As automation technology advances, it will inevitably have significant effects on society and different industries, as explored below.
Manufacturing has been the focus of automation technology for decades, but new changes are constantly being implemented. Automation in manufacturing is all about efficiency, and it is expected that manual tasks will reduce as technology advances and processes become smoother, faster, and more effective.
Beneath the girders and pistons, engineering is fundamentally about mathematics. The more accurate and well-honed a system or component is, the safer and more effective it will be. Automation and computerisation have helped to boost precision and safety, minimise errors and increase the efficiency of all fields within engineering.
Robots are perhaps the ultimate feat of automation - an innovative fusion of information technology with the more traditional disciplines of electrical and mechanical engineering.
These benefits, along with increasing affordability of powerful computing equipment, have driven a considerable, ongoing push to automate ever more engineering tasks. Just a few examples include drilling, grinding, welding and milling - primarily via CNC technology - sensors, and robotics.
Construction is yet another industry expected to undergo a significant transformation as automation technology grows ever more sophisticated. For example, the growing use of modular construction, in which buildings are constructed from units assembled off-site, has already begun to allow in-factory automation to rise in popularity in this industry.
The automotive industry has already seen major changes thanks to automation, with industrial robots carrying out many previously manual production line tasks such as welding, assembly, and chassis painting. Robotic process automation (RPA) has brought a significant increase in reliability, accuracy and productivity to the automotive industry.
Modern cars have evolved considerably; sophisticated digital sensors and integrated computing devices are now standard, managing everything from automatically adjusting the chassis to compensate for uneven road surfaces to alerting the driver to free parking spaces.
Naturally, all this technology generates large quantities of data, and that wealth of data is expected to acquire an increasing commercial value to vehicle manufacturers. This is likely to only increase further over time.
In addition, sophisticated AI-driven analyses will allow driving events to be analysed in real-time, in order to generate reliable predictions and safe responses. This is the automation technology that will propel the self-driving car from its current experimental status firmly into the mainstream over the coming decades.
Like manufacturing, retail is an industry on the front line of automation. Significant changes have already been introduced in the form of self-checkouts, for example, but it is expected that the relationship between automation and the retail industry will continue to evolve over the coming years. This could lead to new opportunities in the face of increased automation, with staff reskilling and new positions opening up.