Smart Cities Take Root in Canada as Apps Learn to Improve Services

Smart Cities Take Root in Canada as Apps Learn to Improve Services

In 2014 the City of Surrey, B.C. launched Surrey Request, an app developed to field requests for service, including waste collection and road repair. The result? The city saves as much as $91,875 each year, a figure that’s expected to increase as residents acclimate to the automated service.

According to Sean Simpson, Surrey’s Director, Information Technology, in-person requests cost the city $9 per transaction while a phone calls cost $4.50. In contrast, a request sent through Surrey Request costs as little as $0.25. The self-serve channel now handles 15 percent of the 70,000 requests it receives annually.

Surrey took its smart city initiatives a step further when they partnered with tech startup Purple Forge last year to pilot the company’s Powered by IBM Watson solution. Available through the ‘My Surrey’ mobile and web apps that residents use to gather city information, including government services and job opportunities, the solution will further reduce Surrey’s reliance on telephone-based services.

The app uses IBM Watson’s advanced cognitive and natural language capabilities to answer residents’ questions about city services. Now, Surrey residents can hit the app and ask it, for example, how to contact animal control in the event that a cougar wanders into someone’s back yard. My Surrey will then reply with an email address and a phone number.