December 21, 2023

Software and the convergence: Its role in our future

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Software has transformed our lives at work and beyond over the last two decades. It has enhanced how we access information with real-time news, knowledge bases, and online resources. It has changed how we travel with ridesharing apps, booking platforms, and self-driving cars. It has changed how we make ourselves productive at home and work with messaging apps, video conferencing, and collaboration tools.

The untapped potential of convergence

While software has brought many benefits to our personal and professional lives, many traditional industries remain largely undigitized. Industries such as agriculture, manufacturing, construction, hospitality, and healthcare still operate in outdated ways, missing out on the potential of software and digitalization.

With the costs in computing, chips, and sensors decreasing and the rapid progress in Generative AI, we are now on the verge of finally seeing the actual value of convergence: a world where physical world data powered by software unleashes tremendous benefits for consumers, businesses, and society.

The building blocks of convergence

At NGP, we view the technologies driving convergence through three key lenses: Infrastructure, Interaction, and Experiences. All three elements must be aligned to create a truly convergent experience. Software acts as the glue that brings these elements together.

Infrastructure software

Infrastructure software forms the backbone of convergence, enabling efficient operations, scalability, and resource optimization. Key elements include operating systems, cloud computing, containers, databases, networking, monitoring, and security.

Data, stored and manipulated using infrastructure software, is the primary asset. Open-source large language models will be increasingly important in training and tuning this data for various use cases. Low-latency networking and real-time data analysis are crucial for delivering convergence at scale.

Interaction software

The interaction layer is unique to convergence, distinct from the traditional IT software stack. It converts physical experiences into digital data. For example, haptic technology uses vibrations, forces, and other stimuli to create realistic sensations. In XR applications, haptics allow users to feel the textures of virtual objects and interact with them more naturally. In medicine, haptics can provide patients with feedback on their movements during physical therapy or surgery. Another example of interaction software includes real-time rendering engines that create stunning 3D environments, objects, and characters.


Ultimately, the most important aspect of convergence is how users experience the conversion of physical events to digital interactions and vice versa. We will increasingly shift from today's 2D screens to experiential user interfaces, utilizing audio earphones, special lenses and goggles, mini projectors, and embedded sensors. These interfaces will enable seamless communication and interaction with information. With increasing automation, the burden of constantly staring at screens will decrease over time. Generative AI is likely to play a vital role in reducing information overload and synthesizing key actions for users.

Companies leading the way

Several companies are already laying the foundation for convergence, albeit within the confines of the 2D screen world. Examples include:

●  3D Simulation Software: Unity, Ansys, Autodesk, and PTC offer software that can model and stress test the real world digitally in three dimensions. Unity, for instance, can realistically simulate the New York subway system.

●  Digital Twins: Companies like Siemens, Microsoft, Bentley, Ansys, and Unlearn.AI are developing digital twin software for real-time environment management. Advancements in sensors, data, and AI have led us away from simulations to experience the real world as a digital twin. Unlike simulations, a digital twin is constantly connected to the physical object and updates in real-time.

The rapid evolution of software in 2023

While still in its early stages, AI software is evolving at an astonishing rate. Developments that once took years can now be completed in mere months. From the latest iteration of ChatGPT-4 released in April to OpenAI's new custom GPT agents, generative AI has democratized software development, empowering everyday people. Large language models will continue to be refined, converted, specialized, and narrowly tailored for diverse applications, ultimately playing a pivotal role in driving convergence.

Harnessing software for future innovation

Increasingly, many critical problems reside in the physical realm, not within corporate IT departments. Looking toward the future of enterprise software, I urge entrepreneurs to continually ask themselves, "What unmet needs exist in the world today that I can address profitably through software?" Our infrastructure, healthcare systems, housing, manufacturing, and physical environment desperately need significant upgrades and renovations. Likewise, climate change and its weather-related impacts further exacerbate the strain on our physical world.

Software entrepreneurs should seize this opportunity to make a real difference in our world and drive innovation in the physical realm through the framework of convergence.