These lights-outs processes can handle all aspects of routine customer administration and set prices dynamically for air/bus/rail tickets and for online retailers like Alibaba, Amazon, eBay etc. On-line retailers take the process a stage further by employing sophisticated algorithms which automatically serve up appropriate suggestions to customers. Such automation tools, mimic the actions of a 'human store retailer' when a customer comes in, evaluates the customer's background and stated preferences and then make sensible suggestions on what products would that particular customer might be interested, noting any opportunities for upselling.
The best example of a robot is the 'driverless' vehicle. Once programmed with a destination a car can drive itself by sensing its immediate road environment (including other cars) in conjunction with other data such as satellite data on road and travel conditions. Such cars will also have the ability to learn from their environment and thus, optimise regular journeys in co-operation with other driverless cars. The obvious advantage is that it frees driver time for thinking and working there are other important advantages that will create new business models around driving. In a co-ordinated planning system, a number of cars might drive themselves back to popular pickup places at different times during the day to optimise traffic flows, e.g. to MRT stations in the morning and back to workplace areas in the afternoon. Singapore, for example, will soon have a self-driving taxi service operated in the city-state; where selected members of the public can hail for the taxi through their smartphones.
The point we are making is that automating routine tasks and applying robotic technology to more cognitive or less routine tasks has limitations if only in terms of cost versus the benefits, however, there are new possibilities for new ways of human working and new business models if adaptive changes are made in the operating environment. The big wins will occur as robotics and automation are combined.
Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.