The Differences Between Automation and Artificial Intelligence

When we talk about Industry 4.0 often the terms artificial intelligence and automation are used as if they were synonyms, but they are two quite different technologies

When we talk about Industry 4.0 often the terms artificial intelligence and automation are used as if they were synonyms. However, these two words identify two technologies that are quite distinct from each other. Two technologies that have commonalities but also many differences.

Let's start with their definitions. Automation is basically software that follows pre-programmed rules.

Artificial intelligence, on the other hand,

is designed to simulate human thinking. Both of these technologies are being used within companies that are investing in Industry 4.0. And both can act in the same work contexts. So much so that artificial intelligence and automation can also work together. There are automated machines that can be based on artificial intelligence. But let's go in order to avoid creating further confusion.


Nowadays, automated systems are almost everywhere. Not only in large industries but also in homes. Stand-alone systems are used to send marketing emails that are all the same or customized based on the customer who will receive them. And one automated system is the one that allows us to turn on our home heating when we leave the office simply using the app on our smartphone. To explain it simply, automation has one purpose: to allow machines to perform repetitive and monotonous tasks. And the goal is to simplify the end-user experience.

Artificial Intelligence

AI is designed for more complex jobs. In theory an AI powered intelligent machine will not only know how to do repetitive and defined jobs, but just like the human brain it will respond to unexpected events. Just like humans, artificial intelligence creates patterns and categories to organize the world around it and to perform known actions. And like humans, artificial intelligence grows and improves with experience.

When automation and AI meet, highly intelligent machines are born that can perform mundane tasks as well as manage highly complex, multi-level production processes.