The automatic telephone switchboard was introduced in 1892 along with dial telephones. By 1929, 31.9% of the Bell system was automatic. Automatic telephone switching originally used vacuum tube amplifiers and electro-mechanical switches, which consumed a large amount of electricity. Call volume eventually grew so fast that it was feared the telephone system would consume all electricity production, prompting Bell Labs to begin research on the transistor.
Business process automation (BPA) is the technology-enabled automation of complex business processes. It can help to streamline a business for simplicity, achieve digital transformation, increase service quality, improve service delivery or contain costs. BPA consists of integrating applications, restructuring labor resources and using software applications throughout the organization. Robotic process automation is an emerging field within BPA and uses artificial intelligence. BPAs can be implemented in a number of business areas including marketing, sales and workflow.
Industrial automation incorporates programmable logic controllers in the manufacturing process. Programmable logic controllers (PLCs) use a processing system which allows for variation of controls of inputs and outputs using simple programming. PLCs make use of programmable memory, storing instructions and functions like logic, sequencing, timing, counting, etc. Using a logic based language, a PLC can receive a variety of inputs and return a variety of logical outputs, the input devices being sensors and output devices being motors, valves, etc. PLCs are similar to computers, however, while computers are optimized for calculations, PLCs are optimized for control task and use in industrial environments. They are built so that only basic logic-based programming knowledge is needed and to handle vibrations, high temperatures, humidity and noise. The greatest advantage PLCs offer is their flexibility. With the same basic controllers, a PLC can operate a range of different control systems. PLCs make it unnecessary to rewire a system to change the control system. This flexibility leads to a cost-effective system for complex and varied control systems.