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My Surrey, the ‘Siri for cities,” is powered by IBM’s Watson

Sometimes, finding information about your city can be difficult. After all, if the U.S. government is just now taking the immigration process online, it’s no wonder that navigating government websites can be a pain. So now, IBM’s Watson is helping some city residents find out more information about their homes and environments in a program known as “Siri for Cities.”

The new app is being tested in Surrey, Canada, where residents are enjoying Watson’s smarts as the latest feature in the My Surrey app. And if this initial experiment proves successful at answering more citizen’s questions (and ultimately, saving the government money), there are plans for more cities in Canada to adopt a similar system.

Brian Hurley, the CEO of Purple Forge, the software development company that helped build the app, believes the financial sense of Siri for Cities stems from the fact that such an app could significantly reduce the number of calls city residents have to make to Canadian services like 311, in turn providing savings of $6 per call. With the capacity to answer questions like, “How many dogs can I have on my property?” or “Can you put plastic bags in the organic cart?” or better yet, “Why wasn’t my trash picked up this morning?” the My Surrey and Watson integration just might be the most helpful tool to come to Canadian smartphones in years.

RelatedSiri gets sassy when you ask, ‘What’s zero divided by zero?’

In a press release, Councillor Bruce Hayne, Chair of Innovation & Investment Committee said, “IBM Watson’s learning abilities are such that the technology builds its knowledge and improves as citizens use it, much in the same way humans learn. This pilot is expected to enhance customer experience by increasing the accessibility of services, while providing [Surrey] with insight into opportunities for improvement and reduction to service delivery costs.”

The press release also notes that Watson is able to provide answers on a wide range of topics, including “Animal Control, Parking Enforcement, Waste Collection Pickup, Bylaws, Fire Police Emergency Services, Transportation, Utilities, Cemetery, Mobile Apps, Building and Construction, Engineering Customer Services, Engineering Infrastructure, Property Taxes, [as well as] Culture and Recreation and Volunteer.”

So really, no matter who you are in Surrey, My Surrey has the answers for you. All thanks to Watson.