Convergence 2.0


C MOBILE.gifConvergence was the buzzword of the ‘noughties’. Many companies envisaged the merging of different technologies to create simpler and more functional computing environments. Perhaps the biggest example of convergence over the past decade was the ubiquitous uptake of IP as a network protocol. It pervaded everything, and created a world in which the world's communications traffic - whether voice, data, or video - could run over a single transport layer. Now, thanks in part to this unification of network standards, we can prepare for a decade of convergence further up the computing stack.
We can see this convergence as different emerging trends in computing draw closer together.
For example, social networking–which is predicated on processes and software, rather than basic networking functionality–is converging with other technology developments such as ecommerce. 
Just look at the huge success of Groupon, the social shopping site, as an example of that trend. These developments will in turn be complemented by others, such as mobile web and location-based services. We can expect to see an inflection point in the coming year or two, in which ecommerce, social networking, and location-based ‘check-in’ games come together to create a new customer experience. 
In such a scenario, companies using these technologies may not only be able to measure and capture a customer’s interest, but may also be able to correctly track the customer's intent, using prior behaviour and current situation to correctly identify the user’s need and satisfy it immediately.
What might this look like? Using check-in data from a service like Foursquare, we know that John regularly visits a particular tapas bar in his hometown, and that he tends to do so at certain times of the day. Referencing his social network data, we know that he has purchased six cut-price restaurant tickets in the last two months. That information may cause an advertising network to automatically send a coupon for appetizers at a local Spanish restaurant to his mobile phone when he arrives at a remote destination for a business trip.
Cloud computing is another example of such convergence. Marrying increasingly functional and powerful mobile devices with cloud-based resources is already resulting in some interesting stuff such as Omoby's visual search. It is easy to imagine a service that takes the image of someone's face from a phone's camera, beams it to a cloud-based service, conducts facial recognition, and returns details from that person's LinkedIn account to the phone's owner.
Stewart Baines

I've been writing about technology for nearly 20 years, including editing industry magazines Connect and Communications International. In 2002 I co-founded Futurity Media with Anthony Plewes. My focus in Futurity Media is in emerging technologies, social media and future gazing. As a graduate of philosophy & science, I have studied futurology & foresight to the post-grad level.