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Chatbots Save the Day in the World of IoT

Updated on March 29, 2020

The Internet of Things is a phenomenon of non-virtual, interconnected devices (things) that is redefining what we have come to know as the digital age. IoT consists of smart devices such as smart phones, air-quality monitors, voice-recognition assistants, health monitoring bracelets and anything that transmits data with or without wires to the cloud or to other devices. These things capture external data such as temperature, heartrate, light and motion through the use of sensors which is then communicated through web-based applications.

Now that definitions are out of the way, there are critical challenges to increasing the popularity and use of IoT. One of the biggest opportunities to the estimated 20 million devices that will be connected by 2020 is a single, simple and comprehensive interface. Moreover, privacy is also a great threat to IoT popularity. In the world of IoT, chatbots can solve the challenge of heterogeneous interfaces and provide much needed peace of mind when it comes to privacy concerns.

One Interface to Save Them All

The vendor specific and heterogeneous nature of these devices limit their applications. Additionally, their non-standard nature combined with the vast amount of devices increases backend complexity when designing an infrastructure for a business or smart home. Increasing the amount of things in a certain ‘ecosystem’ (business or home) also increase the challenges to a unified user interface.

Chat-based applications are becoming widely used and show significant growth. One attributing factor to this is AI’s use of machine learning and natural language processing – increasing in simplicity. A chatbot’s interface can be used to address multiple critical issues that IoT presents. Chatbots can translate a large amount of diverse and multimodal data gathered by sensors through a simple conversational interface. They can retrieve specific data that you require from complex, data abundant IoT dashboards. They can also communicate with several mutually independent devices to create a single chatbot interface for all devices – a solution to the problem called ‘platform fragmentation’.

Chatbots can relieve the cognitive burden placed on you when learning how to use a complex IoT device. They can be used as help features, give recommendations, automate cyclical tasks and create a better quality of service through integrated feedback loops. With chatbots understanding natural language and having natural language generation capability, they can simplify system navigation through simple user-bot interactions. This natural interaction and personalisation service can be achieved through machine learning, which also increases your experience through a highly contextual interface (understanding past interactions).

PriBots, not PryBots

When you start using any smart device, there is the illusion of informed consent when it comes to privacy notices. These notices come in the form of lengthy, jargon filled privacy policies or extremely vague app permissions. They are meant to relay information about the data a website or device collects and which third parties have access to that data. However, we tend to ignore these notices because of the way they are presented to us. Because of this, cutting edge methods on improving privacy notices are emerging. Chatbots are becoming one of these methods – conversational privacy with chatbots, or PriBots.

PriBots will use a unifying interface with which you can voice your privacy concerns. These bots would appeal to new and existing device users because they can easily transition from the familiarity of text messaging, and bots are generally simple and user-friendly. Circumventing the frustrating burden of very complex or very ambiguous privacy notices, PriBots will open a channel of communication between you and the service provider so that you’ll be able to ask questions about the contents of the notice and also voice your concerns.

PriBots’ main modes, however, would be to deliver privacy notices (primary or secondary methods) and to help you set your privacy preferences. As a primary delivery method, the PriBot will deliver your privacy notice in dialogue form. As a secondary or complementary method, you will receive the privacy notice and then be able to ask the PriBot about certain aspects of the notice – much like a search engine. Furthermore, PriBots will provide privacy notices before and after your authorisation. Pre-authorisation would include a summary of the service provider’s privacy policy and the option for you to ask questions about it. Post-authorisation makes the PriBot available for any additional question.

Moving on to the strenuous task of setting privacy preferences, you can do this with the help of your PriBot. PriBots will use natural language processing to increase the tasks’ efficiency by informing you about each preference and its implications. Setting the privacy preference you desire will become dramatically easier. Moreover, a PriBot’s use of NLP will make it able to anticipation your decisions and understand your intentions.

Ultimately, with the speed of technological progress and an ever-connecting world, it is clear that in the world of IoT, chatbots will be able to solve the challenge of heterogeneous interfaces and provide much needed peace of mind when it comes to privacy concerns.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Chante van Biljon


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