Mark Adair

Your Homes Newcastle collaborates with Newcastle city council and Northumbrian Water

Your Homes Newcastle (YHN) has been looking at innovative solutions to help to tackle the national issue of rats in communities. Following on from the pandemic and lockdowns, resulting in restaurants and cafes being closed, more rats have headed to residential areas in the search for food.

YHN were among the hundreds of organisations and more than 2,000 people involved in Northumbrian Water’s Innovation Festival which took place from July 12 to 14. As part of the festival, data and AI specialist Aiimi hosted a hackathon to address the problem of rats in communities across the country and asked teams to come up with potential solutions to the issue.

At the end of the three-day festival, the teams pitched their ideas to a panel of five judges, made up of Siobhan Weightman, assistant director, technology and transformation at YHN; Nigel Watson, CIO at Northumbrian Water; Chris Cagienard, president of the British Pest Control Association; Steve Green, of Northumbrian Water; and Melanie Wallace, operations manager from Newcastle City Council.

Prizes were given for the best overall solution, most innovative, and best pitch, with the best overall solution going to a team looking to create an app for residents to report rodent sightings and putting them in touch with the right organisation to help, whether it was a pest controller or housing association if they lived in a rented property.

Afterwards, Siobhan was full of praise for the festival and the way it brought people together, adding that YHN had expanded its core team of data experts.

She said: “For me, the Innovation Festival brings together a diverse mix of great minds, expertise and energy all working together to co-create solutions to resolve daily challenges.

“The rat hack is an example of how we can proactively use data and insights from various sources to work up a feasible solution to a national challenge. Customers don’t want to know who they should ring and who does what. The ‘rat reporter’ addressed this current void, providing a collaborative platform for responsible agencies to share data and problem solve.”

“The solution will not only improve customer confidence but a mechanism that enables YHN and partners to switch from being reactive to proactive.”

Melissa Tallack, of Northumbrian Water, said: “When you have a complex problem to solve, bringing different people, with difference perspectives, experiences and skills together always helps to come up with innovative solutions that individuals or even individual organisations alone cannot.

“This is what Northumbrian Water’s Innovation Festival is all about.”

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