Intelligent Automation vs Artificial Intelligence

Recognised as a core technology within the Fourth Industrial Revolution, it’s no secret that robotic process automation (RPA) is a powerful tool – particularly within the UK public sector. Emulating human interactions with software to complete those repetitive, rule-based tasks, RPA is saving immeasurable hours and putting resources back in the hands of frontline workers.  

But it doesn’t stop there – we can equip those bots with even more capabilities with intelligent automation (IA), an approach currently making waves in healthcare, local government, housing, education, and policing. Often confused with artificial intelligence (AI), IA is an impactful tool set to bolster digital transformation efforts considerably. But what are the differences between the two?  

What is AI? 

AI, or artificial intelligence, refers to technology that has the ability to “learn.” Typically, AI systems are built on a foundation of machine learning (ML) or deep learning (DL), mimicking human neural networks or thought processes. In short, AI is computing technology that is able to recognise patterns and retain learnings to make decisions.  

While AI is undoubtedly a complex concept, it’s a rapidly growing field within our everyday lives. Common examples of AI we often interact with can be found in customer service chatbots, recognising words within messages to deliver reactive responses – or within speech recognition, where voice assistants within our smartphones listen to verbal commands to perform the correct functions within our devices.  

What is IA? 

Intelligent automation describes RPA processes with an added layer of intelligence. Most commonly, this involves integrating automations with cognitive services (technology with AI capabilities). While automation is able to emulate simple, rule-based tasks with actions such as clicks and keyboard strokes, it’s unable to make those complex decisions that require a certain level of “thinking”. Adding cognitive services to the mix provides that level of complex decision-making that can really bolster an automated process.  

For example, if RPA is processing a number of unstructured documents with unique layouts and structures, bots nor optical character recognition (OCR) wouldn’t be able to make the decisions necessary to complete the next stage of the process. Adding a cognitive service capable of reading these documents and pulling out key information would allow bots to complete the rest of the processes independently, without human interaction.  

What’s the difference between intelligent automation and artificial intelligence? 

Technological experts offer many different definitions of both AI and IA, but the differences between the two remain the same. Artificial intelligence can’t perform actions independently, but can make complex decisions and perform that aforementioned “thinking” process. On the other hand, intelligent automation combines elements of AI to create a fully comprehensive digital process – using that complex decision-making to perform actions. In short, IA involves a combination of artificial intelligence and robotic process automation.  

How could IA benefit your organisation? 

Interested to learn more about intelligent automation and RPA? With over 40 years’ experience in supporting the UK public sector, we’re experts in digital transformation. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with a member of our team, join us at one of our upcoming online and in-person events, or get inspired with real-life stories with our library of case studies.