As computer chips become smaller and more connected, the digital world increasingly overlaps and interacts with its physical counterpart. The ubiquity of smartphones, the rise of big data and the Internet of Things, and applied augmented reality applications within gaming, education, and manufacturing are just a few examples of how the digital world builds on — and even alters— the physical world.
The physical world comprises everything around us, and consists of the tangible products we use each day, the cities and towns we live in, our workplaces, field sites, and the infrastructure, sensors, and machinery that support them. Though it may not always feel like it, we live in the physical world 100% of the time, even as the digital world increasingly augments it.
Unlike the physical universe that’s existed for billions of years, the digital world emerged in the 1950s with the advent of the computer. While digital access was once limited to government agencies, most of us now regularly interact with the digital world via our computers and mobile devices. The digital realm consists of everything that’s stored in the cloud: personal and enterprise data including emails, documents, spreadsheets, photos, videos, and all the metadata surrounding them.
Many businesses already recognize the benefits of applying the digital world to enhance or keep track of the physical world, and are digitizing physical processes to reduce human error, redundancies, and inconsistencies. For example, a manufacturer may develop a barcode scanning system that allows for fast and accurate real-time data collection throughout the distribution process. Replacing the physical, analog system of pen and paper with a digitized solution not only helps to ensure more accurate data collection, but it also enables new capabilities like instant access to past records, digital forecasting, and trend analysis.
Though companies are increasingly embracing top-down digitization, it’s not always possible for individual process owners to build customized digital processes from the ground up. As a lack of technical coding skills can often hinder progress for teams that rely on analog processes, no-code application development platforms are stepping in to provide non-technical employees with the tools they need to connect the physical with the digital.
Let’s explore a few areas where enterprise apps can help bridge the gap between the physical and digital worlds to remove friction and error while increasing speed, accuracy, and visibility.
Rich data collection: Clear and accurate data collection is critical to day-to-day operations, particularly within industries like construction, manufacturing, and utilities. Apps can improve data gathering methods by digitally logging information like GPS coordinates, capturing and annotating images, accepting signatures, and scanning barcodes for immediate data entry. Digital apps power 24/7 data collection with the ability to run offline when a data or internet connection isn’t available. The collected information about the physical world will sync to the digital world as soon as a connection is restored, which means physical-world data doesn’t fall through the cracks even if a digital connection is temporarily unavailable.
Process automation: Digitization can help improve organizational processes by introducing automation and customization into physical workflows. For example, apps can automatically log physical-world data, transfer it into the desired digital format, and notify appropriate teams throughout the organization at specified times. Apps can help teams create dynamic reports that update with real-time data flows, as well as customized campaigns based on the digitally-logged activities of team members, managers, and customers.
Actionable insights: Bridging the physical and digital worlds helps teams and companies to discover meaningful insights that can transform operations, processes, and even business models. Digitized data can be analyzed, monitored, collected, and updated in real time, and shared through automatic notification workflows and customizable dashboards via charts, maps, and galleries. For greater holistic insight across data types and sources, apps can be directly integrated with legacy software, or exported to sync with existing external platforms.
The constant and streamlined convergence between the physical and digital worlds creates opportunities for insight, as business leaders and process owners alike can make more informed decisions for their teams, their customers, and their businesses. When process owners are empowered to minimize the divide between the physical and the digital, fewer items are lost, processes can be uniformly communicated and executed, and teams are able to achieve goals with greater speed, accuracy, and visibility.
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