ConverCity is a tool that leverages SMS and AI technology to help cities be more responsive to their citizens. The tool acts like a 311 line, allowing citizens with immediate problems or general inquiries to text the app an open-ended question or statement. The server uses cognitive computing through IBM's Watson suite to analyze the incoming text and parse its meaning. ConverCity will then determine a series of questions and services to connect the user with--community groups, city departments, special services, information, etc.
ConverCity represents a new way to help cities have a conversation with each and every citizen, collecting key data even as it helps find solutions to citizens' concerns. Residents and city employees can then leverage the same cognitive computing assets that help ConverCity provide appropriate references on the front end to identify and quantify the relationships between trends and issues in the community.
Unlike preceding mobile apps, ConverCity is open not just to users of smartphones, but to anyone with basic SMS capability. Rather than the 'boiling-the-ocean' approach that most data aggregation tools use, ConverCity uses AI-capabilities to ask only relevant questions of users, and promises to learn how to do its job better with each and every use. This information and AI-enabled analysis leads to quicker, better, and more nuanced approaches to solving community problems. It furthermore provides a key method for monitoring and evaluating those approaches once they are underway.
Users report general concerns to the city government and other service providers in a simple, open-ended text to (617)-545-3311. The app sends the citizen's report to the cloud where ConverCity can use machine learning techniques to understand the citizen's request, and match up the most appropriate services with that citizen. On the back-end, ConverCity extracts anonymized data from the user and, using sophisticated data visualization methods, plots this information in an easy-to-understand format online for community members to interact with. The city of Somerville manages permission levels for various data as it accumulates, facilitating the communities safe and constructive use of information and trends that ConverCity's cognitive computing identifies.
IBM BLUEMIX USE
ConverCity currently runs on Laravel, Heroku, and Twilio. While our original prototype ran on Bluemix's RapidApps, we had to make a change to integrate SMS quickly.
In the next version, Watson Q&A and Analytics will figure prominently. Cloudant, Geolocation services and access to existing open government sources are also in the integration process.
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