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Street light testing firm works alongside Google in search for efficiency

Electrical Testing Ltd engineers at work. Picture: Electrical Testing Ltd

Electrical Testing Ltd engineers at work. Picture: Electrical Testing Ltd

Electrical Testing Ltd

Monitoring the welfare of street lights might not sound like a thrilling job but a Norfolk company is working with Google to use cutting edge technology to help save councils money.

Electrical Testing Ltd managing director Simon Hobbs and sales director James Hill. Picture: Electrical Testing LtdElectrical Testing Ltd managing director Simon Hobbs and sales director James Hill. Picture: Electrical Testing Ltd

With local authority budgets getting ever tighter Electrical Testing Limited (ETL), based at Acle, has been searching for ways to drive down the cost of highway infrastructure by using data to improve prediction tools for the lifespan of assets.

Simon Hobbs, ETL managing director, said: “With cutbacks local government bodies are trying to get as much value as possible out of their assets and that’s where we come in.

“We try to see how long we can get out of a street light before the column is rusted down.

“If it costs £1,000 to replace a column and it will last three years then increasing that to four can save thousands across a network.”

To do this ETL has bolstered its IT team over the last 18 months, taking it from one to five, and has now linked up with Google as it seeks to use machine learning to discover patterns which no one has picked up on before.

Mr Hobbs said: “We want to look at data to create connections that haven’t been made before.

“For example if we test streetlights on a road and find they are not lasting as long we can then see that they may be on a dustbin lorry route or near an accident blackspot.”

The technological approach has already helped the business grow from £3.5m turnover in 2012 to a near £9.5m in 2017.

To back up that growth Mr Hobbs said he is hoping to add a further 12 jobs to the 100 strong team, although he said there was difficulties finding the right skills among electricians and engineers due to a “massive shortage”.

ETL was founded by Mr Hobbs’ father before he took over management in the 2000s with eight staff and £600,000 turnover.

While falling council budgets remain a challenge they can also prove a benefit for the business if it can show it can make cost savings, Mr Hobbs said.

The Acle headquarters are set for a refurbishment this year and there are also plans to expand the training facilities, used by ETL staff and others from outside the business.

Sales manager Greg Jarvis said the company expected its main division to continue their pattern of growth but thought training could add £1m to turnover in 2018.

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