Given that your smart phone can be used to control your car, make payments for your shopping, or work as an entertainment device, convergence is certainly closer to us than we think. Devices are becoming platforms rather than point products; platforms that can onboard a variety of applications depending on the user’s need. Enhanced user experience is becoming a key element in driving increased adoption of a single device for multiple usages.
What is driving this huge transformation of the industry, that was only making incremental improvements earlier? Three factors, according to a Forrester report: Mobile, Cloud and Smart Computing. The arrival of all these 3 through the effective backbones of smaller form factors, faster speed of broadband connectivity and the advent of platforms have brought convergence to the center of our lives.
The consumer electronics market today, not only includes TV, DVD, music players, mobile devices, telecom, white goods, tablets and computers, but is also expanding its influence into automotive, medical devices and industrial products. While the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) caught global attention for the launch of 50 different tablets, it was also the first time that all major car companies participated at CES with equal gusto. Your car is becoming increasingly electronic as it becomes smarter, safer and nicer. The cars of tomorrow provide platforms for applications to be downloaded to create unique user experiences. Consumers want all of their related applications from smart phones to be seamlessly transferred to their cars as soon as they start the ignition. Ford, for example, is offering ‘MyFord Touch’ technology as standard in a number of their new cars that, as per them, is “a revolutionary in-car technology that lets you be connected to your world”. It allows you to play music from your smart phone without even taking it out of your pocket and allows you to save your favorite picture as wallpaper much as you can do on your iPhone, tablet or laptop. Cars are becoming smarter and gather their own data and tomorrow, they may also be able to recommend which restaurant you want to try next!
Convergence goes beyond products and platforms to create significant user experience in activities that were once considered routine like payments. The next generation consumer will look to enable payment directly from smart phones rather than from credit cards. Reports suggest that only 10% of total monetary transactions are with cash due to the use of credit & debit cards; a similar revolution has the potential to make credit cards obsolete. Google last week announced their mobile payment platform – Google Wallet – based on NFC(Near Field Communication) technologies that allow consumers to tap their NFC capable phones against a reader at participating retail stores in New York City and San Francisco. All of the major telecom companies such as AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile are working on launching payment solutions within a year. Japan and South Korea have already taken the lead on NFC, having used this for a couple of years now. This technology will bring yet another dimension to the seamless convergence experience.
Convergence is also driving home to be connected with smart devices. This brings all the elements of a smart home onto a converged platform – be it energy consumption thru HVAC control, security systems thru wireless cameras, digital audio, video and picture contents on home network, or the white goods to operate at the most optimum time for the lowest possible cost of electricity. The ability to securely manage and control your home through the smart phone remotely, anywhere in the world, truly brings convergence to life.
Convergence leverages the user experience with a platform to bring technologies together for the benefit of consumers. With the advent of Cloud, many of the services in the future can be leveraged on a need basis for the time duration required. It’s just the beginning of convergence – connectivity, smart phones and applications platforms have provided a new avenue for bringing it together.