R is for robots

This post is part of a series, “Digital: From A to Z,” that explores what it means to be digital. What’s in your A to Z of digital? Find me on Twitter @Max_Hemingway or leave a comment below.

What used to be science fiction is now reality as robots become an everyday part of our lives. Even if you are not working with robots, they still have a big influence on your everyday life by making some of the things that you may use, such as a car or computer.

Isaac Asimov set out “Three Laws of Robotics” which in the main are obeyed by robots:

  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

The exception to these laws at the moment are military-based AI robots. There is currently a lot of debate around this subject and how far AI should be allowed to go.

When the term “robot” is thought about, it most probably conjures up visions of automated arms in a factory plant or a humanoid robot carrying out tasks. Lots of this is influenced by novels and movies. However, robots do not always take this form. The term “robot” is applied to a number of scenarios such as “Robotic Process Automation” (RPA), which takes clerical tasks and automates them through the use of software-based robots.

Through learning to program and the use of applications and open APIs (Application Programming Interfaces), RPA can be used to automate parts of the business.

An example of RPA

I recently needed my windscreen repaired on my car. Through my insurance company’s website (after logging on to verify myself), I started a claim for the repair. The process then presented a number of steps to help identify the damage to the windscreen through the use of pictures and choices. After I entered the number of chips and location on the windscreen, the process determined that I needed a replacement windscreen (lots of motorway driving and lorries/cars flicking up stones off the road).

The next stage was to pass all my details to the windscreen company. All I had to do was choose the date and time for the replacement screen to be fitted. The only human interaction I had in this process was when the repair person came to fit the new screen. Following the fitting and signing electronically that I was happy with the repair, the process finished by settling the claim (and excess) and sending a survey for me to complete about the process.

Although there was little human interaction in this process, it was a smooth transaction that resulted in a happy customer experience. There is, however, always an option to revert back to a human if needed.

Robots and the ability to build your own robot have also become readily available through advancements in computing and cheap components such as the Raspberry Pi and Arduino computing boards. Building a simple quadruped robot through the use of an Arduino and some programming in Python demonstrates this ability.

Through the use of robots, whether physical or software-based, businesses can take advantage of these technologies to help automate the repetitive tasks that employees carry out and let them concentrate on the deeper tasks that need their attention. This leads to the rise of the cobots and their ability to help and work alongside employees.

Further Reading:

Join me next time as I look at “S is for social” in my Digital A-Z series.  See my last post, Q is for quantum computing.

This entry was originally posted in Max’s blog.

Max Hemingway — Senior Architect

Max is a senior architect for DXC in the United Kingdom. With more than 25 years of experience, he has a broad and deep range of technical knowledge and is able to translate business needs into IT-based solutions. Currently the chief architect of the BAE Systems account in the UK, Max has a proven track record acquired through continual client engagement and delivery of leading edge infrastructures, all of which have delivered positive results for end-clients, including IT cost reduction, expansion of service capability and increased revenues.


  1. Nice article! Robotics is doing much more than RPA such as in the medical field. Thanks for sharing the informative and valuable article.

  2. Thanks for sharing

  3. Oliver Harris says:

    As an expanding technology, capable of improving business outcomes, RPA has the capacity to support digital transformation. For this reason, many businesses are looking for ways in which they can bring this kind of change to their business functions. Whether it’s a case of an insurance company inundated with claims processing, a utilities company managing a high number of small value purchase orders, or a bank struggling to manage high transaction volumes, RPA can eliminate these challenges and support digital transformation along the way.


  1. […] Join me next time as I look at “T is for Twenty First Century Digital” in my Digital A-Z series.  See my last post, R is for robots. […]

  2. […] However, should this include cobots that are there to aid a worker to do their role, or even RPA (Robotic Process Automation) that uses software to carry out a task?  It’s easy to carry out a visual inspection of a […]

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