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Five days of 5G: O2’s NWG design sprint

Jez Sherwin, Experience Design Lead & Digital Creative Director to The Lab at O2, summarises O2’s 5G design sprint at the NWG Innovation Festival last month.

Last month, our O2 Business team travelled to Newcastle to work with long-standing partner Northumbria Water Group (NWG) on their third annual NWG Innovation Festival. The festival is a unique, five-day event that seeks innovative solutions to a range of social and environmental challenges using techniques such as design sprints, data hacks and workshops.

This is the second year we’ve taken part, and once again we were honoured to host one of the five-day design sprints that underpin the festival.

A design sprint is a fast, fun and collaborative process for answering critical business questions, testing innovative ideas and solving business challenges. The idea is to compress months of product design and testing time into a single week.

They were originally created by Google Ventures in 2010 and were quickly adopted in a variety of industry sectors to support product launches and prototyping. At O2, we use design sprints internally, but also with our customers and partners.

This year our sprint focused on 5G, and how it will benefit and transform the utilities industry and its broad spectrum of stakeholders.

Seamless societies

It’s easy to think of 5G as just another step change in speed for our mobile devices. Like 4G, only faster. However, 5G has the potential to change the way we live and work forever, creating seamless societies, connected communities and industries. It’s a whole new vision for connectivity that will enable brand new business models, redefine ways of working and deliver a huge leap in benefits for citizens.

But the realisation of 5G requires future-proofed networks, and O2 is already investing in the creation of a super-powered smart grid – and we’re only just at the very start of the 5G journey!

Design sprint outcome

The challenges, impact, benefits and vision of 5G formed the basis of our design sprint at the NWG Innovation Festival. Contributors from a range of industries collaborated to discuss and devise solutions for a number of current challenges faced by the utilities sector, and to define the role that 5G might play.

Some of the ideas included:

  • Smart Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) – employing 5G sensors for safety access detection and incident alerting.
  • Travel now. Travel how – Smart travel alerts to reduce congestion and pollution
  • Water Watch – a gamified smart watch app that senses water usage and encourages people to save water, use refillable bottles and make use of local water stations for drinking water.

Mindset and culture

Our partnership with NWG endures because it’s about more than just delivering a product or service. We share a mindset and culture, and it has been both challenging and rewarding to support NWG in achieving their aim of leading the world in digital technology for water companies.

We support NWG’s digital strategy, providing unified communications and mobile devices to help make their remote and field workers more effective. We are also working to deliver our reliable, secure network to enable smart technologies like Internet of Things sensors coupled with Artificial Intelligence and machine learning to detect and even predict leaks.

“O2 has been collaborating with us to come up with innovations and applications to help us transition towards a more digital way of working.”

Martin Jackson, NWG’s Head of IS Strategy and Enterprise Architecture


We support customers large and small with their digital infrastructure. Click here to read about other organisations we have helped.

If you need help to enter new markets, design new products or develop new functionality for existing products then a design sprint can deliver innovative solutions rapidly and compress months of work into a single week. We’d love to help you deliver it. To find out more, or to get in touch, you can connect with me on LinkedIn.


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