Accessing and using digital information has become a part of our everyday lives. Around 4 billion people around the world access and use the internet on a regular basis. So digital communication is very important. In this article, I’ll define digital communication and explain how it works.
What is digital communication? Digital communication, aka data communication or data transmission, is the transfer of information or data using digital signals over a point-to-point channel. A P2P connection means a mode of communication between two communication endpoints.
Examples of such channels are copper wires, computer buses, optical fibers, and wireless communications. A more general definition is the transfer of information and data using digital signals over a wired and wireless medium.
Read on to understand more about digital communication and the role it plays in the development of our modern world.
Digital Communication Definition – What Is It?
Communicating using digital processes is a communication technique where the thought, data, or information is encoded digitally as discreet signals. These signals are then transferred electronically to the intended recipients.
It is the transfer of data (digitized analog signal or digital bitstream) over point-to-point or point-to-multipoint communication channels. These channels could be storage media, optical fibers, computer buses, copper wires, and wireless communication channels.
The data or information is represented as an electromagnetic signal, like microwave, electrical voltage, infrared signal, or radio wave.
All modern businesses, institutions, and organizations depend on this system to communicate with each other. In this mode, the source of information typically comes from a computer keyboard and flows or transfers in digital form.
Only one person is needed for this system to work. Therefore, this form of communication reduces manpower and the cheapest form of communication possible at present.
Communicating through digital channels is also the fastest form of communication. Data can easily reach the recipient in a fraction of a second. The recipient of the information does not need to wait a long time to get the information he needs. There is also no need for the two communicating parties to meet personally just to share information.
Two Types of Data Communication
The two types of communication used today are digital and analog. Analog was the form of communication used before when digital transmission was not fully developed yet. Today, digital communication has overtaken analog as the primary form of communication around the world.
In communicating digitally, the transmitted data can be in the form of digital messages that come from a data source, such as a computer or keyboard. The digital information can also be an analog signal like a video signal or a phone call, which is converted digitally into a bitstream. It could be done using PCM or pulse-code modulation or the more advanced source coding schemes, such as data compression and analog-to-digital conversion.
Analog transmission is a system that conveys data, signal, image, video information, and voice through a continuous signal. The signal varies in phase and amplitude or other properties in proportion to that of a variable.
In analog communication, the messages are represented by a limited set of constantly varying waveforms (passband transmission) through digital modulation mode or a sequence of pulses using a line code (baseband transmission). Modern equipment carries out the passband modulation and related demodulation or detection.
What is digital communication? Based on the usual definition of a digital signal, both passband and baseband signals representing bitstreams are regarded as digital transmission. An alternate definition considers the baseband as the digital one, and passband as the transmission of data as a mode of digital-to-analog conversion.
What Is the Main Difference Between Digital and Analog Communication?
The main differences between digital and analog communications are as follows:
1. Digital Signals/Messages Are Discrete in Time and Amplitude
It means that the signal in digital communication can take any value from a limited set of values. Moreover, it can be defined for a limited number of time instances. Digital data cannot be defined in all endless time instances. Human speech is an example, as it has a limited set of characters to form a meaningful language.
Digital communication is typically applied to electrical engineering and telecommunications. Basic principles of digital transmission can also fall under the topics of computer engineering or computer science, particularly in data communications, which can include networking protocols and computer networking. Some examples are inter-process communications, switching, and routing.
2. Analog Signals/Messages Are Continuous in Amplitude
An analog signal can take any value from an unlimited set of values. Examples of things that can be converted to analog data are pressure, human speech, and temperature.
Analog communication or data transmission is the transfer of analog message signals as non-modulated baseband signals. It can also be through passband signals that use analog modulation methods like FM or AM.
This form of communication or data transmission can also be through pulse-width modulation, a type of analog-over-analog pulse-modulated baseband signal. Analog transmission can also refer to passband transmission of bitstreams through ASK, PSK, and FSK, which are digital modulation methods.
How Is Analog Data Converted into Digital Data?
The method of converting analog to digital data is called analog to digital conversion or ADC. This method involves two general steps: sampling and quantization.
If you will recall, a digital signal represents data or information as a sequence of discrete values. This signal can only take on just a single finite number of values (at any given time). On the contrary, an analog signal can be any continuous signal in which its time-varying element represents some other time-varying amount.
The most common way an analog signal is converted to a digital signal is through pulse-code modulation or PCM. An encoder of PCM typically applies three processes in the conversion. These three processes are:
- Sampling – This term refers to the sampling rate or what controls sampling or how often sampling happens. Sampling also refers to the type of sampling.
- Quantization – This term refers to the measurement of the smallest significant bit. For instance, an A/D four-bit converter that measures voltage with the smallest bit of 0.25 volts will not be able to measure variations of less than 0.25 volts.
- Encoding – The last process in PCM. After sample quantization and determining the numbers of bits per sample, the samples can now be converted to nb-bit code words. Every sample will undergo this conversion process.
Why It Became Necessary to Convert Analog Communication to Digital Communication
You may not be fully aware of it, but you communicate your thoughts to other people using different signals. They could be in the form of sound signals, which are generally analog in nature. These types of signals will suffice if you are in proximity to the person you are communicating with.
But when you need to communicate with another person twenty miles away, or maybe even in a different part of the world, you need a more effective communication method so that the other party won’t misunderstand you.
From Analog to Digital Communication
Initially, analog communication was used. Your communication signals are sent over through wires and set up in different forms to ensure effective communication. However, because of long distances, losses cannot be avoided. There will be interferences, distortions, and other losses that make communication unclear and less effective.
Digital communication was developed to overcome these problems. What is digital communication? The signals were digitized through different methods, and we now have our latest form of digital transmission. This modern form of communication enabled a clearer and more accurate communication without any losses in the process. It is made possible because the digital signals only consist of 1s and 0s.
This latest form of communication also enabled enhanced capability in signal processing. Errors caused by random processes are easily detected and corrected. The digital signals can be sampled rather than continuously monitored, which saves time and effort. It is also much simpler to multiplex many digital signals than to multiplex analog signals.
Advances in Communication Technology
With the recent advancements in solid-state electronics and wideband communications, scientists have optimized the advantages of digital data communication. Now, this form of communication is steadily easing out analog communication. The increasing demand to transfer computer data at faster rates is the spur that energizes the move from analog to digital.
The advances in digital information transmission also paved the way for the development of modern digital telecommunications. Its principles and concepts were applied to digital TV, video conferencing, cellular telephony, telemetry, and digital radio.
What Are the Elements Used in Digital Communication?
Digital transmission uses different components to be effective. These elements are as follows:
- Source – This source can be an analog signal, like a sound signal.
- Input Transducer – This takes a physical input and transforms it into an electrical signal. An example is a microphone. It can also be an analog-to-digital converter if the digital signal is required in succeeding processes. Binary sequences represent digital signals.
- Source Encoder – This compresses the data into a minimum number of bits. It eliminates the redundant bits and aids in the optimization of the bandwidth.
- Channel Encoder – It performs the coding for the correction of errors. When a signal is being transmitted, it could be altered because of the channel noise. The encoder adds redundant bits to the data transmitted to prevent noise. These bits are for error corrections.
- Digital Modulator – A carrier modulates the signal that will be transmitted. From its digital sequence, the signal is also converted to analog. This conversion is done so that the signal can travel through the medium or channel.
- Channel – The medium that allows the transmission of analog signals from the transmitter end to the receiver end.
- Digital Demodulator – This starts the steps in the receiver end. The analog signal received is demodulated and converted to digital.
- Channel Decoder – This detects the sequence and performs error corrections. The distortions that occurred during transmission will be corrected by adding some redundant bits. This process helps to recover the original signal.
- Source Decoder – The recovered signal is then digitized using sampling and quantizing. A pure digital output is acquired without any data loss. In effect, this element recreates the source.
- Output Transducer – This is the last step that converts the signal into its original form given at the transmitter input. The electrical signal is converted into physical output through a speaker.
- Output Signal – It is the signal produced by the whole process, such as the sound received from the speaker.
What Are the Advantages of Digital Communication?
The digitization of data signals offers a lot of advantages to the end-users and telecom companies. Here is a list of its advantages:
- The signal is not corrupted since the pulse requires a high disturbance to change its properties
- Cross talk instances very rarely happen.
- There is much less noise, interference, and distortion with digital signals because they are not very much affected.
- Digital circuits are easier to design and much cheaper to make.
- The occurrence of error is not very probable because of the deployment of error-correcting and error-detecting codes.
- Digital circuits are more dependable.
- Hardware implementation in digital circuits is more flexible.
- The configuring process is easier in digital signals than analog signals.
- Secrecy of information is enhanced because signal processing elements are integrated, such as compression and encryption.
- The use of the spread spectrum technique prevents signal jamming.
- Digital signals can fully utilize the capacity of the channel.
- It has a more convenient signal saving and retrieval.
- Similar devices can be used for many purposes because of the common encoding techniques in digital circuits.
Conclusion – Digital Communication Definition – What Is It?
So, to recap, what is digital communication? Digital communication is the transfer of data or information using digital signals over a point-to-point (P2P) channel. A P2P connection is a mode of communication between two communication endpoints.
Digital communication is also sometimes referred to as data communication or data transmission.
Examples of digital communication channels are wireless communications, copper wires, optical fibers, and computer buses. A simpler definition of digital communication is the transfer of data and information through digital signals over a wired and wireless medium.