Automation is one of those terms; the sort of term that conjures images of humanity living under the thumb of destructive robot overlords, waiting for an Austrian-accented cyborg to help deliver us from our misery. In truth, however, automation is much less pessimistic – it is quite the opposite. Negative ideas of machines running rampant, computers developing minds of their own, and so forth, are eased by the fact that all automation is under the direct control of humans. Every automated thing is geared towards our own purposes.
Firstly, though, how to define automation? Essentially, automation processes are those that function within a set of predetermined rules and variables without any – or at least minimal – human intervention. Perhaps one of the earliest automated contraptions was the humble windmill. Beyond its initial design and construction, the day-to-day workings of the windmill are largely outside of human input. Over time, and as technology has advanced, automated systems have become more powerful, more specific and more useful.
Manufacturers have long seen the advantages of implementing automated systems in their production methods. Automation allows manufacturers to utilise fewer costly labour resources, enhance the precision and quality of production, and increase overall output. Were early economists, such as Adam Smith, to step into the modern factory, they might very well believe they had reached heaven!
The largest adopters of automation have historically been car manufacturers who, owing to advances in industrial robotics, can leverage automation processes to produce thousands of cars without significant breaks in production, using what is known as the lights-out method. That is, robotic machinery is able to operate on a 24-hour cycle with limited human supervision. In the last few decades, however, automation has seen its applications extend to just about every industry imaginable. Amazon, for example, has directed billions into robotics and AI, in order to streamline its operations. Martin Ford’s Rise of the Robots provides an excellent insight into the current, and future, state of automation technology, comprehensively demonstrating that we inhabit an age where businesses cannot afford to ignore such technologies.
While more tactile implementations of automation have been around for many years, it is only relatively recent that we are beginning to see the widespread usage of software automation. Computers, to many, are seen as a locked box of mystery, strange machines that are able to perform incredible tasks without so much as blinking. But, as with the robots manning the assembly line of a car production plant, what your computer can do, it does for you.
Information technology capabilities are accelerating exponentially. There exists software now that can perform anything from the mundane to the miraculous. The advancement of AI and machine learning means that the software available today has reached a point at which businesses find themselves needing such packages in order to remain competitive. Computers can perform tasks once the responsibility of humans faster, more accurately and on a significantly larger scale.
High Frequency Trading (HFT) is perhaps one of the more prominent examples of how software automation has revolutionised an industry. Back in the old days, traders would execute market trades through ‘squawk boxes’, informing the seller on the other end of their desired amount and price, until eventually the trade was agreed. The advent of the Internet helped to speed up the process, allowing trades to be inputted online. In the mid-2000s, however, ‘quants’ began to develop algorithmic software that could execute trades automatically, according to criteria defined by the developers. This changed everything. Trading went from taking hours, to tens of minutes, to minutes, to seconds, and then, with HFT, it came down to milliseconds. Where banks once hired, well, bankers, they soon began to hire mathematicians. The programs conducting these trades were so enormously quicker than human traders, that all proprietary traders had invest in the same methods. The difference between a winning trade and a losing trade became so small that banks relocated their trading desks to areas as geographically close to the trading servers as possible, in order to gain that tiny but invaluable time advantage.
The story of HFT serves as an important lesson to all businesses today. Technology cannot be fought, and nor should it be. Rather, technology should be embraced. Cloudstill is a strong proponent of this philosophy. We want every business to be able to leverage the potential of technology. Automation applications should not be limited to billion-pound enterprises, they should be accessible to all.
And, ultimately, automation is at the heart of the service we provide. Social media is no longer just a past time, a place to share what funny thing your dog today or the latest viral meme, it has become so much more than that. Sites such as Facebook (and its 1.79 billion monthly active users!) have become an integral part of the business ecosystem, as a means of promoting one’s business, reaching new customers and maintaining relationships with existing ones. Given the scale of such platforms, deciding how best to approach them and maximise their benefits can be overwhelming. Again, automation to the rescue!
Cloudstill uses cutting-edge software to ensure that the right people are reached, the right data is stored and analysed, and the maximum presence is achieved. Our system can detect what products are most actively searched for, which potential customers are the most interested and so much more. Instead of typing out email after email after email… Cloudstill sets you up to get in touch with contacts swiftly and efficiently. All the hassle and uncertainty that is often associated with customer relationship management (CRM) is condensed into an easy-to-use and extremely effective system. All that is required of you is a few clicks, a bit of typing and the software does the rest for you. Vital data is instantly provided to you, allowing you to choose the best course of action, and gain a crucial advantage over the competition.
So, whatever your business, automation is right for you. Cloudstill is right for you.