Prof (Dr) Sushma Gandhi*
The new technologies have resulted in faster movement of information involving millions of gigabytes across the world in nano seconds. Terms like bandwidth, digital television, gadgets and gizmos hold special appeal for us today. Today the challenge is to get information from whatever source, through the most cost effective method. In this convergence of technologies come handy. They entail integrating all the hitherto popularly employed three distinct modes of communicating information the written word, voice and picture. Digital technologies, the offshoot of the invention of silicon chip (transistor)-one of the most revolutionary discoveries ever created a single medium to record and relay all these three modes of communication.
With the aid of the electronic gadgetry, and by computer surfing of the internet we stretch our senses to the farthest corners of the earth, and to the highest reaches of the sky. But human ingenuity and search for devices of human convenience soon lets even a computer appear too unwieldy, and by working on the principle of convergence and putting in very hard efforts scientists by the application of convergence technologies have now come with a mobile internet through a hand held electronic pad.
Convergence as a new term has been defined as “integration of technological, market and legal regular functions across previously separated technologies, market or politically defined industry structure. In other words, digital convergence can be seen as the coming together of previous technologically and commercially distinct markets such as broadcasting, print publishing, cable television, fixed wire, voice telephony and cellular – mobile and fixed wireless access.”
Convergence is bringing in sweeping changes in several areas of communication and information with regard to convergence of technologies, services, user perceptions, markets and corporate and many other spheres of human activity. Besides convergence is effecting changes in the way we communicate across continents, shop online, conduct business globally and entertain via multimedia and web surfing.
Convergence has now become a global phenomenon. Many services including information, communication and entertainment which were traditionally controlled on a domestic level are now available on a global basis. Convergence today is both consumer demand driven and technological innovation oriented which brings under its canopy every conceivable service.
According to the classic model of mass communication a process begins with a sender (or source) who puts a message on a channel (a medium); the channels deliver the message to receiver. The information highway, as envisioned today, begins in the same way. The channel carries information and entertainment (messages) from many different sources (senders) to many different people (receivers).The messages that return from the receiver to the sender are called feedback. On this new digital highway, messages and feedback can occur instantaneously. The sender and receiver can communicate with each other at the same time.
Today’s delivery system has developed from a communications system that works like an ordinary television (sending messages and programming one-way from the sender to the receiver) to a two-way digital system that can send and receive messages simultaneously and works more like a combination of television and computer, what some technologists call this new information appliance a teleputer/teleporter. Unlike television and telephones, computers can store information for future use which makes the computer different from broadcast, cable, and telephone communications.
To communicate rapidly, telephone communication uses a system of digitalized information. When we talk, the telephone system uses electronics signals to transform our voice into a series of digits – ones and zeroes – and then reassembles these digits into an exact reproduction of our voice on the other end of the line. This method of storing and transmitting data is called digital. Like telephone communications, computers also operate using digitized information and they are also interactive. Written words, audio, and video are translated and stored as bits.
New communication network
Today the communication networks have combined different elements from each of these technologies. The broadcast industry produces content and delivers one-way communication, and very limited two-way communication, by underground (or overhead) cable. In contrast, the telephone companies efficiently using fiber optics deliver digital two-way communication; and the computer technology creates digital storage capability. The network of the present combines all of these elements: content, two-way digital communication and digital storage.
In the networks, we, the receiver/subscriber, choose which service we want using a device similar to a TV remote control, but larger, to turn on our television/computer. The screen shows us a menu of services, much like a computer menu. A set-top box sitting on top of our television/computer is our electronic link to the new communication network.
Similarly, an online edition of our local newspaper includes listing of programs by category (such as comedy, dramas or special); a national video news service; a worldwide video news service; a library of database research service; a sports video and information service; a family and lifestyle video and information service; a travel video and information service; a shopping video and information service; a music video and information service; an online game site; a listing of bulletin board discussion group services by topic; a video telephone message service, with video messages from the day’s callers; a first-run movie service.
By clicking our remote control, we can glance through the offerings of each service and then make our choices. Our television/computer shows several screens at once, so that we can use several services at the same time, each on a different screen. The software in the set-top box tracks our usage, detailing the charges for the services of our choice. The cable, telephone, and satellite companies act as a conduit for all services, gathering them from the national or international network. These companies may choose to offer only specific services; they might package some services together (local, national, and international news services, for example); or they offer an unlimited menu of all services available, and let us make the choices.
The cable, telephone, and satellite companies are connected to the program services by a national and international network or by a satellite system. Program services are providing video on demand, such as movies, interactive services, such as banking, shopping, bulletin boards, online newspapers and information research services, video telephone service, program services (comedies, games shows, soaps, and sports, video game services).
Media companies that already produce content such as publishers of newspapers, TV programs and movies are busy creating more “inventory” for the online world. “Movie companies have been increasing production,” says The Wall Street Journal, “because there is a general feeling that as ‘content providers’ they are big winners in the coming age of the information superhighway.”
As information and entertainment products are digitized, they are easily available in many different formats as quickly as they can be created. Decades of development in the fields of radio, telephony, computers and satellite has been brought together in what has come to be known as the internet. Started as a network of defense and research computers in the US in the late1960s, primarily as a safeguard against surprise enemy attack, the internet has today grown into a giant global network of computer networks. The internet owes its main technical advantage to its military origins. Splitting data into tiny packets which can take different routes to their destination makes it hard to eavesdrop on messages. And a ‘packet-switched’ network can resist large-scale destruction, even a nuclear attack; if one route is knocked out, packets simply travel along one that remains intact.
For the general public, however, the internet has almost become synonymous with instant information and communication. Using the facility of ‘hotlinks’ on the World Wide Web, the user can surf the Net to access an almost unlimited volume of information on about anything under the sky and beyond. But more than that, one can have instant communication through e-mail and even real-time chat with an overseas friend on the Net at a fraction of the cost of an ISD call.
The convergence of computers, mass media, and telecommunications now has helped the local cable-wallah. The Indian government has allowed internet, telephony, videoconferencing and home-shopping and other interactive media services through a family’s home television set and this has been made feasible through Direct to Home (DTH) service. Cable television in India has become the giant lever capable of propelling the nation along its information path. Favorable government policies and new accompanying “mindsets” among media operators and audiences have helped India rapidly expand its digital communication infrastructure.
The most important impact of the computer on society has been generated by the internet. A very rapid rate of adoption of the internet, including the World Wide Web, occurred during the 1990’s. One reason that the internet was adopted so rapidly was the prior adoption of personal computers through which the internet was accessed.
Many observers consider the internet one of the great transformational technologies (ranking with the steam engine, railroads, electricity etc.) that at first challenged, and then fundamentally changed, the way that people learn, play, create, communicate and work. The greatest impact of the internet has been on business. Millions of e-businesses, billion of consumers and a trillion devices are being connected to, and through, the internet.
Digital convergence is when audio, video and data merge to create new combinations in new types of devices. For consumers, digital convergence results in attractive product and solutions with new features. Digital convergence means using common and open technologies to access content and services regardless of the type of connection consumers want to use. Having multiple functionalities in one device brings significant benefits, as people only need a single device instead of several different ones. Additionally, as these are connected, people can share their experiences and ideas immediately-whether it is a spontaneous picture or an important e-mail to a customer.
Mobile TV is the outcome of integrating digital convergence and mobility. Various companies in the market have come up with a wide range of smart phones with an embedded real one video player that allows operators and other service providers to take advantage of this standard content format and other both streaming and live video content for their mobile customers-news, sports, music videos, short films, etc. With the help of 3G WCDMA technology, operators can also offer music and video download services as downloading rich content becomes faster and more affordable. Mobile e-mail and company database access are becoming standard features for mobile devices aimed at corporate users. The increased efficiency that 3G network speeds allow and open internet standards enable these types of features to be implemented in a mobile environment. Manufacturers are expanding their gaming device functionality to include music and video.
With the introduction of DTH services private channels have merged in that they are offering a choice of bouquets for paid TV packages. The World Wide Web (WWW) is crowded with time-sensitive data, news summaries, chat, and multimedia entertainment. The ability to scan analogue images, text and sound recordings, producing digital copies that can be easily manipulated and distributed for use. Digital technology is touted as the ultimate answer to preservations of information that lasts forever along with the ability to clone objects capable of being available to everyone, everywhere, on demand.