Robotic Process Automation and the Internet of Things...Coming Now!

Written by Jordan McMahon in Changing the world with automation on September 3, 2014

RPA-the internet of thingsImagine your fridge hooked up to the Internet. Or your lawn sprinklers. Or the smoke detectors in your mom's kitchen. The interconnected future is what people are calling the Internet of Things. Today, we’ve linked computing and networking devices. Tomorrow, anything that can house a processor (and most things can) will be a candidate for connection. However, trying to manually keep tabs over the net on whether your fridge is cool enough or if your lawn sprinklers are, well, sprinkling is likely to be a challenge. Robotic process automation software could be the answer. The Internet of Things is forecast to develop from RFID tags available today to global networks of smart machines.

Intelligent Homes and Smart Use of Automation Software

One Automation Anywhere customer used RPA to manage problem alerts in intelligent homes. What the customer wanted to do was devise a system that would send a cell-phone alert to a homeowner if a monitoring system detected gas leaks, water leaks, or smoke in the house. The problem was that there didn't seem to be any way to link the events being flagged by the sensors over Internet to the user’s cell phone network. In other words, it seemed impossible to translate the alarms into a text message. This customer set up Automation Anywhere to open the web page showing the sensor information every five minutes and to check for any alerts. If an alert is found, Automation Anywhere then opens another web page- this time for the cell phone operator- writes both the appropriate message (like ‘Smoke detected in kitchen!’) and the homeowner’s cell phone number, and then sends the message.

What Else Can We Expect?

Consulting company McKinsey has a model. There are six types of application for the Internet of Things, falling into two broad categories: "information and analysis" and "automation and control". The company foresees the advent of automated systems that adjust by themselves to complex situations. It further notes that pioneers are making ‘relatively basic’ applications that are proving very profitable. The theme of network sensors and automated feedback systems comes up as well. In keeping with the Automation Anywhere customer mentioned above, various utility providers are now offering ‘time of use’ based charging and providing customers with smart automated meters that show the cost of electricity in real time. The Internet of Things' growth will depend partly on the cost of the sensors. But network company Ayla thinks that by the end of next year you’ll be able to connect whatever you want for only $5.

Democratic Automation

If connectivity to the Internet of Things is going to be so financially accessible, the mass market will become a viable goal for home appliance manufacturers, car companies, medical and sports analysis, and (Ayla’s example) dog bowl vendors. Yet companies jumping on the Internet of Things bandwagon will not necessarily be specialized in IT automation or software development. Robotic process automation may have a significant role to play in helping firms from outside the IT market bridge the knowledge gap and compete along with everybody else.