The History of Robotic Process Automation

It is a common belief that RPA is a game-changing technology, yet the automation community prefers to debate that notion. They believe that RPA is not a new development but rather, an extension of the technologies that came before it. The term “robotic process automation” was coined during early 2000.

Robotic process automation had three main predecessors:

Screen scraping software

It is hard to believe but, the screen scraping technology actually started even before the wide use of internet. It was created to bridge the gap between the then current systems and the incompatible legacy systems. Overtime, the technology was enhanced to extract data from web pages. While this technology was useful, it had a lot of limitations. Screen scraping’s success is defined by the underlying technology of the screen that needs to be extracted.

Workflow automation and management tools

The term “workflow automation” was first used in the early 1920s during the industrial era and emergence of manufacturing but it had become more common during the 1990s when automation using software started to become more popular. Workflow automation can help automate simple business processes involving manual data entry, invoice posting, or the like. It offered increased speed, efficiency, and accuracy but was not helpful in a complete end-to-end automation.

Artificial intelligence

The term “artificial intelligence” was coined in the year 1956 at a conference at Dartmouth College, NH, USA. Artificial intelligence (AI) refers to the capability of computer systems to perform tasks that normally require human intervention and intelligence. The tasks that can be completed by AI machines are those that were previously highly dependent on humans for their judgement and decision making ability and include, for example, financial planning and fraud detection. The benefits of AI include increased accuracy and precision in tasks and replacement of tedious, time-consuming manual labor

RPA is a combination of all the above three technologies into a single technological platform. RPA is highly dependent on both screen scraping and workflow automation. It provides tools that are business user friendly and need very less to no coding, to automate processes. Artificial Intelligence is at the core of RPA and all the RPA tools available int he market use AI in one way or the other.

AI can be used, in addition to screen scraping and workflow automation, to approach tasks that require more complex decision-making and analysis, such as natural language processing, recommendation services, and online customer support.

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