When companies are looking to apply AI, we always recommend that they look at the seven patterns of AI to determine which pattern, or patterns, they are applying. Some of these patterns such as the predictive analytics or conversational patterns can be fairly easy to implement and show immediate ROI. While other patterns, such as the autonomous pattern, can be harder to implement and may take longer to show ROI.
When people think of the autonomous pattern they also think of robots such as Rosie from the Jetsons, C3PO or R2D2 from Star Wars, or other robots coming from Hollywood. These robots are able to perform many tasks that humans can such as talking, cooking, picking up objects, avoiding obstacles in front of them, and an array of other things that humans do. However, in reality, many robots have varying levels of intelligence, if any. Industrial robots, for example, are simply machines that are programmed to perform a repetitive task. The vast majority of robotics contain no machine learning system or intelligence so to speak. These robots are programmed to complete repetitive and laborious tasks with the aim of decreasing human labor while performing various tasks more efficiently. In essence, this is automation, allowing for a process or procedure to be performed with minimal human assistance, but containing no intelligent features.
The oft-overlooked fact that automation does not correlate to intelligence is brought to attention with the statements that these machines are simply programmed to perform the same task over and over again. It is pointed out that the misunderstanding of automation as being something more than just programming could be due to the general public’s tendency to envision the version of robots that the media portrays upon the mention of robotics.
This leads to the topic of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) which is aptly described as level zero autonomy in terms of intelligence. That’s because simply put, automation is not intelligence. Despite RPA’s lack of intelligent processes, the tasks they perform are vital in helping companies to ameliorate their cognitive intelligence systems. Moreover, these machine processes significantly lower labor costs and can show immediate ROI despite their lack of AI. For many, they consider RPA a gateway to AI. RPA doesn’t have to remain strictly AI-free though. Just as AI can be added to industrial robots, it can also be added to RPA. An asset of this collaboration would be the ability to create intelligent workflow automation which could automatically detect changes in software or systems and work bottlenecks. Along the same vein runs the possibility of developing autonomous business processes that would allow for optimization and analysis of business processes without the need for humans. Over the past several months, a few of the large RPA vendors are indeed looking to incorporate AI into RPA.