All in One: Feasibility Analysis of Supplying All Services Through One Utility Product

Lead Research Organisation: Cranfield University
Department Name: Sch of Applied Sciences


Today each utility product such as water, gas, or electricity is delivered to end-users via a distinct infrastructure. Installation, management, and maintenance of these numerous disparate infrastructures require huge capital expenditure and they create great complexity. They are located in the close proximity from one another which causes undesired interactions (e.g. flooding of electrical cables due to pipe burst), difficulty in installation, maintenance and repair of one infrastructure without interfering with another.
Distinct physical infrastructures lead to distinct utility provision companies and a perception of each utility product as a separate physical and value-providing entity. However, the end users need the services supplied by the utilities; rather than utility products themselves. Users are interested in being warm; not the gas itself or being able to communicate; rather than the phone signal. Users employ devices that transform the utility products into services such as a phone, a central heating system or an oven.

This project is focused around following questions:
1. "Can a single utility product ("the one") supply all the services that the end users need?" The project will investigate the feasibility of supplying all services required by the users in a single utility product by studying questions like "Can the end-user have devices that 'transform' electricity to water via local sewage and rainwater recycling?", or "Can we use water pipes as communication medium"?
2. What are the scientific and technological gaps on the road to the realisation of the single-utility product vision?
3. What is the timed agenda to have a feasible single-utility product delivery by 2111?

The project involves the following steps: requirements analysis, scientific and technological feasibility studies and economic and risk analysis. In the first step, current and future emergent services (cleaning, heating, entertaining, etc.) will be identified. Then, existing and emerging science will be analyzed to evaluate the feasibility of supplying all the services via the selected utility product. Technological feasibility analysis will follow for the scientifically viable solutions. Then, the utility products identified as "the one" will be subjected to economic and risk analysis to validate their practicality.

The output of the project will create a roadmap for scientists and engineers by identifying the existing challenges and gaps in science and technology that prevent one utility product from supplying all the services.

Planned Impact

Direct Impact of the Project
The project will directly impact scientific communities directly or indirectly working on the topics of utility products provision. Currently there is lack of understanding of interactions and relationships between different utilities and also lack of research addressing these problems. This project will try to readdress the way of thinking about utilities and will have impact through the following:
1. By setting out a long-term scientific and technological roadmap for future provision of all services via a single infrastructure, this project will inspire and facilitate research on supply and transformation of utility products and resources. It will also stimulate work across multiple disciplines (such as Natural sciences, Engineering, Communication, Nano-& Bio- Technology, etc.) aimed to make a single-utility infrastructure vision possible.
2. The project also aims to identify gaps in knowledge to accomplish the required transformations to realise the all-in-one utility concept. Thus, we expect that completely new research communities and directions may also emerge to address the identified gaps or challenges.

Indirect Impact (through Follow up work) of the Project

It is expected that the results of the All-in-One project will be explored further via a follow up work, which will spread the outcomes from academia to industry and will ultimately benefit a wider community. For instance, transformation feasibility table delivered by this project can be built upon in the future, to deliver a complete roadmap/guide for the utility companies. As a result the following impacts are likely to take place:
1. For the companies, a single utility model will radically simplify the physical infrastructure and corresponding business processes. This will also lower aggregated capital, operation and maintenance cost.
2. The end users will benefit from cheaper services.
3. The environment will benefit from increased use of renewable resources, cleaner energy production and overall lower carbon footprint of the utility companies.