The problem of compatibility between wireless devices is being addressed at an international conference this week. Scientists will be discussing what has been dubbed "Tower of Babel" technology - software that can converge different wireless gadgets into a single device. The aim for Software Defined Radio (SDR) is to be able to translate and understand any kind of radio wave signal, such as 3G or wi-fi.
If you were to go on a hill-walking trip, you might have a walkie-talkie to talk to friends who are not far away, a mobile in case of emergency, GPS, a Bluetooth connection and even a laptop or PDA with a wireless LAN connection. Every single one of these things is a radio, and they are all slightly different.
But in the future, with Software Defined Radio, all you need is one thing that can do the job of all of these devices. Convergence, that's what the scientists are talking about. The idea behind SDR is that an aerial in the device picks up radio signals passing through the air waves.
An analogue-to-digital converter transforms this signal into a digital format, which can be understood and manipulated by software onboard the device. Currently, most devices rely on hardware, rather than software, to get at the information in radio signals.