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IBM pilots 'Ask Watson' in British Columbia smart city app

A new app will allow Surrey residents to "Ask Watson" a range of questions, like why trash wasn't collected, how to contest a parking violation, or how to locate a lost pet.
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Written by Natalie Gagliordi, Senior Writer on
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Courtesy of IBM

IBM's Watson is taking a page from Apple's Siri in a new app developed for the Canadian city of Surrey, British Columbia.

The app will be combined with the city's existing My Surrey mobile and web tools to allow city residents to "Ask Watson" a range of questions, like why trash wasn't collected, how to contest a parking violation, or how to locate a lost pet.

As always, Watson ingests the questions through natural language processing and then analyzes huge data sets to give back evidence-based answers in record time.

The venture is the result of a collaboration between Surrey, IBM's Watson Ecosystem Program, and mobile app development firm Purple Forge.

IBM has already put Watson to work in healthcare and business, but Big Blue says the Surrey app marks the first time Watson was deployed for use in citizen services.

"By integrating our SaaS solution with IBM Watson technology our aim is to transform how public-facing organizations serve citizens and consumers," Brian Hurley, CEO and co-founder of Purple Forge, said in a statement.

As for Surrey, the city of nearly half a million residents is no stranger to technological innovation. The app is just one component of the "Smart Surrey Strategy," an city initiative to use technology to create efficiencies and maximize resources. With the app pilot, Surrey hopes local government can become more responsive to residents.

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