Between major strategic alliances in mobile and new technologies like NFC appearing in smartphone hardware, 2011 will be a catalyst for mobile marketing and connected experiences.

If you don't actively follow the tech community, this week was Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2011 in Barcelona, Spain. Brafton has covered some MWC developments that might interest mobile marketers – including Nokia's declaration that it's after more users and buzz about HTC's “Facebook phones.” But marketers also should consider the overall implications of the conference with respect to mobile commerce.

One interesting takeaway from the event is the evolution of mobile ecosystems and platform convergence. Perhaps the largest example, Nokia's announcement of its deep partnership with Microsoft last Friday was followed up this week in greater detail. Aside from the obvious development of Nokia manufacturing devices for Microsoft's mobile OS, Windows Phone 7, Nokia will also be integrating their extensive mapping, navigation and marketplace technologies into Microsoft's offerings. For a mobile marketer, this is a dream come true because the number of platforms to actively manage for campaigns just dropped considerably.

con·ver·gence noun

The merging of distinct technologies, industries, or devices into a unified whole. (Merriam Webster)

Consider this: You're a marketer at a global company that engages in electronic advertising for several countries. Before, you probably had to manage each country's channel(s) individually, with different vendors and their unique sets of advertising rules – Google is pervasive, but not the be-all, end-all outside of the U.S.A. With Bing enhanced by Nokia's local business and mapping content, using Microsoft Advertising to reach each ad target becomes much easier.

Aside from the marketing benefits, mobile convergence significantly benefits the consumer as well. For instance, Bing in Europe is reportedly lackluster. Nokia's data incorporated into the mix will improve relevancy and results both in core search and Bing Maps. Another example would be Nokia's subsidiary, Navteq. A convergence of Navteq's technology into Bing would give turn-by-turn direction navigation functionality to Windows Phone 7.

Outside of the Nokia-Microsoft example, convergence is occurring in the adoption of Near Field Communication (NFC) technology in mobile devices. NFC technology utilizes short-range radio to interact with devices like RFID tags, credit card terminals and electronic security systems (think passkey readers).

Within the next year, you will be able to wave a cell phone over credit terminals and effectively pay using the digital representation of your credit or debit card. This should be good news to marketers as it will promote mobile commerce (and Brafton has reported on a number of related developments).

NFC technology allows for RFID chips and other implements to wireless transmit object and location-aware data. Expect it to become much more prevalent in 2011. Although NFC isn't new (Asia has had it for some time), it makes way for interesting implementations by mobile marketers. A possible use of NFC would be storing recipes for a food item on a RFID tag. Imagine going to the store – not knowing what you're in the mood for – finding an ingredient and instantly being presented with a full recipe on your phone , including the aisle numbers of any other necessary items.

Want to take it a step further? Imagine that your refrigerator was smart enough to read RFID tags and is connected to the Internet. Each item you purchase will have a tag, so your appliance knows you have eggs for the French toast recipe you found in the grocery store. On the digital shopping list the RFID tag made for you, eggs will be crossed out automatically, with inventory synced between your phone and smart appliances at home. The possibilities are limitless.

If 2010 was the year of “location,” 2011 will be the year of convergence and platform rallying. Expect to see major smartphone OEMs beef up their ecosystem offerings and continue to deliver more and more functionality into their products through strategic alliances and acquisitions.

Evan is Head of Creative & Digital at Brafton. He is a visual designer and brand strategist, manages Brafton's external marketing efforts, SEO and PPC initiatives and plays an integral role in product development across the business.