Japan city testing AI system to transcribe emergency calls, consultations on child abuse

The Higashiosaka City Fire Department conducting an artificial intelligence audio transcription trial is seen in Osaka Prefecture on October 5, 2022. (Mainichi/Tatsuya Tamaki)

HIGASHIOSAKA, Osaka – A city government in western Japan is testing an artificial intelligence (AI) system to electronically transcribe emergency calls and telephone consultations to respond faster and more efficiently to emergency situations.

The trial for the AI ​​system, conducted by the Higashiosaka Municipality in Osaka Prefecture, will continue until March 2023. Electronic transcripts are made for some phone calls to the city’s Children’s Advisory Center and 119 emergency calls to the fire department.

The city’s goal is to create a system that increases employees’ work efficiency and enables them to respond quickly to life-threatening emergencies and serious cases of abuse.

A computer screen showing audio data converted to text using artificial intelligence is seen in Higashiosaka, Osaka Prefecture, on October 5, 2022. (Mainichi/Tatsuya Tamaki)

According to city officials, it recorded 3,068 cases of child consultations in fiscal 2017, and that number rose to 4,244 in fiscal 2021. Inquiries about child abuse have particularly increased in recent years, and cooperation and information exchange with affiliated institutions have become more important. However, recording the content of the consultations takes a long time and this has become a burden for workers on the ground.

For the trial, the city implemented an AI system to automatically transcribe and record phone conversations on a computer screen. The time required for creating reports and other documents should be drastically reduced. The system also allows staff to select specific words used in conversations, such as “bruise” or “injury,” and display them in red letters, facilitating a quick response to suspected abuse.

A Higashiosaka City Government employee uses a computer to transcribe audio with artificial intelligence in Higashiosaka, Osaka Prefecture, Oct. 5, 2022. (Mainichi/Tatsuya Tamaki)

Meanwhile, the number of emergency calls to the fire brigade has fluctuated around 40,000 to 55,000 in the past five years, and emergency calls for ambulances are apparently increasing. The City believes that being able to confirm in text form information from calls that was previously collected only by ear will result in greater accuracy and effectiveness in rescue operations.

Higashiosaka Mayor Yoshikazu Noda commented, “It is no exaggeration to say that early records decide the fate of child abuse cases. We will secure accurate records, analyze them thoroughly and respond quickly.” The city plans to use lessons learned from the process as it intends to set up a child counseling center in about five years.

(Japanese original by Tatsuya Tamaki, Osaka Office)