At Hanscom Air Force Base in Massachusetts, it has been the job of two people to check visitors into the base, and manually enter their information into a system for a background check. Those days are numbered because of a robotics process automation (RPA) program, according to the base’s director of communication and information.

“Throughout my career I have seen many processes that could benefit from being automated, but there always seems to be things that get in the way,” said William Ross, who serves at Hanscom Air Force Base as the director of communications and information for the 66th Air Base Group.

Ross explained that this new system uses a barcode reader before a bot takes the scanned barcode from the identification and goes to the system, reporting back the results of the background check. The barcode reader system is a change from what Ross called a “very manually intensive” process for the base’s security forces.

Speaking at an online event hosted by UiPath on July 8, Ross expressed interest in sharing the visitors center bot with other bases.

“Right now, there is a whole sea of quick wins that I think we could move forward with and improve what’s going on at base level,” said Ross, of RPA.

Another bot in use at Hanscom base is for the help desk. Ross said users send emails to request work to be done, but that those emails need to be transitioned to the Air Force trouble ticket system, Remedy.

“We used to have a technician that would spend about four hours a day just going through that mailbox, keeping it knocked down, and getting those work orders started,” Ross said. “We’ve been able to create a bot that reads those emails, finds the right information, and puts into the right fields as a user logged into Remedy.”

“The technician can just hit ‘go’ on that bot and turn to other business,” he said.

Phil Hoyle, an Army account executive at the company UiPath, called RPA “a baseline” for further automation.

“Most folks try to go straight to artificial intelligence,” he said. “One of the things you have to be able to do is have enough information and enough data, which then feeds the machine learning algorithms, which then can inform artificial intelligence to take action.”

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Dwight Weingarten
Dwight Weingarten
Dwight Weingarten is a MeriTalk Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.