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Facing the Future: Using Cloud to Engage Emerging Technology in Utah

To this point in time, technology has primarily been literate. It has read the coded command of keystrokes and written out the corresponding function.

Now, however, technology brings far more functions to the table. Modern technology can see through cameras, hear through microphones, feel through sensors and even think through artificial intelligence.

In Utah, they’re all coming together through one seamless and integrated center – the cloud.

“By migrating some of our data services to the cloud, it gives you advantages of other things that might exist in the same environment,” Mike Hussey, Chief Information Officer (CIO) of Utah, said.

One area of exploration is facial recognition technologies, which have the potential to detect fraud in official state ID cards. But while the technology is powerful, when working with a limited database of information, it can only achieve a certain level of accuracy. With a more thorough base of information and more inputs enabled by the cloud, the findings can be nearly flawless, needing only confirmation and not tedious examination from a supervising employee.

Testing this new technology, Utah experimented on its own staff. Comparing one employee’s first driver’s license printed at 16 years old and a current one, a quarter-century later, the software was able to say with 68% certainty that the person in the IDs was one and the same.

Going through all iterations of previous licenses, however, the software was able to predict with 99% certainty that the individual was the same.

“Let the computer just do it every time,” Hussey said. “We’ve realized we could spend very little a month, and we can run every driver’s license through this last check to verify identity. And I think that’s exciting for our citizens.”

For citizens, shorter lines at the Department of Motor Vehicles and shorter wait times for new licenses could be on the way thanks to these innovative technologies. Although these capabilities aren’t fully rolled out yet, Utah has already implemented other cloud technologies to help alleviate time-consuming burdens.

Utah was the first state to premiere Amazon Alexa voice recognition and response technology, including a practice test for people who are preparing to take their driver’s license examination. Hussey said one of his neighbors was struggling to pass the test when studying the written materials, but the Alexa version helped her make the cut.

Utah deployed its Alexa app in 2016 and received 147 usages within the first five days of deployment, despite no promotion. Using Alexa features, citizens can also find out fun facts about the state and information on places to fish – even the bait to use for the best haul.

The same information is available on Google Home devices as well. Users can also access voter information pamphlets and next up, Hussey said, could be instantaneous business license renewal.

Hussey said that these omnichannel communications help the state reach marginalized communities that typically might not receive the amenities of government services. The voice recognition software, for example, allows people who are visually impaired to access state information and resources without printing out large volumes of braille. Those who struggle with computers and smartphones can also find voice response technologies easier to interact with than their on-screen counterparts.

The use of cloud, and the shared data capabilities that come with it, makes room for single-sign-on capabilities, meaning that a profile can travel with users from online to voice recognition systems. Data is not only shared but also secured between all of the platforms.

Finally, Utah has made feedback, which governments can often struggle to collect and process, a core component of its strategy for a digital government. New cloud technologies are allowing Utah to scan submitted feedback and gauge the tone in seconds, bridging the communication gulf that often persists between government agencies and citizens.

“If we can start crossing some of these divides, then all of a sudden you see huge dividends in peoples’ lives,” Hussey said.

This article is an excerpt from GovLoop’s recent guide, “Intelligent Innovation: Tech Trends Taking Root in State and Local Governments.” Download the full guide here.

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