Everyday, we manage large numbers of contacts across a variety of devices. For example, I have a PDA, a phone (which happen to both be the same device so that synchronization is instant), a work PC, a home desktop, and a laptop. In order to properly keep all my data in sync, I need to hook up each of those devices on a one to one basis. Problems occur when content falls out of sync on a device.
One thing all those devices have in common, however, is that they are all connected in one way or another to a network, and can access the Internet. As the network becomes more and more central to our daily lives, why is it that no one has come up with a solution that allows for synchronization on a central device (probably a server sitting on the Internet)?
In the case I am highlighting, the central server would be a repository of basic information: contact info. However, the challenge comes from the fact that it would be able to synchronize in real-time without involving any actual extra work on my part.
The system I am describing would have some key features. First of all, it would have to be easy to use and access. A simple screen would allow me to enter basic data on a single person: name, email address and phone number. Once entered, the system would fire off an email to the person so they can add the rest of the data themselves. This would ensure that the information is up to date at the time of entry. Every so often, the system would double check with the person to ensure that their data is up to date.
Devices like my phone, PDA, or computer would then use some pull technology to get their information up to date on a regular basis (every hour? every day? every week?) and update themselves automatically.
All the components seem to be here to devise such a system. For starters, building a central repository is largely an issue of proper database management. Of course, there is a need for a proper security wrapper to ensure confidentiality but it seems to me that this is also available.
The auto-update feature would mirror technology already built into the major operating systems (be it Windows Update, RedHat Linux Up2Date, or OSX. The last part that needs to be agreed upon is a consistent way to push this information across all devices, allowing for similar functionality on phones and PDAs too.
Granted, this centralization of contact may not please everyone. As a result, the software should allow users to point to a different central server (hence removing the possibility for one company controlling all this information). Systems like Microsoft passport have failed in the past because they assumed that control should remain in the hands of a single company. A way to get around this would be to use a web service approach that would sync data across multiple servers (a server administrator would be able to set levels of access to the federation and a user would also be able to customize whether they want that information to be made public.)
The end game here is a system that would allow for synchronization of data with minimal involvement from the end user (meaning the devices would be smart enough to distribute the information amongst themselves once they have been registered as trusted entities by the user). We’re starting to see some of that with products like Apple iSync but those still rely on a desktop metaphor, control of the system by a single vendor (in this case, Apple), and some level of user involvement in order to sync data up (even though connectivity between devices can easily be established with things like BlueTooth).
I’m dubbing this concept SuperSync.
Does anyone out there know of a system like the one I am describing? If so, please feel free to contact me.