Automation, an Unheralded Solution
Automation has become a bit of a buzzword recently, both because it’s a perceived inevitability in some parts of daily life and because it could cause disruption in the traditional workplace. Professional services company PwC estimates that up to 30% of workers will lose their jobs to a robot by the end of this decade, a figure that could climb as high as 44% by the mid-2030s.
Thinking about automation in terms of apps can feel a little more abstract. However, the existing use-cases are about as simple, even uninspired, as it’s possible to get. This shouldn’t suggest that the technology is unnecessary but, rather, that automation excels at straightforward tasks, as its name suggests. So, for now, you’re more likely to find apps that send emails on repeat than anything groundbreaking.
A good example of the latter is Google Action Blocks. This free app pairs with Google Assistant to achieve much the same thing as its brand mate. The one difference is that Action Blocks allows the user to set a time and date for something to happen, like sending a reminder, whereas Google Assistant only performs an action when it’s asked to. Again, not very exciting but definitely useful for the absent-minded.
With the development of smart homes, automation of basic tasks has become a bit of a necessity. Functions such as turning lights on and off are built into the app IFTTT, meaning that it can integrate with specialized technology like Phillips Hue, the first intelligent lightbulb with a commercial release. IFTTT is where things get a bit more interesting, as it makes use of conditional branches.
In basic terms, a conditional branch is a computer programing term that performs an action when certain conditions are met. This can be expressed like this – “If X happens, do Y”. This allows for much more granular control over tasks. For instance, let’s say that one particular user posts an image on Instagram or Twitter. IFTTT could be configured to download it or send a message alert about it.
Beyond apps, automation has existed on websites for quite some time, albeit in some unexpected places. Comparison sites make use of automation to connect uses with relevant services depending on their personal criteria. For example, the mortgage broker Trussle can even provide a soft credit check without the involvement of a human agent, allowing for decisions in just a few hours.
As most businesses now operate online in some capacity, automation has become a necessity, especially for businesses that work with the web on a daily basis. To this end, there are plenty of Chrome extensions that will automate clicks and logins, as well as text input, like ProKeys and the imaginatively titled Chrome Browser Automation. These can be used to simulate the customer journey.
On the more civilian side of things, automation has applications in password management and more involved tasks such as finding employment. Bitwarden makes use of a Chrome extension for its password vault while Universal Automation for Job Search does exactly what it claims to. Simply upload a single CV to take advantage of this free service.
Automation is simultaneously one of the most ordinary and exciting technologies out there yet much of its involvement in day-to-day life goes unreported.