Making Information Accessible: What do United Airlines, Amazon Echo and Digitization Have in Common?

By Ross Nepean posted 05-03-2017 14:55


Making Information Accessible

By Kurt Thies, VP, Technology and Strategic Solutions at TAB

How do you think your organization could make information more accessible?

I recently had the honor of speaking at both the Orange County ARMA chapter meeting and greater Los Angeles ARMA Conference where I challenged audiences to look beyond the traditional “store and retrieve” model of records management and to embrace the role of integrating information into the business process. Participants in both sessions were eager to learn more about digitizing information and eliminating papers in their organizations.

One topical example of increasing information accessibility is the interactive use of Amazon Echo with the growing capabilities of Artificial Intelligence (AI) devices.

Alexa, the personal assistant developed by Amazon Echo, uses a cloud based AI technology to provide intelligent responses to questions. In my presentations, audience members asked quirky questions such as, “How many gallons of water are in the Atlantic Ocean?” and Alexa responded with appropriately clever responses. However, the real interest came when Alexa was asked more pointed questions, such as “Do you work for the Federal Government?” and “Are you spying on me?”. The answers indicate sensitivity to data privacy and the idea that Alexa is always listening to your speech. With pointed questions, Alexa provides carefully worded answers and there are no quips to these questions.

The use of AI also raised information management questions during a recent murder investigation. A subpoena was issued for Alexa’s recorded information when it was learned that an Amazon Echo was in use at the crime scene. Ironically, the “smart home” also had an intelligent water meter that indicated a spike in water use at 2 a.m., the same time that the murder occurred, indicating the clean up of crime scene.

Another example of making information accessible is United Airlines’ recent public relations nightmare where a customer was dragged off an overbooked flight. Not only did it demonstrate how information today is captured and disseminated via social media in real-time, but also is the result of the company’s rules-based culture (as reported by the Wall Street Journal).

With over 85,000 employees, United has a rigid system, which triggered the escalation of an overbooked flight that resulted in a $1 billion loss in corporate value within a week. While everyone did their job, the pre-programmed options failed to allow for the context of “human” intelligence. In the same way that Alexa is programmed to provide pre-defined responses, the United crew seemed to follow the airline protocol in a robotic fashion that ignored context and common sense.

Making information more accessible by reducing paper through digitization relies upon similar challenges. Image capture has leveraged intelligent recognition of document types and pre-defined fields of information. The challenge is to recognize the context of the information and intelligently assign reliable indexing and classification. Our ability to retrieve information depends upon the manner in which it is indexed and digitization fails when it cannot make the necessary associations. Artificial Intelligence is being used by capture systems to increase the capability to automate this task. These systems show promise, but still rely upon rules-based machine learning.

Integration of information into the business process is critical to “make information accessible”. The task of records management is no longer to simply send records to offsite storage with hopes that it can be retrieved in the future or economical to destroy when eligible.

About: Kurt Thies has spent his career optimizing information and providing software solutions for the Fortune 500. He helps companies develop and execute innovative strategies.

Follow on Twitter: @klthies