Bots, robots and Robotic Process Automation (RPA)

A bot (apheresis of robot) is a computer program that mimics the behavior of a human. It fulfills a function similar to a web service but in a contextual way and simulating a conversation (they look for keywords interpretable in command form). Usually runs on the server of a company with the purpose of interacting directly with its clients to automate some action

We must differentiate bot from robot that we can define as a device, machine or electronic ingenuity programmable, able to manipulate objects and perform operations previously reserved only to people. We understand that a bot refers to virtual software systems, whereas a robot is a set of hardware and software.


A bot can be designed in any programming language, operate on a server or on a client, or be a mobile agent, etc. The programming of a bot can be designed to accomplish (very) basic tasks such as:

  • Remember tasks
  • Automate processes
  • Post what was obtained in a web
  • Make decisions (choose alternatives based on a result)
  • Edit texts
  • Chat (answering questions): Chat bots (used in Skype, GroupMe, Kik, Telegram, Facebook Messenger, …)
  • Simulate people
  • Play (in video games they are known as “borgs”)
  • Generate followers in networks or visits on web pages (ghost users / position a hashtag as trending topic) …
  • Test the functioning of a web page, a platform, … (testing bots)
  • Attacking or defending an account or topic (Crisis bots / cyber attacks)

Examples: Place an order in an online store, reserve a restaurant table, create an email account or ask for a car that picks you up at a specific place.

Malicious bots

Bots can be used for cybercrime. Some of them allow hackers to take control of one or several computers at once and turn them into “zombies,” which function as part of a powerful “botnet” that can be used to spread viruses, generate spam and other types of viruses. Malicious acts.

Chat bots

Chat bots mimic an instant messaging conversation. Thanks to the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning, they “manage” to understand and learn the natural language written by people.

For some time, certain messaging applications began to incorporate bots: Kik, Slack, Facebook Messenger, Skype and Telegram.

In Telegram, for example, some of the most popular bots are:

  • @ gif / @ pic: Search and integrate GIFs / Images
  • @youtube: Search and embed videos
  • @music: Search and integrate classical music
  • @ImageBot: It is added as if it were one more contact, and when you give it keywords it searches for an image (it saves the process of going to Google, searching for the image and downloading it or copying its address to share it)
  • @HotOrBot: Find a person to contact (a kind of Tinder) using some basic data (man or woman, age, location, etc.)

The main idea is to make messaging the place of access to more and more services, so that users stop using other apps. This is where you do not have to leave the main application to use other applications.

Users of Bot (Bot users)

In applications like Slack you can create bot users that have qualities similar to their human counterparts: they have profile photos, names and bios (biographies), exist in the team directory, can be sent directly or mentioned, can post messages and upload Files, and can be invited and ejected from private channels and groups.

The biggest difference between bot users and regular users is that, rather than interacting with a computer through one of Slack’s mobile or desktop applications, bot users are controlled by a bot user token that access one or more of the Slack APIs.

Bots in robotic process automation (ARP)

The Robotic Process Automation (RPA) consists of the use of bots (also called in the RPA environment “software robots”) to replicate the actions of a human being interacting with the user interface of a computer system. For example, executing data entry in a management information system (SAP, Navision, …) would be a typical activity of a software robot. The software robot operates in the user interface (UI) in the same way as a human.

ARP is seen as a quick way to reduce costs and improve performance by automating repetitive and high volume tasks performed with manual processes (to date by humans) following rules that involve structured data such as transaction processing. Financial services, for example, have seen adoption rates higher than other industries.

A bot can execute the same processes as a human; It registers in the same set of applications, captures all the details of the process and stores it for a possible later audit, works 24 hours a day, seven days a week, without pause, at the speed of the machine (a bot can equal 3 full time staff).

Robots are 100 percent compatible with the process and changes can be implemented instantly and untrained. Climbing the process is instantaneous and as simple as dragging and dropping an additional bot.

Homebots (Domestic Robots)

Some personal robots (domestic): Kuri, Kiko, Omate Yumi, Zenbo, Jibo, Relay, Lynx, Pepper, Robot Hub LG, Olly manage to converse and understand natural language and for the most part are derived from Alexa, The Amazon Virtual Assistant* (Amazon Echo), an Artificial Intelligence similar to Siri (Apple), Cortana (Microsoft) or Google Now.

Some of them move, others offer touch screens, communicate by voice, allow selfies, communicate with domotic devices, project video, play music, allow video calls, have programmable alerts, face recognition, offer drinks, accompany people Guiding them to a certain place, setting reminders, facilitating the forecast of time and mail, singing and dancing, and many more things, though not all of them at once.

* Virtual assistant: A conversational character, generated as a computer program capable of recognizing, at least in basic form, a natural language that simulates a conversation to give information and offer a service by voice or text to users through the Internet, a Kiosk or mobile interface.


If you want to know a little bit more …


Justice, C. (2016) Bots in the back office. The coming wave of digital labor. November 2015.

Coumau, J-B. et al. (2017) A smart home is where the bot is. McKinsey Quarterly. January 2017.

Bayón, A. (2017) Los robots actúan también como auditores. Cinco Días. 20/02/2017.

Manyika, J. (2017) Technology, jobs, and the future of jobs. McKinsey Global Institute. Briefing Note prepared for the Fortune Vatican Forum, December 2016. Updated February 2017.


Other sites of interest on the subject: