Nathan banner

Meet the latest addition to our team: Nathan Muggeridge!

Meet the latest addition to our team: Nathan Muggeridge!

Starting his career in water engineering, Nathan’s passion is to collaborate with different people and explore technologies to create change that leads to a positive outcome for all, which includes VAPAR’s customers. We are incredibly proud to have him join our team.

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

Tell us a bit about your background?

NM: At age 14, I knew I wanted to become a water engineer; I loved spending time in and around water (still do) and had a motivation to build things (still do). This led me to a 20-year career in the UK water section that has covered a multitude of roles and sectors; working for large consultancy to produce hydraulic simulation models, setting up my own consultancy business that delivered projects ranging from the development of a £100m investment plan for London’s sewers to establishing multi-million-pound sewer maintenance contract.

Other experience includes extending the life of a start-up by 3 years, initiating and implementing a multi-award winning behavioural change programme and product managing a number of software solutions. For the last 2 years, I have been working for National Highways, helping establish their Strategic Investment Planning capability, which saw the team grow from just me in Feb 2019 to over 100 people involved in creating the multi-billion pound renewals investment plan for 2025 to 2030.

How did you come to join VAPAR?

NM: I joined VAPAR as I wanted to help build something new again and do it using new technology. I’m motivated by using new technologies to drive changes that lead to positive outcomes, and this is ultimately the purpose of VAPAR. Furthermore, my previous experience has been based around infrastructure asset management. I wanted to expand this to include digital asset management, using data and new technologies to drive better investment decision making.

Where did your interest in Asset Management come from?

NM: Like so many people, I hate seeing waste and Asset Management provides a logical mechanism for minimising wastage. Plus, I like how the principle is transferable from sector to sector, and most sectors involve some form of gravity pipework.

What are your interests outside of work?

NM: Spending time with my family, road cycling, mountain biking in the winter, paddleboarding in the summer, walking the dog and sailing. Other interests include helping to coach a local swimming club for a couple of hours a week and listening to business or comedy podcasts.

What advice would will you give anybody for a better tomorrow?

NM: Be curious and comfortable with change. The world is always changing, and you should be changing to make it better.

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

VAPAR Marketing Coordinator

Meet the latest addition to our team: Manju Mani!

Meet the latest addition to our team: Manju Mani!

Manju smiling for photo

Starting her career in civil engineering, Manju’s passion for advocating simple solutions to global problems drew her to the field of marketing and eventually to VAPAR! We are proud to have her join our team.

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

Tell us a bit about your background and how you came to join VAPAR?

MM: I hold my Bachelor’s in Civil Engineering and MBA in Marketing. I have worked in sales for four years, which helped me learn a lot about consumer perspectives and expectations practically. I believe in honesty and integrity, which won me customers and results.  

Amanda and Michelle are my inspiration to join VAPAR. I love how these girls are slaying it in the tech/engineering industry! They are incredible role models for me, and I am sure I can learn a lot from them.

Where did your interest in Marketing come from?

MM: As a kid, advertisements always caught my attention. So being creative is very important to me as it helps me stand out from my peers and gives me the satisfaction of being different. Also, I am a people person, love to help people with solutions for their needs in both personal and professional life.  

What are your interests outside of work?

MM: I love to sing and rap. Oh yes! I can rap Eminem’s Rap God fast bit! 😀  

If you could go back and relive a moment in your life, what would it be? 

MM: Any day with my mom is good as gold.

What is that one piece of advice you will give anybody for a better tomorrow?

MM: Be appreciative of others. It is the easiest positive emotion.

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

Xun - Headshot

Meet the latest addition to our team: Xun Yu!

Xun Yun posing for a photo
Data Scientist Xun Yun

After completing his PhD with Griffith University, Xun (or Alex) joined VAPAR to work on new developments in the computer vision and AI space and we are very proud to have him as part of our team. To share a little more about Xun, we asked him to answer some questions that illuminate the personality behind the talent.

Tell us a bit about your background and how you came to join VAPAR?

XY: Before joining VAPAR, I was a Machine Learning/Computer Vision Research Engineer with Griffith University. In collaboration with Australian Bay Lobster Producers Ltd (ABLP), I developed and deployed new artificial intelligence technologies that optimize farm production [read more here]. After working in academia for around 8 years (including my PhD study), I decided to make the jump to industry and join VAPAR as a Data Scientist. VAPAR is an exciting, growing company that aims to change an industry with new AI technology. I am proud to now be a part of that.

Where did your interest in deep learning come from?

XY:  Deep learning really shines when it comes to complex problems such as computer vision, natural language processing, and speech recognition. As a researcher in computer vision and image processing, I have witnessed how deep learning dominates over classic machine learning in the last 10 years. I strongly believe, with the trend of digital transformation, more and more traditional industries will be reshaped by deep learning. 

What are your interests outside of work?

XY: I usually spend my leisure time reading books or playing basketball. Watching movies and listening to music can help me unwind from a stressful day.

If you could go back and relive a moment in your life, what would it be? 

XY: Well, it would be my university days when I met most of my best friends.

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

04_NEELAH_01 (4)

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.

mark

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.

Michelle

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.

SC Feature Blog

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:

Round concrete tunnel interior. Abstract digital graphic background, 3d render illustration

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.

Conclusion

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.

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.”