We understand why most people think that automation and AI (artificial intelligence) are the same thing. In both situations, you’re creating a tool to perform actions that were originally done by humans. Both automation and AI are capable of performing a wide range of incredible tasks.
However, automation is more limited than artificial intelligence. Automation can only be programmed to do a specific series of instructions. It simply does A, then B, then C … until it reaches the end of its programmed tasks. Automated software can – for example – open a spreadsheet-based invoice, go to field 13E where the amount invoiced is located, and copy that number somewhere else. But if it opens the document and field 13E doesn’t exist ...
Ok. So maybe not that extreme, but you get the point! Automated solutions have an extremely rigid set of instructions, and a very limited capability to do any kind of error handling. It can’t “think” for itself like AI can.
Instead of a specific set of tasks, AI can be trained to act within a certain set of parameters. Using our previous example, you can train AI-powered software to find the invoiced amount from ANY document, without specifying where that information would be located.
A human analogy
One way to think about the difference between automation and AI is the difference between hiring a senior manager (AI) versus someone who’s very junior (automation). The junior person can be trained to follow a set of very specific instructions — typically a single task, done over and over again — but any deviation from the normal workflow will result in a crash, so to speak. 🙂
But the experienced manager can rely on his experience to judge what to do even in atypical situations. For the most part, they can adapt on the fly. The best part, however, is that after they have handled a new situation, they can analyze what did and didn't work so that they have a better idea of what to do next time.
Adding AI to your software
No one likes doing repetitive, boring tasks over and over again. Luckily, you can add any number of AI-powered features to your product to do these tasks instead. As artificial intelligence has become more and more sophisticated, the number of tasks you can train it to do has expanded rapidly.
Usually the only limitation on what you can train AI to do is the quality and quantity of the data you have available. That’s why we strongly recommend a data evaluation as one of the first steps when offering an AI consultation to our clients. We even offer a completely free consultation with one of our AI engineers if you want to learn more about what’s possible. Or you can visit our website to learn more about the many different possible applications of AI.