Developed by the IST-funded HOPS project, the platform uses a variety of technologies to enable people to talk to a computer over the phone as if they are talking with a human call centre worker.
For public administrations, which are under increasing pressure to improve the quality of the services they provide to citizens while reducing costs, the benefits are significant in terms of efficiency gains and potential cost savings. The advantages, says Joan Batlle, the project coordinator at Barcelona city hall, will also be evident for citizens, who will find they have access to interactive information and services around the clock. Most importantly, the natural language dialogue made possible by the platform should overcome people’s general dislike of talking to automated call centre systems.
“Evidently people don’t like having to sit and listen to a machine, they feel it is a waste of time especially when it may not understand them,” explains the coordinator. “The problem has been that most of the systems used to automate call centres rely on asking the caller to pick from a list of options and then offering a response from a pre-programmed list that may or may not give the user the information they require.”
The HOPS partners, among them the three public administrations of Barcelona, Camden and Turin as well as research institutes and technology providers, have instead of relying on scripted responses, combined four different technologies to create an advanced voice-enabled front-end platform for public administrations.
“The idea is that people can speak naturally and receive a natural response. In that way it is the citizen who is in charge of the conversation not the computer,” Batlle notes. “I want to be able to ring up and say ‘What concerts are on tonight?’ without having to listen to a list of possible options first. I should be understood no matter how I phrase the question.”
The HOPS project has managed to make human-machine dialogue more natural and fluid by merging voice technologies such as Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) and Text to Speech (TTS) with natural language processing technologies to understand, interpret and respond to callers. These components are then tied into a data management system incorporating Semantic Web technology for finding and extracting the information sought by users.
“The platform itself is designed to be highly flexible so it can be used in any public administration call centre to provide any service or information. The only thing that really has to be changed depending on where it is deployed is the vocabulary. That could mean different languages or a different lexicon depending on whether it is used to deal with car registrations or cultural events,” Batlle notes.
Preliminary trials carried out in Barcelona, Camden and Turin proved the flexibility and functionality of the system which was able to provide responses in a range of languages to callers asking about two different types of services.
“One scenario was for callers interested in finding out about cultural events, the other was to schedule a service provided by the council for collecting unwanted furniture and other large items,” the coordinator says. “In both cases the call centre workers from the councils made the calls and the system functioned well.”
The project is due to begin testing a second prototype in the autumn ahead of tests with a third and final version of the platform that will also serve to gauge citizens’ reactions.
Batlle says that all three town halls involved in the project are planning to employ the finished version of the platform. In Turin, the city hall is planning to use it to handle calls while retaining human operators as a backup, while in Camden the system will be employed initially to carry out quality of service surveys.
“In Barcelona we will start small, using it to replace the recorded messages we have overnight and at weekends although over the coming years we expect to use it more extensively, as too do the partners in Camden and Turin,” he says.
Jernett Karensen | alfa
New technology enables 5-D imaging in live animals, humans
16.01.2017 | University of Southern California
Fraunhofer FIT announces CloudTeams collaborative software development platform – join it for free
10.01.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Angewandte Informationstechnik FIT
Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.
As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...
At TU Wien, an alternative for resource intensive formwork for the construction of concrete domes was developed. It is now used in a test dome for the Austrian Federal Railways Infrastructure (ÖBB Infrastruktur).
Concrete shells are efficient structures, but not very resource efficient. The formwork for the construction of concrete domes alone requires a high amount of...
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
05.01.2017 | Event News
18.01.2017 | Life Sciences
18.01.2017 | Health and Medicine
17.01.2017 | Earth Sciences