This article originally appeared in the Dec. 2012 issue of INTERNET TELEPHONY.
One of the more exciting trends in technology today is the convergence of different applications and functionality into a common platform. Convergence (News - Alert) is the process of technological evolution where one device can perform multiple tasks that used to be thought of as separate. We see it everywhere: from our cars (most are available with GPS, satellite radio, and various other sensors) to our entertainment (the Xbox offers access to movies, live sports, social media, chat, and of course, video games) to the most recognizable symbol of convergence, the smartphone (with applications for controlling your music, your TV, your security system, and just about anything else).
And even with all these very visible examples, convergence is still in its early stages.
Convergence can be broken down into two components: platforms and devices. For instance, where we once had the Walkman (devices), we now have music solutions (platforms). Thanks to iTunes, music has found a home on a multitude of devices, helping create a digital music ecosystem that supports convergence. As music moves from being stored on your computer or phone to the cloud, it’s not hard to conceive of convergence producing a larger entertainment ecosystem that can be accessed from anywhere on any device.
We can see examples of the same type of convergence in the way we communicate. For years, the business and consumer worlds were treated to a steady influx of new communication channels such as e-mail, voice, IM, video, text and social. Initially, there was nothing to bring these new channels together, leading to multiple conversations on different platforms, and ultimately an incomplete and inefficient communication experience.
Then came the next logical step: unified communications. UC consolidated these channels on one platform that is device agnostic and supports mobility. This last factor is especially important, considering the fact that devices such as smartphones and tablets are now blurring the line between communication channels and devices. Convergence helped give rise to UC, which promotes efficiency and collaboration but also supports the ongoing bring your own device trend.
For the individual, we see some spillover from that same BYOD trend, with employees now able to work from anywhere.
Convergence is a trend that will only accelerate, both as new channels emerge and as UC platforms evolve and adapt to include them. Take, for instance, the recent announcement that the new version of Microsoft (News - Alert) Lync (Lync 2013) will integrate Skype. This combination, long-anticipated since Microsoft’s $8.5-billion acquisition of Skype in 2011, will include new capabilities for rich presence, IM and voice.
And this trend isn’t just for existing channels such as Skype and social media. With mobile payments and video chat expected to make their way into the mainstream in the coming years, convergence will absorb these functions as well. As smartphones and tablets help us become a more mobile society, convergence-centric systems such as UC will only grow more valuable.
Convergence will likely have a similarly transformative impact on customer contact. Envision a dynamic app that presents customers with a full range of contact options – from self-service to text chatting to video chatting with a live agent.
Similarly, the traditional contact center as we know it will cease to exist, replaced by a virtual platform that seamlessly distributes customer queries and outbound calls to agents around the world.
Several years from now, we will look back on 2012 and shake our heads about how we got by. I, for one, can’t wait to see what the future holds.
Mike Sheridan is executive vice president of worldwide sales with Aspect (www.aspect.com).
Edited by Braden Becker