Why digital technologies are replacing analog

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Even 30 years ago, to get new information, we used books, the media or communicated with people. Now a second and a palm-sized smartphone are enough. Understanding how digital technology has changed our lives

What is digital technology and how did it appear?

The foundations of the modern binary number system were laid by the mathematician Karl Leibniz in the 17th century. In the twentieth century, it began to be used for software computing: in 1941, the first computer appeared, and in 1948, the first computer program.

Then, in the middle of the 20th century, digital technologies were understood as those where information is converted into a discontinuous (discrete) data set consisting of 0 (no signal) and 1 (there is a signal). They were opposed to analog ones, where data is a continuous stream of electrical rhythms of different amplitudes with an unlimited number of values.

But later this was replaced by another definition: digital technologies are those where information is “digitized”, that is, it is presented in a universal digital form.  In turn, analog now are those where information is not unified, but is stored and transmitted in different formats, for each type of media. For example, a landline phone is analog technology, and a smartphone with the Internet is already digital.

Among the main disadvantages are high energy intensity and negative impact on the climate.

Data centers now account for about 0.3% of global carbon emissions. They consume about 200 TWh per year, which is more than the annual energy consumption in developing countries. However, by 2030 this figure could rise to 20% of global demand, which would lead to a significant increase in emissions.

Digital technologies are often confused with information technologies, but in fact one is part of the other. Information technologies include all technologies related to the exchange of information, even with the help of analog devices. For example, a traffic light that tells us when we can go is an analog information device, and a service where we monitor traffic jams is also informational, but already digital.

In what areas are digital technologies used?

Almost any business uses CRM, online services for remote work, storage and work with the client base, accounting management and inventory accounting. More and more companies are using big data and analytics based on it to grow their business and grow their customer base.
In education, gadgets and programs are used for distance learning, preparing and doing homework, making presentations, programming and creative tasks.  AI algorithms help with career guidance and the learning process.

In medicine, digital technologies help to find new drugs and vaccines faster, make more accurate diagnoses even at early stages, collect analytics to predict diseases, conduct online consultations, and even perform operations using AR and robots.
In retail, digital simplifies the process of searching for and ordering goods.

managing warehouse and delivery. Analysis of customer behavior and data on the movement of sales areas help to optimize the space of the store. Voice assistants and chatbots process requests at maximum speed, and offline stores are already starting to work without cash desks and sellers – with the help of cameras and facial recognition algorithms.

Neural networks are involved in the creation of music, art and books, and virtual actors and musicians replace real ones.

In production, with the help of technology, they automate individual lines and entire plants, develop new models and materials, monitor safety and the environment, predict equipment failures, prevent defects and injuries, optimize working hours and resources.

In catering, digital technologies are involved in the collection and distribution of orders, cooking, control over the quantity and shelf life of products, and even help to find new points with maximum traffic.

Top digital technologies in 2020

The HSE Institute for Statistical Research and Economics of Knowledge (ISSEK) has compiled a ranking of the most promising digital technologies for 2020. In the process of preparation, the experts used the for a big data mining system, which contains more than 500 million documents: scientific publications, market analytics, reports of international organizations, legal documents, etc.

As can be seen from the rating, the vast majority of technologies are related to artificial intelligence, neural networks and machine learning. But this is far from the only area that determines the development of technology today.


Smartphones have combined a personal computer and a telephone, becoming a receptacle for dozens of digital technologies. With their help, we talk, exchange messages, write letters, listen to music, take photos and videos.

The first Nokia PDA appeared in 1996, the first Ericsson smartphone in 2000. But the real revolution was made by the iPhone, first introduced in 2007: since then, all smartphones have gradually switched to touch displays without styluses, and a little later, tablets appeared – a kind of intermediate link between a smartphone and a laptop. In 2020 alone, more than 1.3 billion smartphones were sold in the world, and the top three in the market are Samsung, Apple and Xiaomi.

One of the most advanced technologies used in smartphones is digital photography: when AI algorithms process a series of shots and lighting data so that the output is a single, but better photo.

Internet of Things (Internet of Things, IoT

The Internet of Things is a technology that allows you to connect sensors, gadgets, household appliances and even cars into a single network using wireless communication. All these devices can be controlled by applications and combined in a variety of automatic scenarios – for example, to control factory equipment. As of the end of 2020, there were 11.7 billion devices connected to the Internet of Things in the world, and in five years this figure will grow to 30 billion.

A new wireless standard, 5G, opens up great prospects for IoT. With it, data can be transferred faster, without failures and with minimal delays, connecting even more devices.