Many an executive on keynote stages have drawn comparisons between the disruptive potential of automation and the arrivals of other great innovations of the past. The wheel, the train, the internal combustion engine and the aeroplane, or perhaps the lightbulb, the telephone or television all form prime examples of inventions that brought a swift end to an era, and an immediate beginning to a new one. Could automation be next?
Automation may not have the glory of gleaming steel and plumes of steam, racing stripes and five gears or four mighty Rolls-Royce engines, but has the power to transform the digital world that is becoming ever more meshed with the real one.
The truth is that automation is not just set to usher in a new era of efficiency and futuristic ease, it is vitally needed and we are pressed for time. At the core of this desperation is the matter of cybersecurity, with the governments, organisations, infrastructure and even citizens of the world are facing an unparalleled level of risk. A critical lack of skilled individuals is also applying pressure to the progress of organisations across the full spectrum of industries, another area in which automation could come to the rescue.
Businesses are facing a barrage of attacks, swamping the comparatively few professionals and leaving them fighting losing battles. Here is one use case that could turn the tide of the current state of cybersecurity, with technology helping to take the weight of the vast volumes to allow experts to spend their time and skills tackling the most severe risks.
Gone are the days of perimeters, meaning that without automated capabilities organisations have no real control over who is entering their network. Correlating data is the top benefit of automation in security, allowing an organisation to gain a grip on their infrastructure once again, monitoring attack vectors digital property on a continuous 24 hour basis.
Correlation allows the organisations to see patterns, providing insight into what is just anomalous and what is suspicious, altering skilled professionals to turn their attention to these instances. Without automation, malicious actors could be allowed to roam free within the network in search of valuable digital assets. There have been instances of hackers remaining inside organisations for literally hundreds of days unchecked; this is something automation could bring to an essential end.
We have covered the more high-end risks that automation could help to avert, but there is another area that is potentially of equal or greater importance. For all of our sophistication, humans are still unable to reliably maintain passwords and patch; with automated security technologies, these processes that must be upheld can be made automatic, extracting the inescapable human fallibility from the equation.
This might be the greatest hope automation has of taking on the great innovations of the past with all of the excitement they garnered. The idea of even extracting the human driver from the transport experience captures something that still feels truly futuristic, considering that a driver has been required ever since the pony and trap.
While autonomous vehicles are yet to truly break into the mainstream world, there has been a great deal of work and development done to make them a reality. There have been tests conducted across the world as major players in tech and the automotive industry put their names behind the technology of tomorrow.
Cutting edge companies like Uber and Waymo are examples of companies looking to put their brand behind autonomous vehicles, while tech companies including Intel and Google get involved. The giants of the car world are also foreseeing a self-driving future, with Ford and BMW among other companies looking to further the development of the concept.
Billions in investments have and continue to come flooding into the emerging market and some leading voices in the space have outlined goals for real use cases. Toyota and Nissan for example have set goals of 2020 and 2025 respectively for the dawn of autonomous driving, while some remain critical of how they could be integrated with other traffic successfully.
With many industries foreseeing disruption coming their way thanks to automation, one that stands out is finance. Financial services is heavily paper based in many areas, causing a lack of speed and efficiency that is quickly being relegated to the past as the modern world progresses as such speed.
Last year HSBC began working with advanced analytics technology from IBM, looking to automate the trade finance transaction process. At the root of this is a cognitive intelligence solution, a system that will involve optical character recognition in conjunction with advanced robotics for the purpose of reviewing documents that would have once required manual attention.
In August 2017, Natalie Blyth, HSBC’s global head of GTRF, said: “By digitising this process we will make transactions quicker and safer for both buyers and suppliers, leading our industry forwards, and we will reduce compliance risks through an enhanced ability to manage huge volumes of data.”
Value is set to be the core benefit of automation technology within the enterprise, providing the ability to increase efficiency, streamline processes and also bring transparency to large organisations, enhancing control and productivity.
In addition to enhanced productivity, automation is also set to be a major driver of reliability within the enterprise. Consistency is vital and it is linked to all other aspects on the road to achieving business success, it is essential for productivity and management as well as overall network security.
The mistake could be made in thinking that automation will only replace jobs in the enterprise, but this is not the case. Automation can also be used to ensure that all jobs and tasks carried out by skilled professionals run in sync, giving them guidance on how to approach tasks and what to improve. An example could be an automated system that intelligently tells a driver the best route and the order in which to complete tasks along the way. This capability could ultimately have an outstanding impact on performance.
Automation can also tackle the limitations caused by availability, this is because systems harnessing the technology can be out in place to prevent the loss of valuable mission-critical data in the event of a system crashing. This would provide a great deal of reassurance and make recovery processes significantly more manageable.
Automation in healthcare
Healthcare is experiencing a crisis globally, making it an industry that could benefit greatly from the efficiency benefits as well as enhancements it could bring to security. Automation could have a vast impact even beyond these benefits for healthcare however.
Robotic process automation could transform healthcare processes, streamlining processes that could actually allow important research to go on in clinics and hospitals. This could enhance data flows between different departments with near perfect or perfect accuracy.
Another prime area is in the collaboration between humans and machines, making highly complex operations more successful with the application of skills and abilities that surpass those that can be offered by humans. The untapped potential of humans working with machines is major, and it is often overlooked amid fear that it must be one or the other.