The robots are coming: who will come out on top?

The notion of a robot revolution had been rooted in fantasy- but now, this tech is starting to gain the interest of many enterprises.

There has been no shortage of news in recent months proclaiming that the robots are coming. From Flippy the burger-flipping robot who will work in CaliBurger restaurants, to the parking attendant robot that drowned itself in a fountain. Popular culture has also caught robo-mania with television series such Humans and Westworld and films such as Ex-Machina proving a massive hit.

Only up until recently, notions of a robot revolution had been rooted in fantasy. However, associated technologies are starting to gain the interest of many enterprises. Earlier this year, PwC announced the appointment of its first UK AI leader: Euan Cameron, who will be tasked with driving growth around this emerging technology. He’ll oversee a core team of more than 30 AI, robotic process automation (RPA) and machine learning specialists.

>See also: Why robots won’t replace humans

Serial entrepreneur Elon Musk has also been very vocal on the topic of robots. For someone that wants to send people to Mars and believes all cars will be driving themselves in the next 10 years, Musk doesn’t scare easily. But even he has called on the government to regulate artificial intelligence (AI) before things advance too far. Technological change can be liberating but it also breeds anxiety. And if it’s not managed properly it could also worsen inequality by further skewing the power balance in the workplace and across society.

Rise of the machines

However, history is littered with examples of technology rapidly advancing, just look at what’s happened in the utilities and transportation sectors. We are used to these inflection points, however some are more profoundly felt than others. We are on the brink of a dramatic transformation and the coming of the robots shouldn’t be viewed as a ‘them versus us’ power struggle.

The idea of robots delivering key processes is actually nothing new. Automation is everywhere – in the supply chain, in car factories and even HR. There is real merit in having robots perform highly repetitive, and inferred from that, lower value tasks. The industrial revolution was built on this single guiding principle. Robots aren’t taking over, they’re augmenting our everyday lives, making us better versions of ourselves.

Artificial intelligence shouldn’t give businesses reason to fear. Instead, they should consider how to embrace the technology, or risk being left in the wake of digital disruptors. IDC predicts that by 2018, one third of the top twenty in every industry will be disrupted by digitally transformed competitors. As enterprises strive to digitally transform, many are turning to AI to enhance the power of process automation.

>See also: European politicians vote to regulate rise of robots

How is this all possible? The key difference now is the compute power offered by the cloud is prompting businesses to look again at the viability of robot-based tasks at a hyper scale. Imagine a robot that has infinite processing potential as well as the intelligence built-in to adapt and interpret the data it’s processing. And the RPA market is set to rapidly mature.

With RPA having the potential to make business processes smarter and more efficient Forrester is predicting that this market will rapidly grow to $2.9BN by 2021. There are a handful of vendors but no clear leaders yet. And enterprises everywhere are under immense pressure to digitise operations; they see a future where routine operations are fully automated.

Robotic process automation in action

Use cases of RPA include mainframe installations, where there is still valuable data but it’s invisible to the rest of the technology estate. Or there are paper-based forms that need rapid assimilation into a business process.

Many of these examples tend to be human-centric, re-keying data which causes scale issues and the potential of a high error count. But how does business process automation fit? The simple answer is, robots are well suited to re-keying tasks however they don’t allow the user to manage the orchestration of that data into other systems. That’s where process automation comes in.

>See also: The robots are coming: better get used to it

Think about RPA as being highly effective at data capture where business process automation handles moving the data once captured to other systems. Furthermore, it provides intelligence and context to that data which turns that data into a powerful asset for any business.

In reality, it was never about a Dystopian future where robots take over. It’s a case of re-deploying humans to tasks and work where, being human, adds value. Higher value tasks (either monetary value or impact to the business) are still the domain of humans rather than robots.


Sourced by teve Tassell, global product marketing manager, Bizagi

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...