In a perfect digital world, you will be able to watch high definition video on your PC in office, switch the stream to the smartphone or tablet as you step out, continue the same video in your car and finally let the home television finish it off as you come back from work. That perfect world, offering a perfect ‘continuum’ for all your content, is not far away. In fact, you can already see some links in the chain I mentioned above.
However, for this seamless interplay of content across devices, you will have to commit your loyalties. For the continuum is likely to be limited to circles created by companies, hardware and platforms. So you will have a Sony or Samsung ecosystem, or one that limits you to devices powered by Intel or running Windows or Apple’s operating systems. Yes, the circles will overlap, but how seamless that experience will be remains to be seen.
Most companies have already started packing in technologies that let devices talk and share content between themselves. There is DLNA, or the Digital Living Network Alliance, which is supported by most top brands; Intel’s Wireless Display or WiDi and Miracast, which is limited to wirelessly sharing video. The chances are that if you have recently bought a smartphone, tablet, laptop or entertainment console, it would have at least one of these options. It is becoming increasingly difficult to stay isolated or not have the ability to share their content.
BlackBerry took the Miracast plunge with its BB10.2 update. Explaining the move, BlackBerry India’s product manager Gautam Shah told me that with people moving towards a connected and ‘smart’ lifestyle, it is becoming extremely important for us to have a single-screen ecosystem which provides wireless and seamless connectivity across various appliances/devices.
Despite the ecosystem barriers, these new technologies will let many users share content across operating systems. But this will work better with photos, video and music, and when it comes to productivity the ecosystem will continue to be a barrier, as anyone who has worked at the same time with a Mac and Windows device will tell you. A big trigger behind the increasing adoption of these technologies is the growing clout of the smartphone as the hub of all content and digital activity in a person’s life. So if you have a great video you shot while partying with friends, you just don’t have the patience to find the wires that will let you show it on a larger screen. Almost every new smartphone comes with a good wireless streaming technology. Even the most affordable of devices come with at least simple Wi-Fi.
The other big factor here is that connected households are now connected wirelessly. According to Philip Solis of ABI Research, the Wi-Fi installed base of products is “4 billion and growing”. This is why for many years now one of the focus areas at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas has been technologies that make Wi-Fi better and, of course, faster. This year, semiconductor giant Broadcom Corporation launched new 5G Wi-Fi system-on-chips that will help deliver HD-quality content, online gaming and other high-bandwidth applications to multiple devices in the connected home.
It is technologies like these that are making people talk more about the so-called Internet of Things. The continuum I spoke about earlier will be a part of this, for the devices that take part in this content sharing will be intelligent enough to know when and what to share. And they will do it between themselves without any help from the user. They will also do much more than share content. They will talk to themselves. For instance, the printer will know that it has to switch on as the scanner is doing a job that will need to be printed. There is no doubt that all this talking is going to be done wirelessly. The only question is whether the printer and scanner will have to be from the same company for them to start a conversation?
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