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Parking Technology Award: Barbour Logic Voice Master

British Parking Awards 2023

Mark Moran
01 October 2023
Barbour Logic’s Cordelia Barbour, Olivia Eves, Matt Turner, Jason Barbour, Janice Wigglesworth, Kishan Hickman, Natasha Sibley of Go2Sim (category sponsor) and Barbour Logic’s George Thomas

 

Barbour Logic has created Voice Master, an artificial intelligence (AI) powered helpline that offers help to people struggling to resolve penalty charge notices (PCNs).

Parking is complex. When people receive a PCN that they think is unfair, they seek help. But financial pressures have meant that many local authority PCN helplines have closed or offer minimal help. Instead, people are expected to seek help online.

However, Barbour Logic says that many cannot pointing out that 22% of adults are ‘digitally excluded’, meaning they lack online skills, and 16% of adults are ‘functionally illiterate’, meaning they don’t have the reading skills. The demise of PCN helplines means an estimated 2 million disadvantaged adults are unable to access help.

Barbour Logic’s Voice Master handles PCN calls and advises callers like an expert human, ensuring that everyone can access the help they need, whatever their digital or literacy skills. Voice Master is an AI helpline that has an in-depth, human-like conversation with each caller and then gives them tailored advice.

To create Voice Master, Barbour Logic drew on its expertise in developing online systems that enable local authorities and drivers to understand parking policies or write appeals. Jason Barbour, founder and managing director of Barbour Logic, says: “Voice Master is not an interactive voice response (IVR) system, You don’t press 1 for this or 2 for that. That wouldn’t work because we cover 100 reasons/topics. Instead, callers speak naturally to say what they want. And for the minority of callers we can’t help, we offer quick exit options to minimise frustration. These are configurable: skip and pay, skip and challenge, or speak to a human.

“Like a human, Voice Master has to speak, listen, understand, and think. It has to understand the caller’s string of words (‘moving heavy items’) and work out what they mean (loading). Then it has to have a dynamic conversation, reacting to each answer the caller gives. To do that, Voice Master needs to know parking like an expert, and the council/operator’s many leniency policies too. All this involves numerous complex processes working super-fast behind the scenes to continue the human-like conversation and conclude it with tailored advice. If many drivers call at once, Voice Master speaks to them all simultaneously.”

Testimonials

Voice Master went live with Coventry, North Tyneside and Perth councils in December 2022 and feedback has been positive.

Paul Bowman, parking manager, Coventry City Council: “Voice Master provides our customers with better access to services, meaning they can engage with us in a way, and at a time, that is convenient for them. It provides expert advice without the need for more experts and is helping us to deliver efficiencies.”

Nicole Smith, parking and civil contingencies officer, Perth & Kinross Council: “Voice Master is a breakthrough for inclusivity. As PCN helplines disappear across the sector, the disadvantaged people who needed them have become excluded from help. Voice Master changes all that. Now, there’s phone help for all, giving each caller tailored advice. And it’s there for them 24/7. Voice Master is a major innovation.”

Garry Hoyle, parking and regulation manager, North Tyneside Council: “Voice Master ensures everyone, especially the disadvantaged, has access to help. Voice Master is a lifeline for disadvantaged adults who need a helpline. They simply call Voice Master, 24/7, have a chat with the AI and get tailored advice. It’s a dramatic breakthrough for the parking sector and for motorists.”

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