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How Is Robotic Process Automation Different From Artificial Intelligence?

by Pushp Kumar Dutt on December 3, 2018

For a while, the concepts of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) have evoked attention of one and all.

In this piece of information, we will be demystifying AI and RPA to gain a clear and complete understanding.

Robotic Process Automation can be simply defined as a software that has the ability to copy human actions or behavior. On the other hand, Artificial Intelligence is a broader term where human intelligence factors such as communicating and sensing things are simulated by a machine. In short, the crux here is action versus intelligence. Let us now start differentiating between the two in the context of automation.

RPAs are defined by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) as the use of preconfigured software instances that make use of predefined activity choreography and business rules. This is initiated for completing the execution of a combination of activities, processes, tasks, and transactions autonomously in one or more unrelated software systems. The primary purpose of this is to efficiently and smartly delivering a service or result with human exception management.

On the other hand, Artificial Intelligence is the combination of Machine learning, hypothesis generation and analysis, cognitive automation, natural language processing, reasoning, and intentional algorithm mutation. All of these produce analytics and insights that are presumably beyond human capabilities.

Simply put, AI is the simulation by machines of human intelligence and RPAs are software bots to mimic actions of humans.

Evolving From Robotic Process Automation To Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence and Robotic Process Automation are different ends of Intelligent Automation. For better understanding, let us have a look at some simple examples.

A classic and simple example of Robotic Process Automation is invoice processing. You receive electronic invoices from a supplier and then proceed to downloading them into a particular folder. Thereafter, you start extracting the relevant information from the received invoices, and start with the task of creating bills in the accounting software.

This is exactly where Robotic Process Automation comes into the picture.

RPA is ideal to automate the task of downloading attachments into a specific folder, retrieving emails, and creating bills in the accounting software. Using bots, routine tasks like these can be easily automated.

Artificial Intelligence takes thinking and execution to a completely different and upgraded level. A great example of AI is what Google does by retrieving emails based on their subject, and more.

An RPA does not have the ability to handle this level and kind of functionality as invoices are semi-structured or unstructured. There is a likely possibility that different invoice formats and templates are followed by different suppliers. Moreover, item descriptions and counts may also differ. A Robotic Process Automation requires to be scripted or programmed explicitly and precisely. Specific RPAs are scripted to perform alongside human beings. They perform their role as a virtual assistant to simplify tasks but with an expectation that human beings will always be there for resolving ambiguities. These are generally Robotic Desktop Automation. The invoice is passed through an Optical Character Recognition (OCR) by an RDA before it is sent back to the RPA bot for creating the invoice in the system.

The biggest advantage of an AI-based solution is that human intervention is minimized to the minimum. However, it does come with a downside. AI solutions are characterized by increased project complexities and costs when compared to an RDA or RPA. It is critical from an implementation perspective to carefully and thoroughly realize the balance of human to artificial intelligence that is expected by every profit-driven organization.

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