Autonomous and intelligent documents


In an era of increasingly intelligent and autonomous cars, we also need to consider documents that behave as intelligently and autonomously as possible. Traditionally, documents lead a dull life. They sit unused and forgotten, and in the worst-case scenario – if, against expectations, they’re needed again after a long period of time, for example by Compliance – they sometimes can’t be found at all.

Gutenberg put a lot of effort into making the fonts used by his pivotal printing press look like handwriting. He didn’t aim to make reading easier for the user – that is, the reader. The same error is in evidence in today’s digitization projects: digitized documents are intended to look like printed paper. The need to carry out automated analyses of document content often goes unrecognized. We’re now going one conceptual step further and considering how we can create intelligent, autonomous documents.

Ideas for intelligent documents can be found in the automobile industry. Requirements include sensors, behavioral and control rules and actors that can carry out actions. Behavioral rules are instantly reminiscent of business rules. There’s nothing to prevent documents from containing automatically interpretable information in order to deploy rules regarding data protection or record retention obligations. The rules themselves do not belong to the documents, as they can change – for example when a legal hold is implemented.

Libraries’ traditional control slips can contribute another idea: these slips indicate the process that a newly acquired book has to go through. The slips are stuck between pages and provide information about a book’s processing stage at all times. The steps it has already gone through are fully traceable. The digitalization of a control slip requires the allocation of a unique identifier. Individual process steps can then be easily visualized. By linking the process steps documented in this way, traceability can be guaranteed. This information does not necessarily have to be organized in linked blocks, but it does suggest a conceptual relationship with blockchains, which are currently attracting a lot of attention. Blockchain characteristics such as privacy, traceability and independence from a central monitoring body offer important characteristics for document management in the future.

Complete Revision of the Federal Data Protection Act

The complete revision's draft of the Federal Data Protection Act is currently in political consultation. Data Protection is to be increased by giving people more control over their private data as well as reinforcing transparancy regarding the handling of confidential data.

Links: draft, report

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