Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Business and convergent technologies 2 – connecting, networking, accessing computer power and information everywhere all the time

Posted in business and convergent technologies by Timothy Platt on October 20, 2009

The term for it is ubiquitous computing, or at least that is one term for it. A part of the concept behind that term and its flow of meanings congers up images of refrigerators that will call up the grocery store for you to order margarine when you are running out and that is great gee-whiz fluff for tabloids and their magazine counterparts. A lot more of this is simply being implemented and made real, one small but interconnected step at a time. That can mean that new wireless web-ready phone/text messaging/networking handheld we see advertised about every day along with a service plan to make it connect and work through a commercial network. It can mean the new widgets that keep coming out that help you find which of your online contacts are near you right now, where that new tapas bar is, what subway system changes are in effect right now near you or where the traffic jams and road work are creating bottlenecks for drivers and so much more. Do you want to find who has the best price for those new shoes you want at a particular size, brand and style? If you can’t find a widget that will synch with your handheld’s GPS now to tell you, you will be able to find one very soon as there are a lot of businesses and market forces out there ready to offer you that capability.

That does not even begin to scratch the surface for the handhelds or the steady arrival of an increasingly comprehensive array of software tools for enabling them, and these two factors do not begin to more than touch on the range of user-interface resources here and coming online to flesh out this overarching system. Then there are the ongoing innovations in information management on the back end with the supporting computer servers and their operating systems, database and data warehouse and knowledge management systems, plus all those still developing Web 2.0 and 3.0 capabilities and more. New and expanding wireless communications systems and their hardware and software components are definitely included and this is a significant area for growth and development for software as a service (SaaS) and platform as a service (PaaS) and for cloud computing – all still in their infancy if not still in a fetal stage of development for what they can and will become. And on top of this you have business model innovations that create ways to turn all of this raw capability into commercial ventures that can offer and maintain this growing ubiquitous computing capability in the real world and for real people and communities.

Ubiquitous computing is happening, even if it is not happening as autonomous margarine-buying refrigerators. It is happening and in small but very rapid steps that we all see, but that for their individual scale and reach, we do not tend to see in terms of this type of paradigm. And the fact is that these pieces individually connect into and service specific and even compelling marketplace needs. They thrive and expand in capability offered because they collectively create an overall system that adds increased value to each and every part in a virtuous cycle, and with the greatest synergies going to the most effective elements of the system.

This emerging system that we see forming around us offers technical capabilities that we can develop and profitably monetize now, and that make a real and positive difference. And to pick up on the margarine refrigerator for a second, any such innovation and implementation has to also make sense from a business perspective. This bold new refrigerator concept could only take off and become commercially available and viable if there was a market for it and if there was an infrastructure capable of supporting its function and its adaptation and popular support. There would have to be a threshold of perceived need for it in the marketplace that would make it a sufficiently attractive investment for a sufficient number of people to buy into it and want to keep using it.

In future postings I am going to take a closer look at some of these basic areas as touched on above that enter into creating this system, with hardware and software technology, business model and economic considerations, and other parts of the puzzle.

The next posting in this series will look at a new approach to viewing, participating in and thinking about online per se: a key turning-point innovation in how we connect in that has the potential for changing the meaning of the word “online” itself – virtual reality and especially as it moves from the monitor to become a more ubiquitous and direct experience and for a more mainstream market.

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