial will look like. Also, given the similarities between utilities, it makes sense to share in trials and results. For those who don’t have any innovation strategy, the risk is that existing approaches become outdated, and the adoption of new solutions could be a poor fit for your needs. Staying informed of both your internal staff needs, and external opportunities is key to maximising the efficiency of operations.

There is clearly a big push for innovation in the water industry, as it should be. It’s great to see the shift worldwide to adopt new solutions to operate more efficiently and keep our environment healthy.