Using Robots to Improve New York’s 311


Jessica Leber of Co.Exist recently wrote, "Since opening in 2003, New York City’s pioneering 311 center for non-emergency questions and complaints has become a massive operation, handling an average of around 60,000 questions a day via phone, text message, website, and mobile app. That’s added up to more than 180 million queries to date, processed by the hundreds of real, live humans that staff a call center in Manhattan 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Yet it all seems rather antiquated at a time when a quick query to Siri or Google can almost instantly provide answers in other realms of life."


Leber continues, " 'It looks like some kind of NASA control center,' says Markus Mobius, a principal researcher with Microsoft Research, who is now working with New York City to automate parts of the system. 'It’s a very useful system. It’s high demand. But it is very, very labor intensive.' … Along with three collaborators at Microsoft Research, including a 16-year-old intern who helped program the system, Mobius developed and presented a prototype that he says is now being integrated into New York City’s 311 mobile app. The system includes a 'router,' which uses natural language processing and machine learning to understand the question being asked and extract the relevant information, like a date, an address, or a license plate number, as well as a series of simple ‘bots,' which automatically supply the answers."


According to the 311 website, "311's mission is to provide the public with quick, easy access to all New York City government services and information while maintaining the highest possible level of customer service. We help agencies improve service delivery by allowing them to focus on their core missions and manage their workload efficiently. We also provide insight into ways to improve City government through accurate, consistent measurement and analysis of service delivery Citywide."


Learn more here.

Image: Courtesy 311