Boston Grand Prize Winner

What Is ConverCity?

ConverCity represents a new way to help cities have a conversation with each and every citizen, collecting real-time data about community problems while helping citizens find relevant solutions to their concerns. ConverCity leverages a basic interactive SMS platform and cutting edge cognitive technology to help cities be more responsive to their citizens. This app was designed as a pilot for the city of Somerville, but can help cities across the world better address intractable community problems such as homelessness and domestic abuse.

Why It Matters

  • Citizens can immediately connect with relevant stakeholders and service providers to find sustainable solutions to their concerns.

  • Governments can access real-time data on complex community challenges and be more responsive to evolving community needs.

  • Communities can participate in the solution building process through an interactive platform where the collected data will be visualized in a systems map.  

How It Works

Any citizen can report general concerns to the city government and other service providers in a simple, open-ended text to our system. ConverCity will leverage Watson’s cognitive technology to better understand the citizen’s needs by sending targeted follow up questions. Then ConverCity will immediately connect citizens with the most appropriate services offered by community groups and city departments.

On the back-end, ConverCity extracts anonymized data from users and visualizes the data in an interactive online platform for government officials and community members. The city manages permission levels for various data as it accumulates, facilitating safe and constructive use of data to collectively work towards effective community solutions. All relevant stakeholders can then leverage ConverCity's cognitive computing assets to identify major trends and understand relationships among various societal issues in the community.

Unlike preceding mobile apps, ConverCity is open not just to users of smartphones, but to anyone with access to basic SMS services. Rather than boiling-the-ocean like other data aggregation tools, ConverCity uses cognitive capabilities to only ask targeted questions and improves the city’s ability to personalize how it serves its citizens. Cognitive-enabled analysis of the collected data empowers the city government to facilitate quicker, better, and more nuanced solutions to community problems.

Furthermore, ConverCity provides an interactive and collaborative platform to engage all relevant stakeholders (e.g., NGOs, community organizations, various government departments) to collect relevant data, co-design innovative community solutions, and monitor the effectiveness of interventions once they are underway.


(Competing for Best Data Project)



Bryant Renaud
Jennifer Hurford
Monica Varman
Om Goeckermann
Sean Alaback
Sooah Cho


ConverCity currently runs on Heroku and ClearDV Sequel Server with use of a Twilio API.

In the next version, Watson APIs will figure prominently. Cloudant, Geolocation services and access to existing open government sources are also in the integration process. 


The ConverCity team is being considered for the data prize.