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Intelligent Automation is an emerging trend of extraordinary scope and implication. Consequently, we are seeing the term being applied to a broad array of industries and applications, from medical and financial services to agriculture and logistics. Intelligent automation can be clearly divided into applications that automate things in the physical world and those that don’t.

Examples of the latter are characterized by advanced applications of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning techniques. The opportunity here is broad as so many aspects of our lives are governed by the use of IT equipment. For example, financial service companies are looking at ways to provide predictive services to customize clients’ investment strategies. Or, insurance companies will automate policy decisions based on new data they are increasingly receiving, reducing the amount of work being done by back-office staff.

For industrial vendors, the more interesting aspect of Intelligent Automation centers on the opportunity and desire to increasingly automate the physical world. These companies have refined and mastered the execution of automation in a manufacturing environment, and this capability has potential to be utilized elsewhere. Granted, there is still a significant future opportunity in their core market, particularly as the “Industry 4.0” concept represents a new level of autonomy to be sold. However, the sector is maturing and it is increasingly difficult to drive strong revenue growth, so vendors are also looking elsewhere.

Of the emerging markets beyond industrial automation, farming appears to be a very interesting area, as self-driving tractors and robots used to replace human labor are gathering momentum. Driverless technology derived from automotive applications continues to mature and is now becoming feasible in other applications. It’s early days and farmers may be cautious to adopt new technology, not dissimilar to what we saw two decades ago in manufacturing. But the opportunity is there, for both selling equipment into these sectors, and to lend broader expertise in managing the complexities of wider-scale automation.

Farming is just one example of increased opportunity for robotics beyond the manufacturing plant. The market for service robots for personal and home use is growing significantly. Similarly, autonomous mobile robots being increasingly used in applications such as warehousing, medical and hospitality reinforces robotics to be an interesting long-term opportunity for vendors to target. Growth in robots drives demand for distinct types of automation equipment such as motors, drives, controllers and actuation.

The next five years will be a formative period for Intelligent Automation, particularly as it is applied to the physical world. Watch this space for deep insight as we start building out a comprehensive view of the sector.

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