We live in a world where automation is now part of our lives and the way we interact with technology is rapidly changing. One area which has dramatically accelerated in the last 12 to 18 months is robotics and automation.
When people think of robotics, the silver robots of the 80s come to mind or perhaps Terminator. But robotics isn’t limited to robotic versions of human beings. Their use and impact is actually far more subtle.
It helps first to reflect on what robotics and automation means. Automation is made of rules-based and programmed types of work alongside judgement based and self-learning types of work. This consists of unified or integrated desktops, mini-bots, robotic process automation, machine learning and cognitive computing. Google is a great example of machine learning in action – ever wondered how it predicts what you are going to ask before you ask it?
Over the last two to three years, Robotic Process Automation (RPA) has emerged as a technology more organisations are using to significantly improve the customer experience as well as to simplify and make their businesses more efficient. RPA automates processes and work flow anchored by quality data and analytics. The automation of transactions and tasks with software and ‘robots’ to handle input, processing and the output of data across systems reveals many benefits at a commercial level.
RPA improves customer experience as it paints a picture of what programs to deliver to the individual user, it improves efficiency and simplification through the ease of use, it improves quality and compliance and assists in the prevention of fraud and protection of identity.
Two other really exciting areas of robotics and automation are machine learning and cognitive computing. Machine learning are systems that simulate conversations to answer questions or queries and provide guidance. Amazon’s Alexa is a great example of this, as is Domino’s social media chat bot, Dom. One of the best known examples of cognitive computing – ie technology that is adaptive, interactive, understands context and can apply this to upcoming situations – is NETFLIX (YES I am still watching Orange Is The New Black and YES I would also like to watch Prison Break which you have suggested to me based on my viewing behaviours).
As a business, innovation is at Sensis’ core. We have moved from a primarily print-based organisation to Australia’s leading marketing services provider with a breadth of digital products to meet the needs of small, medium and large businesses and consumers.
With machine learning and cognitive computing in mind, we reflected on our current product offering and identified a need for a product that solves a very big #firstworldproblem, but a problem none-the-less. Thanks to a design thinking project and partnership with IDEO, we developed and introduced our Skip app.
Skip allows customers to pre-order and pre-pay for food and drink from Australia’s best cafes and venues and skip any queuing and waiting around for their order. It is essentially an online ordering program that lets customers go cashless, queue-less and enjoy the benefits of built-in loyalty programs and tailored menu selections that extend beyond saved cookies or order history.
It’s a great example of automation in action. In the future, Skip may evolve to automotive GPS integration so when you’re approaching your favourite coffee shop, it will be notified that you’re nearby and the barista will start making your order. I definitely could have used this when I was late to work this morning and in need of my coffee fix!
At the core of these systems and technologies is data and insights. Data and analytics are imperative in order to reflect on customer behaviour, predict future scenarios and make expert recommendations tailored to your personal preferences and needs. The use of personal data continues to pose interesting questions in the industry as we explore what people are comfortable sharing – this will only accelerate over the next few years.
The opportunities and impacts afforded by these technologies will affect people in different ways, but in today’s world where 92% of millennials agree that accessing information whenever and wherever they need it is imperative, it’s in the best interests of any business to invest in robotic process automation for the future.
At Sensis, we’re doing just that. Stay tuned – the robots are coming!