The fundamental change is that a digital device is not limited to a single purpose. Once the basic capacity is in place a digital device can do many many that is to say many tasks. The most obvious example is a modern smart phone.
However in dentistry we still seem to focus on individual purpose built tasks. We are offered standalone devices that do not connect to the network. For example CAD-CAM or Digital Impressions. Right now all the impression devices can only be purchased as full standalone cart systems. There is no technological reason a digital impression wand could not be plugged into a treatment room computer just as we plug in a camera. There is no technological reason that once the digital impression image is captured it could not be stored in a standard format and transmitted to a lab for fabrication using standard Internet protocols.
There are no technological barriers however there are commercial barriers. The developers and manufacturers simply refuse to make compatible systems and limit buyers to their proprietary box and proprietary network. The result is captive business for the vendor with limited options and more expense for the dentist.
So far dentists have gone along with this and until we as a profession demand compatible options it is in the vendors’ best interest to keep it proprietary.