IBM Watson AI assistant answers COVID-19 questions by phone, text

April 02, 2020 //By Rich Pell
IBM Watson AI assistant answers COVID-19 questions by phone, text
IBM says it is offering "Watson Assistant for Citizens" to provide responses to COVID-19 questions to help address a flood of information requests from citizens that is putting a strain on government agencies, hospitals, schools, non-profits, and other businesses working to keep their citizens, customers, and employees safe.

The conversational AI service is available for no charge for at least 90 days to the company's client's citizens online or by phone. IBM Watson Assistant for Citizens on the IBM public cloud, says the company, brings together Watson Assistant, Natural Language Processing capabilities from IBM Research, and state-of-art enterprise AI search capabilities with Watson Discovery, to understand and respond to common questions about COVID-19.

"While helping government agencies and healthcare institutions use AI to get critical information out to their citizens remains a high priority right now, the current environment has made it clear that every business in every industry should find ways to digitally engage with their clients and employees," says Rob Thomas, general manager, IBM Data & AI. "With today's news, IBM is taking years of experience in helping thousands of global businesses and institutions use Natural Language Processing and other advanced AI technologies to better meet the demands of their constituents, and now applying it to the COVID-19 crisis. AI has the power to be your assistant during this uncertain time."

Watson Assistant for Citizens leverages currently available data from external sources, including guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) and local sources such as links to school closings, news, and documents on state web sites. The company says it is already delivering this service across the United States, as well as engaging with organizations globally in Czech Republic, Finland, Greece, Italy, Poland, Spain, UK and more.

Using information provided by clients, Watson Assistant for Citizens automates responses to frequently asked questions about COVID-19 that come in via phone call or text, such as "What are symptoms?," "How do I clean my home properly?," and "How do I protect myself?"

State and local government agencies, hospitals, or other healthcare organizations can choose to customize the solution to address questions specific to their area or region, including "What are cases in my neighborhood?,"

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