IE11 Not Supported

For optimal browsing, we recommend Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers.

Commentary: Combining IoT, AI and Chatbot Tech Yields Dividends

As Placer County IT analyst Ben Palacio sees it, the next pivotal technology in government and the private sector appears to be based on chatbots and artificial intelligence. The dividends from successful implementation could be a game-changer.

AI, Chatbots and IoT have become stronger and much more reliable over the past year.

There have only been a few major, large-scale changes in the world economy. One of these notable changes was when Ford Motor Co. incorporated in 1903. Another, when the computer came along and advanced itself into homes in the 1990s with a vengeance. The third — one everyone will remember — was the arrival of this thing called the Internet. 

Now, how about engaging with your local government at any time of the day whether the offices are open or closed? This hypothetical reasoning, becoming a reality at Placer County and elsewhere, is why I strongly believe the next big economic change will be artificial intelligence and chatbots.

What seems to be left out are the tools to administer the chatbot ecosystem — integrations of all the various solutions: Google Assistant, Alexa, Cortana and others.

You might think these are ridiculous and pointless ideas. I did, too, but let me justify why my feelings changed about these simple daily tasks and how much they can help improve life before you push them aside. These simple tasks can be replicated and applied to governments — and, frankly, any organization.

Another reason this is going to explode like the car, the computer or the Internet is the infinite applications of chatbots. The ability to deploy chatbots to millions of devices, for free, is also appealing! This means proper architectural design is essential.

Let us use a hypothetical example now: facility management. As many systems have already begun releasing to market with management utilities and IoT interfaces, it will become even more important for system-agnostic Service Bus Design. A single repository of data and services will need to be centrally located in the same environment to make things function best, while reducing management costs and latencies.

Here is a use case now to consider: The IoT system automatically notifies staff that the HVAC is down. Staff, hypothetically, can ask a chatbot about the status of the system or query it for more error detail. Maybe the error was a misfire or false alarm. Now there is no need for them to stop what they are working on to remotely access the network and review the IoT web interface (each system has its own) or to travel to assess the system, unless it becomes a repetitive problem. Seems ridiculous up front and not a good use of funding. The big win with chatbots is the ability of staff to leverage any smart device with a single application to access information and manage numerous IoT systems, not several individual systems. This is also much easier to do in the field, where Internet access is limited, and a cellular device can access a chatbot.

However, most important to governments is the obligation to be budget-conscious while providing the most value and access of information to residents, employees and constituents.

Another consideration for government is the return on investment (ROI). In many governments, certain facilities-management tasks are centrally managed. Staff may be limited or lacking the expertise to solve system problems for certain IoT appliances, such as HVAC systems, which can sometimes require additional certifications and/or credentialed staff to work on them. Now issues can be evaluated and possibly resolved in the field at remote locations with no gas, no vehicle charges, or lost time on more significant projects or issues. Technicians will also not lose countless hours stopping to gain remote network access or call in to get up-to-date IoT system status information. I believe in the need for an IoT management interface to the chatbot services. Maybe call it an IoT Management Service Bus?

Finally, let's address the elephant in the room: Chatbot and AI technology will NOT remove jobs from the market. Chatbot interfaces provide efficiencies and will give staff members more adequate time to analyze and process other programs and projects, thus providing exponential ROI and other efficiencies. These gains are possible in virtually any department or organization using chatbot technologies. 

Benjamin Palacio is a Senior IT Analyst on the ESSG-Enterprise Solutions Team in the Placer County Information Technology Department and is a CSAC-credentialed IT Executive. The views expressed here are his own. He may be reached at