Voice and Interactivity Connect Consumers

BOCA RATON, FLA. -- The convergence of various networks and technologies will ultimately determine the future of business enterprise, according to the keynote speaker at Nuance Communications' Conversations convention here this week. And tools -- such as voice -- that enable platform interactivity will be crucial.

Though much of the keynote by James Canton, noted futurist and head of The Institute for Global Futures, was theoretical -- focusing on many projects and ideas that have yet to see live deployments -- Canton's thoughts on future planning were practical even if the networks he envisioned are some years away.

"Voice will be a critical part of that environment," he said. "When I'm in a social computing environment, can I use voice to cross a platform, [to] say 'Play now?' Probably in the next year, you'll hear how much we use Web 2.0 and convergent voice, video, and data tools to work the enterprise."

The key word, however, is "convergent." Canton emphasized that the success of a network will not depend on any one element but in how well the platform as a whole incorporates a variety of factors, such as IT computing, neuroscience, and nanotechnology, into a customer-centered conglomerate. A greater mash-up between computing and customer care will be crucial for the success of such platforms.

Thus, in the interests of business agility, Canton told the audience that he sees the release of new networking technologies in quick succession, each development trumping its predecessor. "Those that get convergence will get out sooner," he said. "You want to be out in front of the customer and bring them along -- not play catch-up."

At the same time, Canton conceded that, even though a fully networked world might not be hard to imagine, "it's just hard to execute." Still, he isn't simply grasping at air, as networks such as Facebook, Google's YouTube, and News Corp.'s MySpace have become big drivers of social connectivity. He also cited the growth of GPS and other locational technologies as examples: "New kinds of advanced chips [relating to nanotechnology] that together will provide locational awareness, and provide new platforms that today don't exist -- everything will have locational awareness due to GPS," he said.

It's a comment that taps into the mentality driving unified communications. In fact, Canton predicts that "clickstream customers" -- customers buying remotely, unfettered by geography or borders and even themselves working for mobile companies -- will become the pre-eminent target demographic. Consumer devices, many of them mobile, "are driving what we do in enterprise," he said.

Canton also told the audience that the era of non-connectivity and separate silos of information is ending. The next generation of the Internet, for instance, will require adaptive and intuitive computing to understand the customer, as opposed to the customer trying to parse the network. "A big part of this," Canton said, "is the notion of presence, [and] the explosion of rich media and social networks."

As a result, platforms that enable the communication of more sensory-based information, especially voice, will see increased value. "There will be lots of versions of value that are very culturally specific," he concluded. "Global economies will be more intuitive, but only when these barriers between devices will break down. The network will know us and hopefully the software inside -- the brains -- will help it."

Ultimately, he claims, 'getting it right' will not mean following the rule book, but writing new chapters instead.

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