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Robotic Process Automation (RPA) Vs Intelligent Process Automation (IPA)

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Automation implies machines carrying out tasks and processes without or with minimum human intervention. Every aspect of the industry is automated to a certain point. Automation can be achieved using electric and electronic devices, mechanical and hydraulic means and even computers. When combined, these different methods take a complete 180-degree turn in the industry, making every process much more efficient and manageable.

Intelligent Process Automation (IPA) and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) came into the industry when different combinations of methods were implemented across various sectors. In this article, we will understand the following:

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What is Robotic Process Automation (RPA)?

Robotic Process Automation or RPA was introduced with the entry of industry 4.0 of the industrial revolution. It is a software integrated technology that integrates, mimics and performs human actions using Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) algorithms.

RPA is generally used for performing repetitive and tedious tasks like data entry tasks, and even dangerous and life-threatening jobs. RPA improves efficiency and reduces the time required, and provides an error-free result 99.9% times.

RPA has become the biggest link between humans and robots where robots have taken up accuracy, speed-related tasks, and humans working on complex and critical thinking tasks. It is never too late to include RPA in any business model because it is easy-to-scale and future proof.

RPA does not require any major architectural change to be implemented as it is non-invasive.

Types of Robots in RPA

There are two types of robots used in RPA:

  • Attended Robots: These robots typically work on the same station as humans as they only execute specific tasks, after which human intervention is required. They are under human supervision at all times. These robots are trained to have straightforward and precise controls and not react to what humans are doing.
  • Unattended Robots: These robots work independently and do not require human intervention for completing the tasks. They have their virtual work stations, unlike attended robots, and require human intervention rarely.
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iRobot Roomba 960 – Example of unattended robot

Advantages of RPA

  • It can operate with any application irrespective of the field.
  • It has a faster execution speed and provides powerful performance.
  • It has the ability to mimic human actions and behaviour.
  • The results obtained are generally error-free.
  • It can work without any rest or break hence better efficiency.
  • Since it is programmed, it works in a very structured manner.

Other than those mentioned above, one of the most significant advantages of RPA is that the entire system and application don’t need to be replaced to perform automation because RPA can adapt to every workflow and interface.

One major drawback of the RPA technology is dealing with any form of unstructured data. Unstructured data cannot be essentially programmed because of the significant differences within the data. To overcome this drawback, Intelligent Process Automation was introduced.

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What is Intelligent Process Automation (IPA)?

Intelligent Process Automation or IPA is a combination of technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Digital Process Automation and RPA to manage, automate and integrate digital processes.

IPA came into existence relatively recently to overcome the drawback of RPA and hence is also sometimes referred to as RPA 4.0. The purpose of IPA is to mimic not only human actions but also human intelligence. It aims to achieve a better and more refined quality of work without any human intervention. Its ability to learn from its decisions leads it to provide better work quality..

Major elements of IPA

There are three very essential elements of IPA.

  • Digital Process Automation (DPA): DPA is an intelligent process automation technology that has evolved from the Business Process Management (BPM) technology. DPA provides a multidisciplinary approach in automating business processes. It provides ease in the identification of areas for improvement and manages the flow of data. It can also make quick changes if required.
  • Robotic Process Automation (RPA): Since IPA is an upgrade to RPA, the latter plays an essential role in justifying IPA’s functioning. RPA helps with the efficiency of the model. Since RPA can mimic humans, it helps reduce manual and labour-intensive tasks.
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI): AI adds to the intelligence of the model. It can analyse and recognise data in the most efficient method, even better than humans. The AI module also learns from any past mistake or decision, understands how it affected the IPA model and hence takes more intelligent decisions as it goes ahead.

Advantages of IPA

The advantages of IPA are as listed below.

  • It can coordinate and integrate work between robots, systems and humans.
  • It can work with unstructured data, including images and videos.
  • Ease in completion of work with high speed.
  • Freeing human from routine and tedious tasks, and sometimes slightly complex tasks as well.
  • Error-free work with proper governance of the processes.
  • Full accessibility and visibility of the process and journey to identify any flaws.
  • Orchestration (managing and automating) of work between robots.
  • Reduction in operational costs and risks.

IPA has uplifted the automation technology to a new level solving almost all automation issues to date. It is very efficient and supports businesses much better than RPA due to its flaw of not being able to process unstructured data. IPA also wholly cuts out human intervention because it is not only a robot but also an intelligent robot.

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IPA is derived from the basic roots of RPA, yet it is quite different from it. The differences between RPA and IPA are listed below.

ParametersRobotic Process Automation (RPA)Intelligent Process Automation (IPA)
DerivativeIt is a software integrated robotIt is a combination of existing technologies
Comparison with human abilitiesIt can mimic human actions and behaviourIt can mimic human actions and also human intelligence
TypesAttended Robots and Unattended RobotsUnattended Robots
Human interventionHuman intervention is generally required after a certain period Human intervention is not required.
Building blocksIt primarily uses Screen Scraping (Extraction of data from the web and documents), Workflow Automation (Reduce repetitive work using Automation Management tools), and AI for functioningIt builds upon technologies like RPA, Artificial Intelligence, Digital Process Automation, Natural Language Processing (NPL) and Data Extraction
Decision makingIt does not hold the ability to make decisionsIt holds the ability to make decisions when required
What it automates?It helps automate tedious, repetitive and time-consuming processesIt helps automate repetitive processes as well as decision-making processes to keep up with the challenges of the industry
Data It can only work with structured dataIt can work efficiently with both structured and unstructured data
Better than humans?It is a pre-programmed bot. It can not overtake humans in a specific taskIt learns and overtime and becomes better than humans in solving and implementing specific solutions
Difference between IPA and RPA

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What does the future hold?

Up to a point, it is safe to say that IPA was the future of RPA as it takes care of any feature that the latter lacked. Since IPA is a relatively new trend, it is still open to multiple challenges and growth opportunities.

With further use and exploration of the technology, it will give birth to a new era of automation in the future. Unlike the popular misconception of our jobs being taken by robots, RPA and IPA have created many more job opportunities than replaced. Intelligent Process Automation has made the work of many industries and businesses easy and has many more to do. As automation technologies advance, so will the level of jobs for humans.

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Ishita Maheshwari

Ishita Maheshwari

A creative nerd, TT player, an avid reader, and an engineering student.