Document Management Magazine

The Integrated Digital Environment (IDE):

The Electronic Super Highway Of The Twenty First Century

by Herbert Schantz


Sources: (1) Essays by Dr. K. Megill, "The Integrated Digital Environment (IDE)", 1998.


Approaching The New Millennium

As we approach the next millennium imaging and information technology are expanding exponentially, providing more "enablers" to help government and industry increase productivity, reduce costs, and optimize their work processes. This requires not only technology but also change:


  • Change in the work processes,
  • Change in the business operation,
  • Change in the culture of the human operators and users.

How Far We’ve Come

Twenty years ago most government and business executives did not know how to type and most wouldn’t. Today, executives communicate with their computer. For this is their vehicle to the "Electronic Super Highway". Executives no longer "dictate" information for secretaries to type. Today, they communicate with their staff and customers in real time, on-line, via their computers.

For several centuries prior, stone tablets were used as the communication media. This gave way to (paper), which has been the primary means of communicating business data and information from the addresser, to one or more addressees for several centuries. Today, "Snail Mail" is being replaced by E-mail, as a viable and efficient means of business communication. E-mail is useful but limited for document processing applications, especially if the document is electronic in nature and has audio and video components. Then, the E-mail of today becomes the "Stone Tablets" of the next millennium.

Providing Access To Information

The solution to minimizing the use of paper and optimizing the flow of data in business applications in the next millennium, is a new environment where data and information in digital form will be available to all "qualified users" from their computer (palm top, lap top, desk-top, or a workstation.) The crux of this "Integrated Digital Environment" is access. Access to data from any database within any data warehouse anywhere on any network including the Internet: from your digital terminal, workstation, or personal computer.

For instance, this means that needed budget data can be obtained by accessing the databases on the network (or network of networks) where the required data is resident. This is especially essential for large global enterprises that have many divisions in many worldwide locations. Data required in Washington can be generated by a division in Israel and stored on a database server (in Israel). With the correct password(s); and immediate access offered by the Integrated Digital Environment, the user in Washington can digitally access the server in Israel and securely download the digital information (text and graphics), which is the data required for the annual budget being prepared at Headquarters in Washington.

In general this methodology applies to almost all information or knowledge essential for making a sound decision, (i.e. sales data, production data, or inventory data). Using current imaging and information technology this application is feasible. However, to make it work efficiently and obtain the results desired a cultural change is required. A change where operators in one location freely share current and accurate information with peers at various other locations. The key to success with an Integrated Digital Environment is the immediate access to data by authorized sources. Thus, the hoarding or distortion of the data must be minimized and eliminated. There must be a discipline that dictates that data created in one place is available for all authorized peers to access, as required. Data doesn’t belong to the peer. Data is an enterprise resource to be shared and made available for all authorized peers without exception.

What Is An Integrated Digital Environment?

Historically integrated digital environment has had several definitions. Initially, "integrated digital environment" was used to designate an "integrated data environment." An "integrated data environment" was essentially one in which information was integrated by creating one or more shared databases that use the same data entities. Information was duplicated from one fixed or inflexible database to another. Consensus standards, (which establish the protocol), were usually created at a server or executive level. As required, to maintain consensus, standards were often relaxed through negotiations and compromise to provide the common (shared) environment for all users.

Another definition of "integrated digital environment" was a dynamic data environment where all users draw from a common virtual database, which contains data supplied and maintained by an unlimited number of providers. This "integrated digital environment" is supported by a shared information environment providing immediate access to the digital data. An example is the Computer Aided Logistics System (CALS). With CALS, the shared information infrastructure consists of the equipment, software, and communication networks required to store, control, and transport data between dispersed locations (i.e. a continent away). However, as this system grows and more people in more distant locations use this single integrated data environment, the more difficult this system becomes to manage and control. One of the main reasons for the complexity of this system is that the language from which data elements evolves means different things, in different cultures. Over a period of time even words means different things to users in different cultures and countries. (i.e. a "Boot" in the UK is a car trunk; it is footwear in the United States, and a discharge from employment in Australia.)

Today, The Integrated Digital Environment does not require a common set of databases as it is based on the principle of making information readily available to others. The originator or creator of the information is the "owner and keeper" of the data. "Keepers" are responsible for maintaining information in a current, accurate, and useable state, which meets the business standards of their enterprise. In The Integrated Digital Environment, IMMEDIATE ACCESS replaces copying and reporting. An effective Integrated Digital Environment requires unlimited connectivity and information sharing.


The Integrated Digital Environment, is the Electronic Super Highway; a dynamic information environment that supports business activities and provides immediate access to required information. The present day Integrated Digital Environment is identified by:

    • Connectivity
    • Information Sharing
    • Tools (IT enablers, such as OCR, Networking, Workflow, Data Mining, and Image


    • Corporate Memory
    • Immediate Access

An Integrated Digital Environment is the super set of the Information Domain. An Information Domain is an organized body of information or knowledge that provides answers to the businesses or enterprises. An Information Domain can be any medium; paper, microfilm, or digital. There are advantages and disadvantages to all three media. However, it’s my opinion that most of the Information Domain in the next millennium will be digital and the environment will be integrated. However, changes in culture will need to be effected before this is a reality. At the "enterprise level", this will entail a change in both corporate and human culture, in addition to the mandatory changes in the work processes.

Wave Of The Future


The fourth wave of the world technological and economic environment will most likely be driven by the Integrated Digital Environment in the same way that electricity drove the second wave (machine age) and digital computing the third wave (information age). Now these enablers are all catalysts for the Electronic Super Highway of the 21st Century. The timing for this depends on the time required for the culture to change and the environment to be accepted. There’s often a lag. For example, electricity was discovered in the 18th century and the first commercial light bulb was provided in the 20th century.

I believe that portions of the Integrated Digital Environment will be adopted and demonstrated by the end of the 20th century and that it will be fully operational in the first decade of the 21st century.

That’s my view of the Imaging and Information Technology Industry relevant to The Integrated Digital Environment from 10,000 feet.

Herbert F. Schantz CDM, PE, CDP

HLS Associates

Washington, D.C.

703 444-7037