The Democratization of Robotic Process Automation – A First Look at TagUI

TagUI is an open source (that is, free to use) RPA tool that is great for web automation. As enterprises increasingly migrate to the cloud as part of their digital transformation strategies, this is one tool worth paying attention to.


It’s official.


Robotic Process Automation or RPA is the hottest technology in town.


According to HfS Research, more companies are looking to invest in RPA in 2018 than other emerging technologies including Internet of Things and Blockchain.


Of course, this is nothing new to us.


We have long argued that we are now in the midst of the Fourth Industrial Revolution where clerical tasks and knowledge work will increasingly be automated as offices everywhere digitize. This is similar to what happened during the Second Industrial Revolution when industrial robotics automated production in the shop floor.


But there is a key difference.


In the earlier era, industrial robots were capital-intensive investments which became largely the preserve of big corporations and wealthy business owners. To some extent, they still are.


In this Digital Age however, the economics have been inverted. In what is known as the democratization of automation, you can now get fully functional software robots for free. Two examples immediately spring to mind – UiPath’s Community Edition, the first free and fully extensible RPA tool, and WorkFusion’s RPA Express, a free, enterprise-grade RPA tool.


In this post, we are going to share an emerging open source RPA tool that you should pay attention to – TagUI.


A RPA tool underpinned by disruptive technologies


TagUI is an open source and free to use RPA tool that is great for web automations. TagUI is maintained by AI Singapore, a Singapore government-funded initiative to build local Artificial Intelligence (AI) capabilities.


In our opinion, the attraction of TagUI is underpinned by the following two disruptive technologies:


1. Cloud Computing


According to CIO.com, cloud computing has “become the de facto platform on which enterprises are fuelling digital transformations and modernizing IT portfolios.” According to Forrester Research, the global public cloud market is forecasted to reach $178 billion in 2018, up 22% from 2017.


The bottom line? More and more organisations are increasingly accessing their enterprise applications over the internet through a web browser. Accordingly, the demand for automating business processes via the web is only set to grow. This will include tasks such as form filling, data extraction, and screen scraping, among others.


That’s not to say that TagUI is only a one-trick pony though. Through built-in integration with Sikuli, TagUI is now able to identify desktop User Interface (UI) elements for interaction.


2. Artificial Intelligence


RPA and AI are nothing but different ends of a continuum known as Intelligent Automation (IA). Many people ask about The Difference between Robotic Process Automation and Artificial Intelligence, but these two technologies are actually joined at the hip.


Data is the basic ingredient that all Machine Learning (ML) algorithms require, and data is what RPA can help to generate. See The Role of Robotic Process Automation in a Data-Driven World for more information on how organisations can leverage RPA to mine data, and turn them into actionable business insights or intelligence.


In this sense, TagUI is optimised for IA with its native integrations with R and Python, two popular languages with many frameworks and packages in the AI/ML field. For example, you can run R or Python commands within TagUI, and retrieve the results of those commands.


TagUI's unique value propositions


We have already shared some of the key attractions of TagUI, such as being open-source, strength in web automation, and its native integration with R and Python for ML/AI endeavours.


But there are more.


Most commercial RPA software are Windows-based. TagUI, on the other hand, works across multiple platforms including Windows, macOS and Linux. This is, in fact, a true democratization of RPA as anyone can leverage the power of automation, regardless of their choice of operating systems.


In addition, the TagUI software is relatively lightweight and easy to use. You simply need to download the package from GitHub, unzip and run your automation scripts. No installation is required. In fact, you could unzip the package into a portable thumb drive, and carry your software robots with you wherever you go!


Of course, there are also certain limitations with regards to TagUI.


One of the main concerns is the ease of use (or lack thereof). In TagUI, the so-called automation flows need to be scripted, albeit using natural language-like syntax.


This might be a concern for non tech-savvy users who are more used to standard out-of-the-box features like graphical user interface, drag-and-drop programming, desktop recording tool, etc. that are offered by many commercial RPA tools.


TagUI – a general purpose tool for web automation


In summary, TagUI is an excellent choice of RPA tool if you are concerned about the prohibitive annual subscription costs of commercial RPA software, if you are interested mainly with web automation, if you require native integrations with analytical tools like R or Python, if you are a non-Windows user, or if you require your RPA tool and bots to be easily portable. On the flip side, do note that you will require some scripting or programming knowledge to develop the automation flows.


Good automating!


Are you using any other open source RPA tools for your automation needs? Do share them in the comments below.


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