A new app that incorporates IBM’s Watson cognitive computing platform is like Siri for ordering city services.
IBM said today that the city of Surrey, in British Columbia, Canada, has rolled out the new app, which leverages Watson's sophisticated language and data analysis system to allow residents to make requests for things like finding out why their trash wasn’t picked up or how to find a lost cat using natural language.
Watson is best known as the computer system that autonomously vanquished the world’s best Jeopardy players during a highly publicized competition in 2011. In the years since, IBM has applied the system to a wide range of computing problems in industries like health care, banking, retail, and education. The system is based on Watson’s ability to understand natural language queries and to analyze huge data sets.
Recently, Watson rolled out a tool designed to help people detect the tone in their writing.
Surrey worked with the developer Purple Forge to build the new city services app, which will be combined with the city’s existing "My Surrey" mobile and web tools. IBM said that residents can ask a wide range of questions on devices like smartphones, laptops, or even Apple Watches. Big Blue said Surrey’s app is the first time Watson has been utilized in a "citizen services" app.
The tool offers a series of frequently asked questions, but also allows residents in the city of nearly half a million to come up with their own. IBM said Surrey officials are hopeful that the app will help them be more responsive to residents’ concerns.
Among the services users can ask about are those provided by Surrey’s police and fire departments, animal control, parking enforcement, trash pickup, and others.