IBM’s Watson to Listen in on 911 Calls

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When people in an emergency situation call into their local 911 operations center, there might be another “brain” listening in on the call.

The Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) International, which has more than 29,000 members, tapped IBM to bring Watson into their software. APCO recently announced that APCO International’s new guide card software called APCO IntelliCommä will use IBM Watson Speech-to-Text and Watson Analytics to improve the scripts used by 911 operators.

The guide card system provides guidance to 911 operators on what to ask and say to gather needed information to access specific emergency call types. Essentially, the software helps operators “provide rapid and customized instructions so callers get the fast, consistent, and appropriate information they need and expect in an emergency,” according to a press release.

Watson’s artificial intelligence (AI) technology will be brought in to examine the quality of service provided during the calls and the efficacy of scripts being used. Currently, there are national standards requiring that a certain percentage of calls be evaluated. However, the percentage isn’t very high. With Watson Analytics, public safety answering points (PSAP), more commonly known as call centers, will be able to examine more calls.

“APCO IntelliCommä supported by IBM Watson Analytics is a game-changer for our profession,” says Derek K. Poarch, APCO’s executive director and chief executive officer. “Its extensive capabilities and unique analytic features will enable public safety communications professionals to improve response times and the quality of care on the scene while enhancing post-action data that’s key to continuous improvement back at the PSAP. The ultimate result saves lives.”

The APCO IntelliCommä software will use Watson Speech-to-Text and other IBM Watson and machine learning capabilities to understand the context of the emergency calls. The data gathered by Watson will be aggregated and analyzed using Watson Analytics. Call center directs will easily understand and analyze the conversations happening on their lines and compare actual conversations to the pre-scripted content operators are given. The feedback gathered from this process will be provided in a readable format in near real-time, according to IBM. That way call center directors can quickly modify training and response communications, as well as provide on-the-spot coaching.

“This augmented call taking and reporting will better inform directors on how the actual conversations between callers and telecommunicators unfold, which may allow agencies to iteratively modify training materials to better meet callers’ needs,” says IBM GBS Public Safety Practice Leader for the U.S. Bill Josko. “And since Watson is able to understand and learn more context over time through machine learning, it can also help to reduce call times, provide accurate triage information, and help expedite time-sensitive emergency services.”

APCO expects that Watson’s capabilities, which are all hosted on the IBM cloud, will be integrated into APCO’s IntelliCommä software by November 2017. Following the integration, APCO will deploy the new software to five 911 call centers for initial testing.

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