Screen Scraping in RPA

Screen scraping is the cornerstone of emerging technologies like RPA and web scrapers, which rely on it to gather data from digital screens. Early screen scraping techniques were used to extract source codes from outdated systems, which were subsequently moved to more contemporary programmes. But modern developments like OCR and computer vision allow for the extraction of specialised data from any open application via screen scraping.

This article explores screen scraping's definition, methodology, commercial applications, and challenges.

What is Screen Scraping?

Screen scraping, also known as terminal emulation, is a method for mechanically collecting visual data from computer displays and automatically inputting it into other programmes or systems on the device without requiring human interaction to manually re−key the data. Screen scraping has both morally right and wrong purposes.

Here are only a few instances of both− using an app for banking, gathering data from numerous accounts on behalf of a customer, or stealing data from apps. The need to speed up and streamline one's own development process may lead a developer to copy code from another software. Screen scraping was initially used to display data from obsolete mainframe systems (such as the IBM mainframe) on modern PC apps (e.g. excel).

What is the purpose of screen scraping?

Organizations can use screen scraping in any situation when it is difficult or time−consuming to obtain the underlying data. With the use of screen scraping, data may be extracted from almost any user interface (UI), including those used by DOS console, Win32, and FoxPro programmes from the 1990s and Java and .Net WinForm programmes from the early 2000s. Naturally, on contemporary WPF programmes and web browsers as well.

Screen scraping is now a useful method for modernizing manual processes that are currently in use and allowing new services that require difficult−to−find data. There are many different use cases, and they are extensively used in the banking, travel, retail, and e−commerce industries.

Why is Screen Scraping so important for Businesses?

Screen scraping allows users to automate repetitive, rule−based data transfer procedures with the following benefits −

  • Using scripts to transport and extract data without human interaction ensures data quality and reduces mistakes (e.g. duplicates, typos, missing data).

  • The laborious data collecting and transformation process is sped up using time−saving screen scraping software. According to UiPath, a supplier of RPA and screen scraping, screen scraping can extract data from diverse apps with 100% accuracy in as low as 16 milliseconds.

  • Value−added services like tools for comparing the costs of flights and rental cars are provided by combining data from other websites.

  • Gathering and compiling information on a subject from various websites, including social media and reputation management channels.

  • Assembling, assessing, and guiding market research or lead generation decisions by using data from publicly accessible third−party websites without the use of an API.

How does Screen Scraping works?

  • The software used for screen scraping is designed to: locate and recognise specific user interface components that the user has chosen; and extract data from those UI elements (e.g. columns in spreadsheets, buttons on websites)

  • Before transmitting the data to the appropriate application, the screen scraper will employ OCR to transform any unstructured data (such as that found in images or PDFs) into text that can be read by computers.

What sectors can benefit from Screen Scraping?

Screen scraping is mostly used in 2 business contexts −

RPA for app-to-app − RPA is one of the most important technologies in the digital transformation because it can automate a wide range of repetitive UI−dependent tasks, such as daily P&L preparation in finance, updating inventory records in the supply chain, or entering patient data into electronic health records (EHR) in healthcare.

RPA bots replicate human interactions with UI components using screen scraping to carry out a certain task. For instance, a screen scraping RPA bot directly relies on the ability to −

  • Access a person's email

  • Click on the emails associated with bills (the bot will be programmed to recognise relevant keywords)

  • Get the affix here.

  • The download's attachment, and then (e.g. PDF or image)

  • Do a payment amount search.

  • The spreadsheet should be updated with payment information when it has been copied from the PDF or image file.

Web scraping: Web to App − The real−time data extraction process from online resources is automated by software known as "web scrapers," which then sends the extracted data to users in predetermined machine−readable formats. E−commerce, finance, and real estate are just a few industries that use web scraping.

  • Utilizing dynamic pricing algorithms and pricing optimization, information about the market is gathered.

  • investigating consumer perceptions.

  • reviewing SEO techniques.

  • Web scrapers typically use screen scraping to locate HTTP components and transfer the data into the desired format.

Suggested Reading − Robots can now understand unstructured data thanks to a wide range of technologies, such as screen scraping. To discover more about these technologies, read our in−depth articles −

  • RPA's Use of Optical Character Recognition to Understand Unstructured Data (OCR)

  • An extensive manual on machine vision − The Art of Making Computers Understand Human Language