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Table of contents
What is Automata?
History of Automata
Automata Lifecycle
Prerequisites of Automata
Need of Automata
Automata Process
Applications of Automata
Finite-State Machine
Push-down Automata
Linear-bounded Automata
Turing Machine
Challenges in Automata
Advantages of Automata
Disadvantages of Automata
Future of Automata
Limitations of Automata
Frequently Asked Questions
What are automatons used for?
What are the 4 types of automata?
What is an automata in TOC?
What is DFA and NFA?
What does automata stand for?
Last Updated: Mar 27, 2024

Introduction to Automata

Author Nitika
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Ashwin Goyal
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Have you ever thought about the working of different states of a machine or how they work? Well, the mechanisms followed by the machines to respond to our commands and follow instructions for pre-determined inputs are covered by the field of Automata. It is a control mechanism stating a machine to follow specific steps for providing certain outputs.

Introduction to Automata

In this article, we will explore the world of Automata, how automata perform tasks in a wide range of devices and machines available worldwide, and how it benefits our daily lives.

Also See, Symbol Table Operations

What is Automata?

According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, Automaton (au·​tom·​a·​ton) is defined as a machine or control mechanism designed to automatically follow a predetermined sequence of operations or respond to encoded instructions.

In other words, Automata or Automaton is a system where a machine is modelled to produce a set of outputs according to a given set of instructions. 

Characteristics of such machines include:+

Inputs: can sequences of symbols selected from a finite set I of input signals. Namely, set I is the set {x1, x,2, x3... xk} where k is the number of inputs.

Outputs: sequences of symbols selected from a finite set Z. Namely, set Z is the set {y1, y2, y3 ... ym} where m is the number of outputs.

States: a finite set whose definition counts on the type of automaton.

Automata is of four different types: 

Finite-State Machine

  1. acceptors: either accept the input or do not.
  2. recognisers: either recognise the input or do not.
  3. transducers: generate output from the given input.

Push-down Automata

Linear-bounded Automata

Turing Machine

A Finite-State Machine (FSM) is the simplest automata. A Turing Machine is the most complex machine of all. 

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History of Automata

Automata has been around for longer than you can imagine. It is relatively unknown when the theory of automata was invented since it has been around since early history was recorded. Automata had its wings spread across the globe. Greeks, Chinese and Egyptians contributed to the early establishment of automata.

The first traces of automata were when the Egyptians built a statue dedicated to the king, which made beautiful sounds when the sun's rays hit it during sunrise and sunset.

Around 1000 BC, the Chinese created an automaton that looked like a human so much that it was nearly impossible to figure out the differences between humans and automata.

Automata has evolved throughout the years. In modern times, it is around us everywhere, from industries like manufacturing to transportation and healthcare.

Automata Lifecycle

Automata Lifecycle

Automata transitioned through several stages during its development, deployment and operation phases. These transitional phases are referred to as the Life cycle of Automata. The stages of automata are as follows:

Requirement: This initial stage mainly involves gathering the idea or approximation of what will be the general requirements in future automation processes.

Design: This stage of automata is purely based on the understanding from the previous stage. In this stage, all the structures and frameworks of automata are decided.

Implementation: This stage involves the execution of automata design using modelling tools and techniques.

Testing: all the testing activities are done in this phase. This is done to ensure that the machine is built to work to its full potential with minimum to no failures.

Deployment: After the testing phase comes the deployment phase, where the machines are kept in working environments.

Operation: This is the stage where the machines are set to operate in a monitored environment to see whether the machine is working at its maximum efficiency and to look over any room for improvement.

Maintenance: This stage takes place during or after the operation phase and comes into play when the machine encounters a failure or when there's any need for adjustments. 

Retirement: As everything comes to an end, the automata are retired from their role. This is the last stage of the lifecycle of automata, where all the data which was acquired through the lifespan is archived.

After this, the automata are no longer in use. 

Check out this article - Converting NFA to DFA

Prerequisites of Automata

Since automata is a branch of computer science and mathematics, the fundamental requirements are. Of course, mathematics, specifically discrete mathematics and computer. 

Additional requirements consist of familiarity with programming, which involves following a structured framework and algorithm for problem-solving and logical reasoning.

Need of Automata

Through automata, computer scientists can understand how machines can compute functions and decipher information. Automata has its uses in almost every field known to man such as spell checkers, text editors, artificial intelligence system etc.

Automata Process

Continuous, discrete, and hybrid, are other kinds of automata present out there. Let us find out more. 

Discrete automata: They are used in modelling those systems that do not have a stable state. These machines change their states over discrete points in time.

Continuous automata: These systems use model systems to continuously change states over time. Continuous automata are generated using different mathematical models and are used in modelling electrical circuits.

Hybrid automata: Both elements of discrete and continuous automata are combined to form hybrid automata. These are used in more complex dynamic systems that require the functioning of both discrete and continuous behaviour, like robotic systems and embedded systems. They are also used in systems which include both electrical and mechanical components.

Applications of Automata

There are mainly four families of automatons having different applications. They are as follows.

Finite-State Machine

  1. FSM is used in the designing of combinational and sequential circuits using Mealy and Moore Machines.
  2. Used in the working of text editors.
  3. Used in spell-checking applications.
  4. Used in learning and decision-making models.

Push-down Automata

  1. Used in arithmetic evaluation.
  2. Used in stack applications.
  3. Used in encryption and decryption.
  4. Used in Natural Language Processing(NLP) applications.

Linear-bounded Automata

  1. Used in genetic programming.
  2. Used for compiler analysis.
  3. Used in context-sensitive recognition.
  4. Used in game theory to model

Turing Machine

  1. Used for solving recursive problems.
  2. Used in robot applications.
  3. Used in artificial intelligence.
  4. Used for calculating time and space complexities.

Challenges in Automata

The challenges faced while handling automata are:

The mathematical principles and techniques used in automata can be challenging to comprehend. Due to their complexity, it gets difficult for users to create algorithms and put them into software testing. For this, researchers and engineers have to devise new technologies to measure efficiency and unlock its full potential.

As the scope of automata is overgrowing, it gets challenging for engineers to explore and keep up with it entirely.

Since automata have applications in various domains, they must be interoperable with other software and systems. This is where difficulties arise as different systems use different software and languages and may have different representations for automata models.

Advantages of Automata

  • Industrial productivity has improved due to automation, which has sped up product manufacturing.
  • The items now have better quality and uniformity. Better and devoid of any production flaws, products have improved.
  • Both labour costs and manufacturing process consistency have decreased as a result.
  • It has shortened operational cycle times and increased precision and consistency in processes requiring repetitive and complex manual work.
  • In hazardous workplaces, including nuclear power plants, corrosive conditions, and hazardous material handling, automated robotics have taken. the role of people.
  • Reducing the workforce needed for repetitive tasks has freed up workers who can now work in administration and upkeep roles for automated systems.

Disadvantages of Automata

  • Automation has drawbacks because malfunctioning automated systems can expose systems to security risks and hacking, which can ultimately cause them to collapse.
  • High development and maintenance expenses are associated with automation. Additionally, integrating robots and automated systems into current frameworks is costly.
  • Automated systems are not fully autonomous and cannot make complicated logical conclusions that are not predetermined by their programming.

Future of Automata

The future of automata beholds significant advancements.

Several industries, like vehicle manufacturing and logistics, will be able to benefit from the scalability of modern automata in the coming years. Let us look at some more future prospects of automata.

The robotics industry will be heavily driven by automata in the coming years. Developing sophisticated robots and their assembly will be done using automata.

Self-driven cars is another topic of focus in modern technologies wherein automata will play a significant role.

Limitations of Automata

The first limitation of automata is that they need help remembering or storing large amounts of data. Hence the ability of automata to solve all computational problems is limited.

Further, it has finite pattern recognition ability and can’t recognize context-sensitive languages. Also, some of the automata are deterministic, which means they only follow a set of rules and nothing apart from it.

Also read - Arden's theorem

Frequently Asked Questions

What are automatons used for?

Automatons are machine models(abstract) responsible for performing computations on the input by moving through different states. At each state or configuration, the transition function defines the next state.

What are the 4 types of automata?

The four main types of automata are Finite-state machine automata, Pushdown automata, Linear-Bounded automata, and Turing machine automata.

What is an automata in TOC?

In Theory of Computation (TOC), an automaton is an abstract mathematical model used to study computational processes and languages.

What is DFA and NFA?

DFA (Deterministic Finite Automaton) and NFA (Nondeterministic Finite Automaton) are types of automata used in TOC to recognize languages.

What does automata stand for?

Automata is the plural form of automaton. It stands for a self-operating machine or a mathematical model of computation used in computer science.


In this article, we explored the depths of automata, its history, lifecycle, prerequisites, challenges, advantages, disadvantages and future prospects.

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