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The roots of robotic process automation (RPA) emerged from the test automation domain. Test engineers used RPA’s predecessors to emulate how humans type and click their way through applications in the early 2000s. In the 2010s, vendors started hardening these early tools to automate repeating tasks like copying data between apps, and RPA was born.
Now Robocorp, which emerged from an open-source test automation project, is hoping to capture a position in second-generation RPA tools that promise to harden and scale the technology. It recently launched a beta version of Automation Studio, which promises to bridge the communication gap between professional developers and business users. More importantly, this builds on the company’s second-generation RPA infrastructure and attractive pricing model.
It is helpful to take a step back to understand why this is important. RPA sits in a crowded field of automation technologies, including low-code and no-code development tools, intelligent process automation, and the automation capabilities built into enterprise software platforms.
Although the first generation of RPA tools is not as fast as low-code automation, they are much easier for the average user to understand since it essentially mimics how people work with applications. Gartner lumps this ensemble of technologies together into hyperautomation, which is expected to reach $596 billion this year.
Today, the RPA industry is led by companies including Automation Anywhere, Blue Prism and UiPath — at least in revenue share. Microsoft recently started giving away access to the client side of its Power Automate Platform. A latest report by Blueprint Software titled, State of Automation in 2022, found that Microsoft Power Automate was used by 76% of respondents, followed by Blue Prism (34%), Automation Anywhere (33%), and UiPath (23%). Blueprint makes tools for analyzing business processes and refactoring RPA code to work across RPA platforms. About 40% of respondents used multiple RPA platforms.
The authors of the report noted that, “Since [RPA is] rather young compared to other enterprise software segments, it seems organizations are still uncovering which RPA platform is best for them according to their needs.”
This is good news for the assemblage of RPA startups vying for a piece of the market, like Robocorp. Its new Automation Studio provides a shared view of RPA automations, called bots, for both developers and business users. It also builds on the company’s existing work coding RPA bots in Python that can run on open-source servers.
Robocorp was founded by Antti Karjalainen, Sampo Ahokas, and a small team of top developers who were active in the open-source test automation community called Robot Framework. The team created the infrastructure to transform the test automation framework into a robust RPA platform, much like the RPA pioneers.
The company’s CEO, Karjalainen, told VentureBeat that the Robot Framework test automation capabilities could be applied to the RPA space to solve numerous problems that are not currently addressed by traditional RPA vendors. So, they built open-source development tools and a flexible cloud-native orchestration platform to help creators quickly and securely build, implement, and scale sustainable bots across their organizations.
This lets users automate virtually any process and technology — with exceptional speed and elasticity — with no licensing fees and a consumption-based pricing model. Aligning usage with pricing could be important for enterprises looking for opportunities to reduce the costs of their automation spending. The Blueprint survey found that enterprises were spending an average of $480,000, with 13% spending upward of $1 million on RPA annually.
“One of the big advantages of the Automation Studio is how it supports toggling between the work modes of both low-code business domain experts and pro-code developers in one platform,” said Jason English, a principal analyst at the advisory firm Intellyx.
English noted that he was also impressed with Robocorp’s foundation of an open-source automation framework that captures automations into transparently readable Python-like code assets. This makes it easier for companies to try it out with less risk of proprietary lock-in versus established RPA competitors.
“Developed automation assets are portable and at home within enterprise work management tools as well as automated software pipelines and GitOps,” he explained.
To be fair, all the RPA vendors have added considerable enhancements over the years to Improve RPA quality, scalability, and development. For example, Automation Anywhere refactored its original platform to run in the cloud, UiPath enhanced RPA governance, and Blue Prism improved scalability.
One of the complaints about RPA is that it operates at the UI layer, so the original bots had to click and type their way through apps. Although this is much faster than a human, it is much slower than custom-coded API integration.
One advantage of the Robocorp platform is that it allows developers to create apps that automate at the level of the UI, the location in a web page, the API, or by specifying data access. This promises to give developers greater flexibility in how they craft automations that are more reliable and faster than UI-only automations.
Microsoft has started doing something similar with its Power Automate platform, allowing developers to create an automation that works through the UI or APIs for selected apps. That said, Robocorp’s open-source approach is already galvanizing a small army of consultants and systems integrators to build out a library of reusable automations across the industry.
This could give enterprises a bit more flexibility in their automation strategy. For example, the new Automation Studio interface could help Improve communications between business users and developers.
“It opens the door for those who prefer a visual approach to automation, while keeping it open for those who prefer a more programmatic approach through multiple methods of building,” Karjalainen said. “It’s also a good learning tool for citizen developers that want to become better versed in code.”
The number of robotics and automation companies has increased dramatically in latest decades as corporations seek to produce goods and services more efficiently, often replacing more expensive human employees in the process. In latest years, the urgency to automate to cut labor costs has accelerated due to intensifying global competition and other forces. Examples of companies that offer robotics solutions and products include Cognex Corp., Cadence Design Systems Inc., and U.K.-based Blue Prism Group PLC.
Robot and automation stocks, as represented by the ROBO Global Robotics and Automation Index ETF (ROBO), an exchange-traded fund, have underperformed the broader market. The ETF has provided investors with a total return of -19.9% over the past 12 months, below the -2.8% total return of the Russell 1000 Index.
Here are the top three robotics stocks with the best value, the fastest growth, and the most momentum. The market performance numbers above and all statistics in the tables below are as of June 3, 2022.
These are the robotics stocks with the lowest 12-month trailing price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio. Because profits can be returned to shareholders in the form of dividends and buybacks, a low P/E ratio shows that you’re paying less for each dollar of profit generated.
These are the top robotics stocks as ranked by a growth model that scores companies based on a 50/50 weighting of their most latest quarterly year-over-year (YOY) percentage revenue growth and most latest quarterly YOY earnings-per-share (EPS) growth. Both sales and earnings are critical factors in the success of a company. Therefore, ranking companies by only one growth metric makes a ranking susceptible to the accounting anomalies of that quarter (such as changes in tax law or restructuring costs) that may make one figure or the other unrepresentative of the business in general. Companies with quarterly EPS or revenue growth of more than 2,500% were excluded as outliers.
These are the robotics stocks that had the best returns or smallest declines in total return over the past 12 months out of the companies we looked at.
|Robotics Stocks with the Most Momentum|
|Price ($)||Market Cap ($B)||12-Month Trailing Total Return (%)|
|Cadence Design Systems Inc. (CDNS)||158.56||43.7||27.9|
|Hollysys Automation Technologies Ltd. (HOLI)||15.84||1.0||22.8|
|ABB Ltd. (ABB)||31.57||63.2||-6.5|
|ROBO Global Robotics and Automation ETF (ROBO)||N/A||N/A||-19.9|
The comments, opinions, and analyses expressed herein are for informational purposes only and should not be considered individual investment advice or recommendations to invest in any security or adopt any investment strategy. While we believe the information provided herein is reliable, we do not warrant its accuracy or completeness. The views and strategies described in our content may not be suitable for all investors. Because market and economic conditions are subject to rapid change, all comments, opinions, and analyses contained within our content are rendered as of the date of the posting and may change without notice. The material is not intended as a complete analysis of every material fact regarding any country, region, market, industry, investment, or strategy.
FILE - This undated image provided by the Montana State Library shows the proposed new State Library logo. The commission that oversees the Montana State Library decided Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022, to consider a different color scheme for its new logo after one commissioner argued the original design brought to mind a rainbow LGBTQ pride flag.
Initially 1001 subjects were referred from three educational institutes in Vienna, Austria diagnosed with difficulties in practicing and writing that could not be attributed to a learning difficulty. All subjects had been assessed by an educational psychologist and had an IQ (intelligence quotient) over 70. Subjects with ocular pathology (e.g. cataract, glaucoma, strabismus) were excluded from the study (n = 11) and referred for ophthalmological investigation. The visual status of a subset of this population has previously been described in detail. One hundred and thirty four subjects were diagnosed with CI.
CI was confirmed if a subject demonstrated all of the first three clinical signs below. CI was also identified if subjects demonstrated at least two of the first three clinical signs with at least one other additional sign (point 4 and/or 5);
A near point of convergence (NPC) greater than 6 cm
Exophoria at both near and distance which was at least 6 prism dioptres more at near than at distance.
A low accommodative convergence to accommodation ratio (AC/A) (< 2:1)
A binocular accommodative facility of less than 6 cycles per minute using (+2.00/−2.00 flipper lenses) and a monocular accommodative facility better than 10 cycles per minute
Reduced vergence facility less than 6 cycles per minute (using base-out prism)
All subjects with CI and practicing difficulties (n = 134) attended for a second assessment four weeks after the first visit. Table 1 details the age and gender distribution of the subjects and Figure 1 illustrates the refractive error profile of the group.
Mean spherical equivalent refractive error of subjects with convergence insufficiency.
All subjects in the present study were attending mainstream schools. Ethical approval for the study was obtained from the University of Ulster Research Ethics Committee and the study adhered to the Tenets of the Declaration of Helsinki. Written informed consent was obtained from all parents of the subjects included in the study.
Intervention Two different types of treatment for CI were employed: a computerised home visual therapy system (HTS) and practicing glasses without additional refractive power but with 8Δ base-in.
Details of the two treatment options were explained to all subjects and their parents and subjects were free to choose either treatment option. This study was not a randomised controlled trial, however, inclusion of a subject in either treatment group had no dependency on degree of CI, refractive error, age, initial measures of practicing speed, practicing accuracy, binocular accommodative facility, amplitude of accommodation, near point of convergence, ocular posture, MEM retinoscopy or vergence facility. This was confirmed by statistical analysis (one way ANOVA (p > 0.05). Thirty-two subjects refused both types of treatment offered and agreed to return for a subsequent assessment four weeks later as a control group for the study. sample sizes were based on available clinical data. The 8Δ base-in spectacle group included 51 subjects and the HTS groups also included 51 subjects.
The majority of subjects in the 8Δ base-in group did not have a significant distance refractive error and were issued with spectacles for near vision only. Five subjects (two myopic and three hyperopic), were issued with Franklin split bifocals with the 8Δ base-in incorporated into the near portion of the spectacles.
Subjects issued with the practicing glasses (8Δ base-in) were advised to use the spectacles for all near vision tasks that were greater than five minutes duration. Subjects given the HTS were given written and verbal information on installation of the programme and the protocol for use.
The HTS is a computerized visual therapy system which is used by the subject in his or her home environment at a distance of 40 cm. The programme uses images that the subject has to fuse in order to perceive three dimensional (stereoscopic) images. These stereoscopic images are resolved using red/blue spectacles. The HTS was developed by Dr. Jeffrey Cooper and Rodney K. Bortel, and is used widely in the United States for patients with asthenopic symptoms.[14,16,20]
A demonstration of the HTS was provided and subjects and parents were advised that they could contact the practitioner (WD) with any queries regarding the programme. Subjects were advised to perform 3–4 sessions per week, each session lasting approximately 15–20 minutes, similarly to that recommended by The Convergence Insufficiency Treatment Trial Group. The parents were instructed to regularly supervise and ensure that their child was carrying out the procedure correctly. This was done using an instrument incorporated in the programme allowing the date, time and performance of the exercises to be reviewed. These reviews were also carried out on a weekly basis by the practitioner (WD).
A range of visual function tests were carried out pre and post treatment. The procedures for these tests have previously been described in detail.
All 134 subjects were reassessed after four weeks and the tests were repeated in the same order using exactly the same testing conditions as previously. Subjects with clinically significant refractive errors (≥ +1.00D hyperopia, ≤ −0.50D myopia, ≤ −1.00DC astigmatism or ≥ 1.00D anisometropa), wore his or her habitual spectacles during testing at both visits. Prismatic practicing spectacles were not worn during testing at either visit.
Reading speed and accuracy were assessed using a standard Austrian test known as The Salzburg practicing Test. Age appropriate material suitable for each particular subject was selected and the test was conducted in a quiet room. The child was asked to start practicing a prescribed section of text and the time taken to complete the task was measured with a stopwatch. In addition, the number of incorrect words read was noted and an error score calculated.
A standard cover-uncover test and alternating cover test revealed the presence and direction of heterotropias and heterophorias at distance and near (5 m and 40 cm). The subject was asked to fixate an acuity appropriate Polatest target for three seconds before the eye was covered and uncovered. This was done for both eyes. A prism cover test was employed to assess the magnitude of the deviations present.
Amplitude of accommodation was measured monocularly using the push-up method. Binocular accommodative facility was assessed in cycles per minute using flipper lenses (+2.00/−2.00 D). This was repeated for one minute and the number of cycles noted.
Accommodative response to a target at a specific distance was assessed using Monocular Estimation Method (MEM) retinoscopy. The distance refractive error was fully corrected and a near target attached to the retinoscope at a distance of 40 cm. The subject was encouraged to read the text aloud while the retinoscopic reflex was observed. If the retinal reflex indicated a hyperopic or myopic state, plus or minus lenses, respectively, were added in 0.25 steps until neutrality was achieved.
Near point of convergence (NPC) was assessed using a standard protocol. Subjects were asked to fixate on the light of a pen torch while it was moved towards the subject's face and to report the point at which diplopia was first observed. The clinician also objectively assessed the point at which the subject lost fixation, when one eye deviated. The points at which the subject and the observer noticed a loss of fixation were noted.[26,27]
Vergence facility was assessed in cycles per minute using a standard flip prism (3Δbase in/12Δbase out) that provides information about the condition and the speed of the vergence system. Subjects were asked to fixate a small target on the Gulden stick at 40 cm and asked to try to keep the target single and clear. Prism (3Δ base-in) was introduced first and the subject was asked to report when it became single. When the target was single and clear the 12Δ base-out) was introduced. When the subject reported that the target was clear the prism was switched back to the 3Δ base in. This was repeated for one minute and the number of cycles was noted.
The Accommodative Convergence System of the Eyes The AC/A ratio was assessed by measuring the near phoria at 40 cm using the alternating cover test and prism bar. This was then repeated using -2.00D lenses in front of the eyes while the subject maintained fixation on the target at 40 cm. The AC/A ratio was calculated as the difference between the measured phoria with and without the -2.00D lenses, divided by two.
All data were analysed for significance using SPSS 17.0 for Windows. All data were assessed for normality using the one sample Kolmogorov-Smirnov Test. Factorial analysis was used to evaluate between subject effects and within subject effects.