Business Automation

What is Business Automation?

While industrial automation is largely about physical machinery and robotics, there is an ongoing evolution within enterprise organizations to automate internal and external systems and processes by way of software, operating systems, virtualization, and virtual bots.

Business Automation is All about Software, Operating Systems, Virtualization, and Autonomous Programs often referred to as simply “Bots”

Internally, large enterprise organizations require business automation to improve efficiencies and effectiveness, which ultimately translates into cost savings and improved margins. Externally, business automation is employed to improve many customer-facing aspects of operations such as customer care and product life cycle management.

The overall goal of business automation is to improve operational efficiency and enhance business effectiveness. Both of these goals support corporate strategies for ever-improving and sustainable financial performance.

What is Business Automation?

While industrial automation is largely about physical machinery and robotics, there is an ongoing evolution within enterprise organizations to automate internal and external systems and processes by way of software, operating systems, virtualization, and virtual bots.

Business Automation is All about Software, Operating Systems, Virtualization, and Autonomous Programs often referred to as simply “Bots”

Internally, large enterprise organizations require business automation to improve efficiencies and effectiveness, which ultimately translates into cost savings and improved margins. Externally, business automation is employed to improve many customer-facing aspects of operations such as customer care and product life cycle management.

The overall goal of business automation is to improve operational efficiency and enhance business effectiveness. Both of these goals support corporate strategies for ever-improving and sustainable financial performance.

Current Trends and Market Outlook

Building Automation

Building Automation SoftwareOne of the biggest investments and most important assets to any enterprise is buildings and related commercial real estate, facilities, and equipment. Building automation focuses on the building itself and related facilities such as shipping docks, storage areas, etc.

Enterprise organizations desire to leverage building automation software and services to automate building support systems as a means to reduce costs, optimize business productivity, and improve employee productivity and job satisfaction. Core areas prime for building automation include lighting, HVAC, and facilities utilization such as workspace capacity and usage management.

It is important to consider that enterprise assets extend beyond office buildings and include outlying structures as well as inter-office facilities. Accordingly, building automation goes beyond office buildings and includes healthcare facilities (urgent care, hospitals, etc.) and fitness centers, sporting and entertainment facilities (arenas, concert halls, stadiums, etc.), and retail shopping centers (malls, big box stores, and retail outlet buildings).

Many businesses require advanced logistics software and systems to manage equipment, products, and other assets.

One example is companies like Amazon and Walmart that have to control inventory flow between suppliers, warehouses, and retail buildings. These types of businesses are keenly concerned about warehouse automation for efficient flow of both products from suppliers as well as transport to and from retail shopping.

Examples of Mind Commerce business automation reports focused on commercial real estate including office buildings, factories, and warehouses are:

  • Smart Workplace Market in Industry Verticals 2018 – 2023
  • Intelligent Buildings: IoT in Smart Cities, Commercial Real Estate, and Homes
  • Integrated Workplace Management System (IWMS) Marketplace: IWMS Platforms, Software, and Solutions Market Outlook and Forecasts 2018 – 2023

Business Automation of Systems and Processes

Across a wide array of industry verticals, enterprise is focused on digital transformation, which is another way of saying that businesses are leveraging new technologies, software, data and the Internet to enhance business operations. A big part of this transformation is simply ensuring that virtually all aspects of business is inter-connected and hence the reason many business leaders are interested in Machine-to-Machine communications and the Internet of Things (IoT).

Enterprise Automation = Digital Transformation = System and Process Optimization

A big portion of business automation is focused on digitizing existing systems and processes. However, it can often be challenging to retrofit legacy assets to accommodate state of the art solutions. Accordingly, many leading companies are taking a green-field approach and incorporating technology into the design of new equipment, components, and software.

Whether retrofitting existing systems, or building from the ground up, the challenge for all business automation of systems is to carefully integrate Information Technology (IT) with Operations Technology (OT). The careful merger of IT and OT is critical to ensure that newly automated systems truly support optimal business processes across both the ICT and operational domains of a company.

Business Automation in Industry Verticals

There are many technologies/solutions converging together to support business automation within and between industry verticals. Below we discuss a few industry verticals in which automation will play a key role in facilitating efficiency improvements and creation of new and enhanced products and services.

Automobile Automation

V2X CommunicationsAutomation is being introduced into automotive vehicles of all types including personal cars and trucks, buses, taxies, and commercial product/material transport and other vehicles. This takes the form of many new and emerging capabilities such as vehicle to vehicle communications and integration with non-vehicles via various wireless and IoT technologies. There are many purposes for these solutions ranging from collision prevention to enablement of many advanced applications and services.

One of the best examples of automobile automation is self-driving vehicles, which rely upon many technologies including sensors, machine to machine communications and IoT, artificial intelligence, data analytics, and other areas.

An example of a Mind Commerce business automation report focused on automobiles is Connected Vehicle Public and Personal Safety, Commercial Applications, and Services: V2V and V2X Market Outlook and Forecasts 2017 – 2022

Healthcare Automation

Accessing Electronic Healthcare RecordsProduct providers such as pharmaceutical companies want to automate business processes including drug manufacturing, managing supply chains, and other logistics functions. Medical equipment providers seek to improve communications and product lifecycle management.

Service providers such as medical facilities seek improvements to business operations including managing access to Electronic Healthcare Records (EHR) and streamlining communications between EHR databases and healthcare information clients. For example, there is a need for improved data sharing between doctors, urgent care facilities, and hospitals.

With soaring healthcare costs, the entire value chain is constantly seeking means to improve operational efficiencies. Accordingly, there is a big push towards do it yourself solutions such as self-monitoring for both chronic illnesses as well as fitness and the relationship between lifestyle and health conditions.

One of the tools for self-monitoring and health improvement is the use of wearable technology such as fitness bands. Mind Commerce anticipates a variety of different devices and user interfaces will be employed for monitoring and measuring fitness and healthcare data as well as alerting healthcare professionals when appropriate.

An example of a Mind Commerce business automation report in the healthcare area is Quantified Self in Healthcare: Market Outlook and Forecasts for Connected Health and Self-monitoring and Analytics 2018 – 2023.

Home Automation

Home AutomationConnected Home includes automation and connection of home electronics and appliances, utility meters, thermostats and sensors within the home using remote access from the Internet. Connected homes also include intelligent home that controls lighting, air conditioning, and security systems such as door locks and safety locks.

Generally speaking, home automation can be segmented into cost saving features, such as energy management, and consumer lifestyle improvement, such as connected entertainment and ease of use functions like report control of lighting via a smartphone.

In all cases, business automation for residential infrastructure, consumer appliances, and electronics is driven by consumer wants and needs as well as the desire of product and service providers to improve customer affinity and likelihood of ongoing purchases. For example, Amazon’s artificial intelligence powered personal virtual assistant, Alexa, provides free music as well as premium services (paid music) and the ability to order various other products and services.

Manufacturing Automation

Manufacturing AutomationPerhaps the most obvious setting for automation is the factory. The world has witnessed at least four distinct stages of industrial revolution as part of an ongoing Industrial Evolution process. As part of this evolution, traditional factories are becoming increasingly more intelligent, leading to smart factories that rely upon various technologies including AI, data analytics, cloud computing, and IoT.

While industrial automation is typified by improvements within a manufacturing environment, such as implementation of robots and/or improved robotics operations, business automation, in general, provides many other benefits. For example, manufacturers can gain improved data exchange across the supply chain including communications with the end-user, leading to gains in product lifecycle management.

Examples of Mind Commerce business automation reports focused on manufacturing include:

  • Smart Machines in Enterprise and Industrial IoT: Market Outlook and Forecasts 2018 – 2023
  • Next Generation Smart Factories: Industrial Robotics, IIoT, 3D Printing, and Advanced Data Management
  • Distributed Manufacturing Revolution: Convergence of 3D Printing, Cloud Robotics, IoT, Teleoperation, and Virtual Twinning

Cross Industry Business Automation

Mind Commerce sees three distinct phases of business automation, ultimately culminating in the final stage, which is cross-industry business automation.

The first stage of business automation is within companies. This phase is characterized by automation of internal processes and limited integration within the supply chain, typically limited to direct suppliers and customers.

The second stage of business automation is between companies. This phase is characterized by automation of processes to meet the needs of external entities including both direct and indirect suppliers and customers across the value chain, albeit limited to within the particular industry vertical.

The third stage of business automation is between industry verticals. For example, home automation and automobile automation are combined to offer an enhanced experience including a consistently appropriate user experience. This is based on seamless integration between networks, systems, platforms, applications and services.

It is important to note that these stages are not mutually exclusive for a given organization. For example, a company could be in stage one for a portion of its business and in stage three for another aspect of business operations.

Mind Commerce Point of View

Perhaps more than any other technology, IoT solutions will revolutionize many systems and processes.

While most of the attention is on new and enhanced IoT products and services, Mind Commerce sees enterprise automation of systems and processes as one of top value creation areas for most companies.

Mind Commerce sees the convergence of AI, Broadband, Computing, and IoT as a powerful force for driving new sources of data, which will be largely machine-generated.

This data will have great value for the marketplace and for business automation in particular. However, there is a need to transform data into useful information. This is why AI and advanced data analytics are important technologies to integrate with any IoT solution in support of business automation.

Business Automation Strategy and Planning

One commonality across all Mind Commerce business automation research and consulting engagements is that time spent planning and developing strategies prior to executing has a very positive ROI.

However, it is important to focus on the right areas. A few of the business automation questions that we frequently hear from executives across a wide variety of industry verticals include:

  • What is the role of IoT in my business?
  • Can I start with software upgrades alone?
  • What automation tools are available for my industry?
  • How can I leverage robotics to automate our company?
  • What are the options for outsourcing automation services?
  • Do I need to start from scratch or can I automate existing assets?

Mind Commerce answers these and many other questions in its series of business automation reports that consider many different technologies including Artificial Intelligence, Automation and Robotics, Computing, Data and Analytics, and Internet of Things.

Business Automation and Cloud Computing

Centralized cloud computing has supported many business automation features such as automated back-up and recovery of data. With the ICT industry increasingly embracing cloud computing at the edge of networks, many new and enhanced business automation improvements are also possible.

For example, edge computing supports automated data capture, management, and analytics for various use cases such as streaming IoT data. Edge computing also supports more efficient communications and remote control of assets (e.g. teleoperation) as well as cloud-based robotics.

Mind Commerce business automation reports that focus on cloud computing include:

  • Multi-access Edge Computing (MEC), Streaming IoT Data, and Analytics 2017- 2022
  • Industrial Convergence: 5G, IIoT, 3D Printing, Big Data, and Streaming IoT Data Analytics 2018 – 2023
  • Cloud Robotics: Technologies, Leading Companies, Solutions, Market Outlook, and Forecasts 2017 – 2022
  • Internet of Things Sensors and Streaming Data: IoT Real-time Data and Analytics Market Outlook and Forecasts 2017 – 2022

Business Automation and Broadband Wireless

Self-driving VehicleModern communications systems have an insatiable need for high-capacity data transport. With certain applications and services, there is also a great need for low latency. One example is Virtual Reality (VR), an immersive technology that requires extremely fast data response to meet latency requirements necessary to provide a real-life experience to VR app users.

Business automation systems depend upon continual improvements in broadband wireless to provide application-specific bandwidth and latency to meet functionality and performance objectives.

For example, driverless cars rely upon various technologies for operation including sensors to gather a vast amount of data and a form of artificial intelligence known as deep learning to analyze the data.

This is supported by Graphics Processing Units (GPU) for processing data and decision-making software within neural networks. However, self-driving vehicles require ample wireless connectivity and data handling to support communications. This is why improvements to broadband wireless such as evolution of LTE and emerging 5G capabilities are so important.

It is anticipated that 5G new radio infrastructure based on millimeter wave radio will be particularly important for many business automation applications and services, especially those that have very low latency tolerances. Another technology that will be extremely helpful in this regard is Edge Computing, which is complementary to 4G and 5G networks as Mobile Edge Computing further reduces latency and optimizes capacity allocation.

An example of a Mind Commerce business automation report focused on broadband wireless is 5G and Mobile Edge Computing (MEC) Marketplace: Technologies, Infrastructure, Ecosystem, Applications and Services 2018 – 2025.

Business Automation for Small to Medium Business

Historically speaking, large corporations and enterprise have received and will continue to receive the bulk of attention from ICT companies. In fact, telecommunications infrastructure is largely built around the needs of consumers and enterprise with SMB customers typically forgotten or an afterthought at best.

Furthermore, previous service platforms have been largely specific to given networks, providers and service types. This has caused problems for SMB as they do not have the resources to customize or even modify service parameters to meet their unique needs.

Mind Commerce sees that this must and will change as service providers are keenly aware of service saturation and competitions from various third parties such as Over-the-Top (OTT) providers.

Accordingly, we see and emerging R&D emphasis on SMB service platforms that have certain capabilities, which will enable flexibility. These capabilities include semantic SOA-based communication and IT infrastructure as well as specialized smart workplace (including virtualized work environment and telework) service components for knowledge collaboration.