Difference Between Robotics and Automation

3 min read
Robotics and Automation

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

What is the difference between automation and robotics?

To understand the difference between robotics and automation, you need to understand what exactly each of these terms means.

Automation is the process of using physical machines, computer software and other technologies to perform tasks they 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 purposes. Here are some examples that illustrate the difference between automation and robotics.

Example 1: 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.
Example 2:  A robot puts together a car on an assembly line at a car factory. This is an example of automation that uses robotics.
Example 3: A company provides robot pets for elders who are lonely and have low budgets. This is robotics that has nothing to do with automation.

We hope these examples give you a better understanding of the difference between robotics and automation. Now, let’s see what different types of automation there are and what are the main differences between them.

Automation types. IA and RPA

There are various types of automation. They differ in the area of application, technologies that are used for its implementation and other aspects. Let’s review some of the most popular types. 

Industrial and software automation

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

On the other hand, when people talk about automation in general, they usually refer to software automation. Software automation is using software to perform the tasks people do using computers. There are numerous branches (types, trends) of software automation that you might have heard:  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 that are 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 between them?

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.

You can read more about RPA in one of our previous blog posts.

Intelligent process automation or just 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 rule-based and use unstructured and non-digital data sources.

To learn more about robotics, RPA, IA and many other topics related to automation, take our free online course – Automation Essentials.

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