Many cities and municipalities around the world are exploring how Artificial Intelligence (AI) can enhance the lives of their citizens and deliver more efficient services. For the City of Casey in Victoria, Australia, the goal is even more bold – creating nothing less than “the most liveable city,” and AI is poised to play a substantial role to make it happen.
Casey is embarking on what will be a multi-year project to enhance the quality of living for its residents in everything from municipal services, to parks, traffic management, and virtually anything that can be augmented through the use of innovative technologies. City officials have been making plans for the last three years, exploring funding frameworks, establishing governance boards and developing oversight policies for projects that will be rolled out in various phases.
Sound ambitious? City leaders have no illusions that it is – and they are no less determined to reach their objectives. “Everything that we do — whether we’re adopting new technology or new processes or building new infrastructure – has to have our residents front and centre, and to achieve the highest possible standards of liveability for them,” said Cr Sam Aziz, Mayor Emeritus for a city of almost 370,000 residents, the most populous municipality in Victoria.
The City considered many AI vendors as it mapped out its “most liveable” plans, and selected IPsoft’s Amelia to conduct a proof of concept. Amelia will lead residents through the process of everyday customer queries and will aim to provide a 24/7 service, where currently service is available only during business hours and can involve long wait times. Instead, with Amelia and her ability to scale regardless of call volume, residents can complete their queries and receive confirmation within minutes.
Developing Beneficial Use Cases
For one of the projects, Casey is developing a use case for residents dealing with missed trash pick-ups. In this case, Amelia will assist Casey residents who arrive home late at night only to discover that their trash has yet to be picked up. As it’s after business hours, there is no one in the city to answer residents’ calls. With Amelia and her ability to be always-on, residents can contact her directly (bypassing more potential hold times if they waited until morning), log that their trash pick-up has been missed, and have it collected the next day.
Andrew Winlaw, Vice President and General Manager of IPsoft Australia, said that the City of Casey’s use cases are perfectly matched with Amelia, given her ability to quickly learn procedures and processes, integrate with back-end systems, scale at machine speed, and execute on transactions and requests in real-time. “The City of Casey wants to remove unnecessary barriers between citizens and city services to raise the overall quality of life – and Amelia is designed to remove any technical barriers that might exist so they can do exactly that,” Winlaw said.
In addition to the initial use cases, the city is considering even more services where AI could play a part – varied in scope, but all aimed to make Casey “the most liveable” in every respect. Cr Aziz said officials are looking at how AI can improve city drainage systems and prevent flooding during rainy periods. Holding barbecues in city parks is a longstanding Australian tradition, with the city providing grills throughout its parks for residents’ use. Cr Aziz said the city could develop a system that dynamically registers malfunctions in barbecues before they occur, so that they’re repaired as needed, and so as not to deny any resident an enjoyable time with friends and family.
Focusing on Customer Service
Whether a large or more limited use case is beside the point, Cr Aziz said, because being the “most liveable” city means having an incremental but relentless focus on customer service for citizens. “It’s about relying on robotic technology to manage assets better and to make sure that we are providing a seamless experience for our citizens,” he said.
“We are plotting out multiple use cases that will have a true impact on how residents live their lives in every dimension – home, work, family, friends, leisure and travel, to name a few,” Cr Aziz said. Any use case, he said, in the end will be powered by a solution that is a combination of AI, the Internet of Things, networking, mobile apps and more – so the ability for products to integrate easily and seamlessly is essential. Any governance model that’s put in place must include municipal and community input in order to ensure a lifecycle of improvement to match residents’ evolving needs.
As far as Cr Aziz and his fellow city leaders are concerned, being “the most liveable city” through the use of AI and Amelia is not a far-off fiction. As Cr Aziz put it: “It’s about bringing the future to today – except the future is already here. It’s critical that we get on top of the future. Whatever it takes to deliver better livability for our residents, in a financially responsible manner, that’s what we’re going to do.”