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What do we mean with Truly Digital?

Start now with a digital-first approach

Published on Friday May 1, 2020 by Tom Meulendijks

SteelTrace uses the term true digital and that might lead to confusion. A common statement is: we have digital certificates! Closer inspection leads to the conclusion; we have PDF’s, and yes, they are digital. But not truly digital, let us explain.

A digital form of paper

A PDF is the digital form of paper, one could say. However, there is a difference between a piece paper and a PDF. For example, when you hand over a sheet of paper, you don’t have it anymore. With a PDF that’s not true. You have a copy, the mailbox server has a copy and the receiving party has an identical copy of that file. All of a sudden there are three identical documents. You could also edit a PDF, change something in the content and no one will know. On a sheet of paper, this would be more difficult. So when the steel industry digitised (transferring to PDF format) the material test certificate it made it much easier to change or alter its content without there being a way of detecting this.

Leveraging digital technology

So now we’ve digitised the paper certificate in a PDF format. We still haven’t fully leveraged the advantage of digital technology. The advantage of true digitisation is using its’ underlying data. With a paper or PDF, the data layer and the way it is presented is one and the same. A human always has to interpret it. Yes, with a PDF generated from a Word document you can extract the textual data, but that data is merely a string of characters. A computer can still not understand the data, it has no semantics.

A true digital material test certificate would of course have to contain semantic data. So that it can be searched automatically and read from an ERP system. Even better, the data can automatically be cross-checked with incoming orders or quality norms contained in a database.

By separating the presentation layer from the data layer it opens up a whole set of opportunities. Such as creating a multi-language certificate, or visualising of the data in a mobile-friendly format.

That is what we mean with true digital. It is a rethinking of the process of quality control from a digital-first standpoint.