RPA meets IoT: the Jidoka panic button - Jidoka


RPA meets IoT: the Jidoka panic button

13 March, 2018

At Jidoka, we continuously strive to create innovative Intelligent Automation product features. Our product evangelist, Deepak Sharma, in his recent article wrote about our vision of an Intelligent Automation Operating environment, that mentions the different robot types such as Smart and Collaborative, to enable organizations achieve business value in highly disruptive digital environments. Our concept of Collaborative Bots, or Cobots, within the context of Robotic Process Automation, is pioneering to introduce creative technology solutions for managing basic and smart robots. In our previous article about Cobots, we talked about applying Virtual AI assistant and chatbot technologies for human and robot collaboration. In this article we would like to share interesting information about integrating Internet of Things (IoT) technologies with our RPA platform to further extend the Cobots concept.

A few months ago, we were invited to participate in a RFP, which we would like to add that we won, where we faced the following question:

Does the platform provide a system or mechanism to quickly and securely disable all the running robots in case a serious event or error occurs?

Basically what the RFP was asking for was if we had implemented the famous “red button” feature, otherwise known as the Panic button.

Taking this requirement into account, we decided to develop a unique feature in our RPA solution. Being honest, this functionality was already embedded in the Jidoka console, where with a single click, the user could securely disable all the executions of the robots. Additionally, this functionality was also available to be invoked from an external system via our web services (API REST). In fact, we have implemented RPA automation for Banks and Finance using this feature to stop all the robots at the beginning of the bank’s batch process chain, and reactivate the robots later when the bank’s batch processes end. And I am sure you are wondering, why is it necessary to stop the robots for the batch processes? Basically because the batch processes prevent other systems from operating normally during their execution. Imagine that these are night processes, that are executed outside the normal office hours times when humans are normally not working, but robots are! The functionality to stop and resume the Jidoka robots could be integrated without difficulty into the well-known host scheduler, Control-M.

But we wanted to go further by offering customers a physical button, allowing the person responsible for robot operations to stop all robot executions by pressing a single button, the red or panic button, the same way as in many other high security and critical operational environments.

To do this we found the solution in the Amazon’s Dash Button, which allows associating a series of commands or actions to the clicks of the device buttons.

The dash button is a small device that can send a message to Amazon through a Wi-Fi network (Internet). This network can also be our mobile network, this way the dash button can always be connected to send messages. The dash button sends three types of messages:

  1. Single press
  2. Long press
  3. Double press

So, here at Jidoka we added the possibility of registering messages from the dash button to the extensive preconfigured list of events & actions available on the console.

As mentioned before, the Jidoka platform was already prepared to enable and disable robots using our API REST (web services). Also, the console already allowed the configuration of different “actions” to be executed after certain events occur, so we only had to add new events associated with the Amazon dash button (click, double click and long click). This way, from the console a user can simply configure the actions of activating and deactivating robots that are associated with the clicks of the dash button.

When the user clicks on the dash button, the device sends a message to the Amazon cloud, specifically to the Amazon Internet of Thing platform called AWS IoT. As part of the integration with the dash button, we installed a program in AWS IoT that routes the message received from the dash button to the corresponding secure Jidoka instance, where the event is registered and the user-configured actions associated with it are executed.

These actions can be one or more of those available in the Jidoka console, such as enabling or disabling robots, executing a robot, sending an email, etc.

Each dash button includes a serial number that uniquely identifies it in the Jidoka console, we have these serial numbers available so that we can configure different actions to be performed in response to events/clicks from different Amazon dash buttons.

Here is a short video where you can see the panic button in action.

In the video, the manager of the automated processes receives an alert on her mobile phone since an error or event has occurred in the execution of the robots. With a double click on the dash button she disables robot executions, with no need to access the Jidoka console. She notifies the support service of the error, and when the problem has been solved, she reactivates robot operations with a long press on the dash button, and all this without having to leave the meeting which she is attending!

With this operational use case we would like to highlight new collaboration scenarios between humans, physical devices (IoT) and software robots. To make collaboration truly effective, organizations need an open RPA platform which facilitates the integration and orchestration of services, configurable in an easy and flexible way. And that is exactly how Jidoka has been conceived.

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