In recent years, the use of robots and robotics has exploded; they are playing an increasingly large role in everyday life – specifically in the business world – and this will only increase throughout and beyond this decade. Bots, by definition, automate manual work. Tasks that used to take us sometimes weeks to complete can now be executed in a matter of seconds with the help of bots. This especially applies to online data collection.
While bots have delivered critical support to businesses and, in turn, their customers, a dark side has recently emerged in light of their misuse. Yes, the positive value that bots deliver outweighs the negatives, but that doesn’t mean we should become complacent when it comes to bot misuse. Responsible conduct is in even greater need, especially when it comes to online data gathering – the mission-critical engine that feeds our digital economy.
The Wide-Reaching Benefits of Bots
Bots may not all be visible in plain sight, but their benefits can be seen in multiple sectors. For instance, when it comes to automation and robotic process automation (RPA), a market which is projected to reach $1.89 billion in revenues in 2021, bots are proving invaluable. Gartner predicts that by 2022, 70% of customer interactions will involve emerging technologies such as machine learning (ML) applications and chatbots and mobile messaging, up from 15% in 2018. It’s clear to see how bots will support this sector going forwards.
Another key area that is thriving due to the use of this technology is the data collection industry. Data is the engine behind our digital economy and will continue to be so. It is a more than vital resource for businesses as well as for the smart technology they rely on. Today, many of the largest brands in e-commerce, finance, security, and more use up-to-the-minute data that is collected by bots to drive business decision-making. Businesses have always relied on the latest insights to power decision-making by tapping into the largest data-base – the public internet. Using the e-commerce sector as an example, brands will use data collection SaaS platforms to regularly gather information on how competitors are positioning and placing products, and even monitoring to check stock levels. This allows brands to anticipate and adapt their own approaches and offer the best possible products and prices to their potential customers.
This wide resource of public data can also be accessed with a pinpoint need, which, as previously mentioned, can be automated – thanks to the use of bots. With bots, the process of collecting huge amounts of data can be simplified tremendously. Teams are able to collect almost-live actionable information on a consistent basis and provide businesses with cutting-edge insights into the markets and systems they serve. In addition to sourcing traditional or internal data sets, teams are able to collect external and alternative data. This type of non-traditional data is increasingly important to businesses. In fact, recent research found that 95% of financial services organizations surveyed have relied on this information in the past year alone.
How to Combat the Potential Downside
However, despite all of these benefits, which span a wide range of sectors, there can also be a dark side to bots if they are misused. While the same is true about any technology or technological tool, with robotic innovation moving at an increasingly fast rate, the industry is particularly at risk when it comes to bad actors. Although the majority of the industry will be thinking about how to use bots to positively enhance business opportunities, a minority may be plotting nefarious activities for a non-legitimate revenue channel. As these actions can harm the many, all providers in this space must work together to combat threats to the industry. At the end of the day, bots are a tool based on the information they are fed. As mentioned before, they automate our actions, not our behavior, so it’s up to us to keep them on the responsible path. This includes developing ethical guidelines, monitoring the use of bots, and pushing for wide-ranging regulation, which is currently lagging behind.
Our era is defined by automation. Bots are rapidly paving the way for technological advances that allow businesses to continuously innovate and deliver seamless experiences and products to their customers like never before. This includes the sharpest data insights. Although the benefits of bots override the risks, the industry must continue to work together to ensure that the good and bright side of using bots outweighs the bad and dark side. In the end, while bots help replace human actions, we must maintain our comprehensive human judgement to safeguard their beneficial use.
Or Lenchner is CEO at Bright Data