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Automation is the creation and application of technologies to produce and deliver goods and services with minimal human intervention. The implementation of automation technologies, techniques and processes improve the efficiency, reliability, and/or speed of many tasks that were previously performed by humans.
Automation is being used in a number of areas such as manufacturing, transport, utilities, defense, facilities, operations and lately, information technology.
Usually, automation is employed to minimize labor or to substitute humans in the most menial or repetitive tasks. Automation is present in virtually all verticals and niches, although it’s more prevalent in manufacturing, utilities, transportation, and security.
For example, most manufacturing plants make use of some automated process in the form of robotic assembly lines. Human input is required only to define the processes and supervise them, while the assembling of the various components is left to the machines, which automatically convert raw materials into finished goods.
In the technology domain, the impact of automation is increasing rapidly, both in the software/hardware and machine layer. The implementation of new artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technologies is currently skyrocketing the evolution of this field.
In the information technology domain, a software script can test a software product and produce a report. There are also various software tools available in the market which can generate code for an application. The users only need to configure the tool and define the process.
Advanced business intelligence in applications is another new form of high-quality automation. In other industries, automation has greatly improved productivity in the last decades, saving time and cutting costs.
From the simplest to the most complex application, automation is present in many forms in our everyday life. Common examples include household thermostats controlling boilers, the earliest automatic telephone switchboards, electronic navigation systems, or the most advanced algorithms behind self-driving cars.
Automation makes sure the techniques are used effectively in the delivery of products and services. However, it inherently causes many workers to become unnecessary (especially unskilled ones) and end up being displaced.
Automation will certainly have substantial negative effects on employment and wages for all those occupations that do not require particular training or skills. However, many of these employees could be easily retrained in new jobs, and the impact of this technology on our society is revolutionary enough to create new opportunities for everyone.
According to the World Bank's World Development Report 2019, the positive economic effects in terms of new industries and jobs available far outweigh the negative ones, but automation-based technological unemployment still is a cause for concern.
Despite advances in automation, some manual intervention is always advised, even if the tool can perform most of the tasks. Automation professionals involved in the creation, application, and monitoring of such technologies are in high demand.