'The best time in history': The digital revolution of 2016

Industry experts weigh in on whether 2016 was the year of the digital revolution.

US DEPUTY SECRETARY of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas  (photo credit: REUTERS)
US DEPUTY SECRETARY of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas
(photo credit: REUTERS)
On the international level and locally, 2016 has been a great success for the digital revolution. Advances in cyber security and digital health technologies are changing entire industries and our daily lives.
“The influence of the digital revolution on jobs, the economy, production, the connection between people and the spread of information is making this the best time in history,” Dr. Harold Wiener, co-founder and managing partner of Terra Venture Partners told The Jerusalem Post.
Sometimes referred to as the “third industrial revolution,” the digital revolution refers to the transformation from simple analog, electronic and mechanical devices to digital devices, and the digitization of traditional industries and services. The revolution is considered to have begun with the introduction of the Internet in the late 1970s, followed by the ushering in of the Information Age – and now the Digital Age.
“The digital age affects us in almost every field: the way we do our banking, use social networks, the availability of information and the ability to analyze it, daily services and so much more,” Ran Bronstein, VP of research and operations at 3D Systems told the Post.
One of the things that the digital revolution does on the consumer level and for the economy is to digitize traditional service sectors and make these services cheaper and more accessible. Uber and Airbnb are cited as companies that disrupted the tourism and transportation industries. Over the last year, the market value of Internet-based apartment sharing giant Airbnb has grown to surpass that of the Hilton hotel chain.
“Look at companies like Airbnb, which became a giant hotel company without owning a single building.
Or Uber, which became a transportation giant without owning a single vehicle or directly employing a single chauffeur. Where is Blockbuster now with their physical videotapes? Replaced by Netflix and online streaming technology,” CEO of Fujitsu Israel Raanan Biber said.
While the Internet killed traditional video and DVD shops and renters, it has provided everyone who has an Internet connection with equal access to video content for reasonable prices – and sometimes even free. Accordingly, Internet usage worldwide has more than doubled over the last decade from 26.6% of the world’s population in 2010, to 49.5% in 2016.
One aspect of the digital revolution is the exponential growth in digital data generated by digital devices.
“More than ever, we generate countless bits of digital data – through cellphones and computers, interconnected machines like automobiles, and even household appliances through the Internet of Things. Monetary transactions through online payment and credit cards and wire transfers are also done digitally today and generate data,” said Biber.
The mass amounts of data generated, gathered and transmitted have not only created the Big Data sector, but also account for the boom in the Israeli cyber security sector.
“As more and more data are generated digitally and stored, the need to protect that data – whether on the cloud or on servers or during transmission – grows. That’s why we also see a growth in the cyber security sector and the rise of cyber security companies,” said Bronstein.
Israel, a pioneer in cyber security, is now also a main beneficiary of that trend, attracting more than 20% of all global investment in the cyber sector in 2016.
The growth in Big Data and the digitization of services are also revolutionizing the medical sector.
“The digitization of data has implications in the field of healthcare as well. We now have the ability to do MRI and CT scans and have that data accumulated, stored and analyzed digitally; machine-learning software will be providing medical diagnoses of patients,” Bronstein said.
One Israeli company, Medial EarlySign, has already announced successful implementation of this technology. The company’s software succeeded in detecting early stage colorectal cancer and predisposition to colorectal cancer in more than 100 Maccabi Healthcare Services clients using only their digitized medical records.
Overall, 2016 has seen trends coming to fruition – technologies that have been in the works for as many as 30 years are now reaching maturity. With a domino effect, each aspect influences others.
“I can’t conclusively say whether 2016 was a more special year than 2017 will be. This is an exponential process, and the more data you have the more you can do – thus knowledge and capabilities grow every year,” Wiener said.