Meet Amelia, the first virtual employee to work along with human coworkers in a council job. This robot will cover the frontline public services of the Enfield City Council, England, starting late summer. Available as text and as a digital avatar, her ability to communicate with humans in natural language enables her to validate licenses, handle requests for permits and take residents’ queries.

With a population of 324.574, the city of Enfield takes a leading role in introducing artificial intelligence to the workforce. Capable of tracking emotion and learning, Amelia guides residents on-screen to answer their questions. When encountering an insoluble problem, she partners with a human colleague, achieving new levels of service quality. James Rolfe, Enfield’s director of finance, resources and customer services, says there is no intention of discharging human workers and urges for a smooth interaction between the bot an human employees. “The council estimates it receives 55.000 calls, 5.000 face-to-face appointments and 100.000 website visits a month and hopes that Amelia will help absorb some of this demand”.

The virtual agent is a product of New York based IT company IPSoft, who concentrates on deploying digital labor. Frank Lansink, CEO EU at IPsoft comments, explains: “With the rise of powerful cognitive platforms such as Amelia, government organizations have an opportunity to completely reimagine how frontline public services are delivered. Organizations can not only unlock significant cost efficiencies as routine, high-volume tasks are automated, but, more excitingly, can unlock the full creative potential of their people”. Lansink embraces the consumer digital revolution and anticipates to “new service delivery routes for public bodies”. 

Named after American aviator and pioneer Amelia Earhart, the bot made her public announcement back in 2014“Whereas many other technologies demand that humans adapt their behavior in order to interact with ‘smart machines’, Amelia is intelligent enough to interact like a human herself”. She started piloting in telecom companies and insurances in Europe and the US, to land her first big job at the management-consulting group Accenture, where she still works today. The company recently revealed their plans for developing a new division centering Amelia, expanding the platform to banking and travel industries.

In a present future where companies compete in the digital economy, IPSoft reassures the necessity of a digital workforce. However, automation does not come without a cost. “On one hand, there’s more demand than ever for specialized IT staff. But many of the jobs that IT professionals once used to gain the experience to get them are in danger of being eliminated”. One thing is sure, we can expect a service with a smile. If the smile is mutual will only be a matter of time.

Story via IPSoft

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