The Difference Between Robotics and Automation

November 29, 2019 · 2 min read

The terms automation and robotics are often used interchangeably, and this is not surprising. With the extensive recent development of these technologies, they have become hot topics in the media where these terms are not always applied correctly. However, if you are thinking of using these technologies to transform and improve your business, you need to understand the differences between them and which you and your business would benefit from most.

What is the difference between automation and robotics?

Let’s discuss the differences between robotics and automation.

  • Automation is the process of using physical machines, computer software and other technologies to perform tasks that are usually done by humans.
  • Robotics is the process of designing, creating and using robots to perform a certain task.

There are overlaps between these two areas, but they are not the same. Physical robots may be used in automation, but many robots are not created for automation. Here are some examples that illustrate the difference between automation and robotics:

  • When a customer writes to a bank’s support team, a chatbot replies, requests additional information, and asks the customer to leave feedback at the end of the conversion. This is automation with no robotics involved.
  • A robot puts together a car on an assembly line at a car factory. This is an example of automation that uses robotics.
  • A company provides robot pets for elders who are lonely and have low budgets. This is robotics without automation.

Now, let’s discuss the different types of automation and the main differences between them.

Automation types. IA and RPA

Types differ in their areas of application, technologies used for implementation, and other aspects.

Industrial and software automation

If you hear the phrase “automation and robotics,” there is a big chance this person is talking about industrial automation. Industrial automation is the process of automating physical processes using physical robots and special control systems. A vivid example of this is a car factory with a very high level of autonomy.

On the other hand, when people talk about automation in general, they are usually referring to software automation. Software automation is using software to perform tasks people do with computers. There are numerous branches (types, trends) of software automation: test automation, robotic process automation, Intelligent Automation, and many others.

Difference between intelligent process automation and robotic process automation

Two of the most popular terms used when talking about software automation are intelligent process automation and robotic process automation. They are often used as synonyms, which is not entirely correct. What is the difference?

Robotic process automation (RPA) is a technology that allows software robots to use an application’s user interface (UI) to mimic human actions without modifying systems or requiring human intervention, and it has nothing to do with robotics. This approach is effective for automating rule-based tasks that use structured digital data.

Intelligent process automation, or Intelligent Automation (IA), is a technology that automates the company’s business processes using RPA, BPM, analytics and artificial intelligence (usually machine learning). Unlike RPA, IA can automate complex business processes that are judgment-based (rather than being limited to rule-based tasks) and use unstructured and non-digital data sources.

To learn more about robotics, RPA, IA and many other topics related to automation, take this free course in Automation Academy, our online training platform: Automation Essentials.

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