As we looked at in the previous lesson, digital devices are used in all aspects of our lives, and in all different work places. Really, no matter where you work, digital devices are always there as an integral part of the business.
For example, if you work in an office, you probably use word processing software to produce a report, or if you work in a shop you will likely use an EPOS till system for recording sales. These tools help to make the business more productive and reduce human errors.
In this lesson we’ll look at how digital devices are commonly used in our work lives, these uses are:
- Organisational Use
- Creative Tasks
Retail has been transformed thanks to digital devices. Inside a traditional shop, data capture and collection systems are used at the till. However, we also see digital devices used in retail for selling online, ordering stock and many other reasons.
An Electronic Point of Sale (EPOS) is a computerised checkout till. It uses digital devices to record sales as well as to take payment for those sales.
For example, barcode readers are used to add new products to a sale and optical mark readers are used to input lottery tickets. Magnetic ink character readers are used to verify cheques that are used as payment and chip & pin devices are used for taking card payments. We can even make contactless payments using our mobile devices by using NFC. Apple Pay is an example of this.
This has made the sales process much quicker and more efficient. It also reduces errors as staff don’t need to manually record sales and calculate total costs. We now even have self-service EPOS systems so that you don’t even need a sales assistant working at every till. This saves the business a lot of money and saves customers a lot of queuing time.
Personal computers and servers are used by shops for the management of their stock. Database management systems that run on servers will connect to the EPOS systems. When a product is sold this information is sent through to the server and the database will be updated with the new reduced stock level.
Our stock management server can also be connected via the internet to the servers at our warehouses. This allows the system to order new stock automatically so that the new stock will arrive before the old stock runs out.
Stock management systems automate so much of the process of monitoring stock and making orders that we often need much less administrative staff, which saves the business money. This also helps to reduce human error in recording stock levels and ensures that you both don’t run out or order too much stock.
It’s not just in a brick-and-mortar store that digital devices are used in retail though. Most shops have online retail websites, or e-commerce sites, which they use to sell and advertise their products over the internet.
To run an online website all a business needs is a web server to host the site, as well as a personal computer to develop and maintain the site, such as updating prices and adding/removing items. This is very cheap to do when comparing to setting up a brick-and-mortar store.
Some additional benefits to the business are that they can sell their products to a worldwide audience, rather than just to people who live in the surrounding area. They can also make sales 24 hours a day 7 days a week.
Loyalty cards are also used commonly thanks to digital devices. How do these benefit the business and the customer?
2. Organisational Use
Businesses use digital devices in many areas in order to make themselves more efficient. Whether it is through holding meetings, managing finances or writing reports, digital devices take a very important role.
Spreadsheets and accounting software can be used by organisations to manage their finances. This could be tracking sales and expenditure and calculating tax for example.
Most businesses will also make heavy use of personal computers in order to use software like word processors, desktop publishing, and presentation software in order to produce documents they require for their business operation. This might be producing a sales report for senior management, a presentation to give to investors or brochures to advertise products.
Businesses will also use digital devices for the internal and external dissemination of this information. Thanks to communication devices and servers, for example, we can share information through email or over a local area network and using mobile devices we can access this information on the go.
This helps to make the business much more productive. Less time is spent correcting human error as so much is done by the computer and sharing information can be done so much quicker using email and cloud storage.
There are a number of software packages that are designed to allow you to hold meetings over the internet, as opposed to face to face. A popular example of this software would be Citrix GoToMeeting.
These video conferencing software packages allow you to have voice and video conversation like with VoIP. However, they are designed to have multiple people take part in the meeting and have added features, like being able to display a presentation and share documents with those in the meeting.
This saves a business a lot of time and money as employees will not have to travel to the same location in order to take part in the meeting. This also helps to support employees with working from home.
Design & Manufacturing
The manufacturing and construction industry makes use of digital devices heavily for their business operations.
Computer-Aided Design (CAD) software is used to produce technical drawings. This is used in the construction industry to create architectural drawings and the manufacturing industry to design products or parts.
We can then use Computer-Aided Manufacturing (CAM) controlled machinery to produce the objects we designed with the CAD software. This might be designing an action figure in CAD software and then a 3D printer to actually produce it.
This has made businesses much more efficient. Designs produced in CAD software can easily be modified if changes are required and final designs can be quickly sent to clients via email. When manufacturing the objects this is done with machinery which doesn’t require breaks and can work 24/7.
It also helps to reduce human error as CAM controlled machinery will always perform the same task to the exact same standard, never making mistakes. So you can be confident every component produced will work as expected.
How else might a business use computers for their administrative tasks? What does your school use them for?
3. Creative Tasks
The creative industry has benefited a lot from the growth of digital devices. Digital devices are now used to perform most tasks within these industries, almost completely replacing the older tools once used.
The video game and film industry make heavy use of personal computers for the creation of 3D graphics.
In the film industry, so-called ‘CG effects’ have heavily replaced older fashioned physical effects. You see 3D models produced using digital devices in almost every movie released nowadays. This is due to it often being quicker, and also because it is more flexible as changes can be easily made to a 3D model.
Similarly, the majority of high-end video games use 3D graphics for the game characters and environments. This has added a new level of realism to video games and we’re even using Virtual Reality headsets to experience the graphics in 3 dimensions.
When we take photos and videos using digital cameras, one of the biggest benefits is that we can load them onto a personal computer for editing.
Professional photographers now heavily use both digital cameras and personal computers for this purpose. This might be fixing the lighting of a picture of a house that an estate agent is selling, or even removing certain objects from the picture, such as a bin. It could also be removed blemishes, such as spots or red-eye from a photo of a person.
However, photo editing has been subject to some controversy. We commonly see people in magazines that are heavily edited which people say sets an unrealistic expectation of beauty, particularly with young people.
In addition, the movie industry is very reliant on these digital devices. Most films are shot on digital cameras and are then edited in video editing software on personal computers. These tools allow us to edit our videos with much greater simplicity and speed. We can also easily make multiple copies to ensure mistakes are recoverable.
Logos, leaflets, brochures, magazines, books, comics. All of these and a wide variety of other graphics and documents are created through the use of personal computers running graphics editing and desktop publishing software.
Graphic designers used to do the majority of their work by hand. Books, for example, were typeset manually, positioning individual characters on a printing press. However, now we use desktop publishing software for designing the layout and typesetting things like books and magazines.
This is much more efficient than manually typesetting a book which would be a painstaking task, positioning the individual characters. We can also send the data off to printers quickly, such as by email, to produce the final book, magazine, etc.
What other types of documents are produced using desktop publishing software? Other than PCs for running DTP software, what digital devices would be useful for the graphic design industry?
So to summarise what we’ve learnt in this lesson:
- Retail uses of digital devices include EPOS, stock management & online retail websites. This has made buying and selling products much more efficient for both businesses and customers.
- Organisational uses of digital devices include administration, video conferencing & design and manufacturing. This has helped save businesses money by reducing staffing numbers and travel requirements.
- Creative Task uses of digital devices include 3d graphics, photo/video editing & graphic design. This has made it much quicker and easier to perform common creative tasks.