Human decision-making is being supported or replaced by several emerging cognitive technologies, including Internet of Things, Robotic Process Automation, Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence. Recently, the National Archives and Records Administration issued a white paper that provides a review and analysis of these cognitive technologies and their potential impact on records management.
The white paper focuses on the following emerging cognitive technologies:
Internet of Things: The Internet of Things, or IoT, refers to the billions of physical devices around the world that are now connected to the internet, collecting and sharing data. Devices like Alexa and Siri can be used to operate lights, lock doors, add calendar items, answer questions, and more. In 2016, the City of San Diego approved a plant to retrofit streetlights with processors and data storage to gather data and analytics to improve parking, traffic and safety.
Robotic Process Automation: Robotic Process Automation is a technology platform that enables a software robot (“bot”) to interact with applications. The white paper offers an example of a bot that assists members of the public asking for information about a topic. The bot opens a chat, scans the content, opens the agency’s reference request system, populates the requester’s contact information, makes a best guess at the purpose of the request, and provides resources to help the requester find the information they seek.
Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence: Machine learning refers to a software programming technique that uses algorithms to autonomously improve decisions through analysis. Artificial intelligence is described as teaching machines to learn and solve problems so they can make yes or no decisions. The white paper discusses the use of these tools by governmental entities to classify emails to allow the public to search and more easily access certain government officials’ emails.
In addition to exploring the cultural and societal considerations associated with the use of cognitive technologies, the white paper explores the records management implications associated with their use and reminds readers of the following:
- While the volume of data created by these technologies can be staggering, the data must be managed by agencies within a records management framework.
- The length of retention continues to be driven by business needs and legal requirements.
- These technologies may impact existing policies and standards, such as ensuring records management controls requirements for electronic information systems, and ensuring they adequately maintain the authenticity and integrity of records.
Although the white paper focuses primarily on federal records, it highlights the need for forethought from any public entity interested in incorporating these technologies into their business practices.