An Encrypted Future

Category: Consumers

Examples of Digitization

By Joanna Allegretti, CHAMPtitles

We have defined digitization and now understand what it means in theory, but what does it actually mean for you and me? It is not some futuristic intangible.  You are likely benefiting from digitization right now, and you might not even realize it!  

Let’s consider some examples of digitization in practice. 

1. The most obvious one starts with the device on which you are reading this post. Before digitization, we would have printed this write-up on paper and mailed it to you. Now, once you subscribe to our blog, you can receive this content electronically by email. Everyone can agree this digital means of communication makes receiving and absorbing information much more immediate and convenient.  

2. Remember the paper boarding pass? In 100 years of aviation, it evolved from a handwritten paper tag issued at the airport check-in desk to an electronic ticket in the 21st century. Then, a new technology by way of a barcode replaced a more expensive magnetic strip allowing passengers to check-in online and print their boarding pass at home. Today, boarding passes are sent to a mobile device, and that digital version is machine-readable. Soon biometric screening will be commonplace, accelerating boarding and more importantly improving security for all passengers.   

3. Only in the last decade has a trip to the Emergency Room begun to digitize. For example, not long ago, a suspected fracture would require x-ray images captured on a physical plate to be rushed to image technicians who would develop the x-ray image onto a film before delivery to the medical staff for interpretation. Today, it is increasingly likely that the x-ray image is processed digitally at the radiographer’s workstation, providing accurate and instantaneous results. Of course, this saves expense in terms of materials and time – appreciated by the hospital and the patient.

With digitization in place, future enhancements can be layered on top creating further savings and improving outcomes. For example, we are seeing hospitals trial software that can offer a doctor preliminary medical diagnoses based on the library of similar digital images the computer has previously captured.

These three examples just begin to scratch the tip of the digitization iceberg. The list is vast and includes much more complex examples that we might not even realize are working behind the scenes to benefit our day-to-day lives, which we will cover in a future post.  Still, we can look to these use cases to understand why digitization is so important and life-changing. Further, the story of IT evolution in communication, aviation, and radiography should and will be a model for all sorts of industries and businesses, many of which are ready for this kind of digital transformation, improving the experience, enhancing security, and reducing costs. 

What is Digitization?

By Ben Walton, CHAMPtitles

Digitization is the process of creating a digital representation of something of value, resulting in what is called a “digital asset”. So, what is a digital asset? 

Let’s break that down. First, the asset part. 

According to the MerriamWebster dictionary, one definition of an asset is “an item of value owned”. Value can be monetary and/or give an individual access to something else. Ownership is required so that the asset can be transacted upon for a specific entity be it an individual, company, trust, etc. For any asset, there will be certain rules that define ownership, verification, and transference (if possible). 

An example of an asset is a music festival wristband. It has the monetary value of what it cost to buy and gives an individual access to the concert venue. Ownership is defined as possessing the wristband. Verification happens at the festival venue when the staff visually checks the wristband to confirm its authenticity. To transfer the wristband from one individual to another, the owner physically hands it over.  

Now, let’s define the digital part. 

For an asset to be considered digital, there are two key components. First, the asset’s information must be stored electronically. Second, the electronic information should be coded in a format that makes it receivable and acceptable to third parties. Simply put, the electronic asset must have utility to the original creator and any future owner. It is important to note that encryption and immutable ownership records are not a pre-requisite for digital assets, but as society looks to store more valuable assets in digital form, these features have grown in importance as they ensure the asset is correctly and honestly used to prevent theft, fraud, and forgery.  

Let’s consider the evolution of the humble concert ticket. Years ago, a paper ticket was used to enter the concert venue. The venue staff would tear off a portion of the ticket to show that it had been used. Nowadays, we receive an email of the ticket with a specific QR code. Once you arrive at the venue, the staff scans the code to confirm its authenticity and permit entrance. The concert ticket with the QR code has the same authority as the original physical ticket. Now why does this matter?  

When dealing with an asset that enables a person to access valuable benefits from the state or an employer, there needs to be a heightened degree of security to assure the legitimacy and provenance of the asset. An example is an asset like a birth certificate that provides an official government-issued record of a person’s birth and is generally required for school registration. So, for an electronic birth certificate to be considered “digital”, it must be accepted by the school as valid proof of one’s name, sex, and date and place of birth, meaning the digital version allows for the same action as the physical one.  

We can now conclude that a digital asset is electronically stored information that defines an owned item of value and has the same authority as the non-digital asset (if one exists or existed). By establishing this common definition of a digital asset, we can start the conversation around creating them and then using them. We can begin to explore the possibilities of what they can do, how they can be created, the internals of implementation, and so much more.  

Before we can dive into the specifics of digitization and digital assets, we should understand the argument for pursuing digitization. That is up next.