Convergence is the merging and integration of two or more distinct technologies in a single system. For example, a smartphone combines the capabilities of multiple standalone technologies in one converged device.
Convergence allows users to perform multiple tasks with just a single device, which saves time, offers convenience, conserves space, and can be less costly. With a smartphone, you can make phone calls, take photos, send emails, listen to music, watch videos, or perform tasks such as banking or shopping. The single converged device combines key functions of a telephone, pager, camera, laptop or desktop computer, music player, video player, and even that scrap of paper that keeps track of errands or a grocery list.
How did technological convergence emerge?
Before the rise of computers and the integration of communication tools, the devices sold in the market featured specific functions. These are unrelated to other gadgets — radios, TVs, CD players, VCRs, cameras, cellular phones, or wired telephones.
The fusion of the mobile phone and the Internet in the late 1990s to the early 2000s gave rise to the convergence of information and multimedia communications technologies. The introduction of smartphones in 2007-2008 best embodied this integration. Today, smartphones are ubiquitous, allowing users to perform multiple tasks with one device — make phone calls, take pictures, listen to music, watch videos, buy/shop, play games, and more.
Other than smartphones, what are some examples of convergence?
- Smart high-definition television (HDTV): Users can watch TV shows, play computer games, browse the Internet, or access their social media accounts. The TV’s added functionalities used to be available only on computers.
- Car infotainment system: Drivers can monitor the vehicle’s surroundings through its video camera, check information in its navigation system, make phone calls, listen to music, know the weather, or anticipate heavy traffic.
- The Internet of Things (IoT) and remote sensing technologies: IoT connects devices, equipment, appliances, and other everyday objects. With IoT-connected medical devices, for instance, a doctor can monitor patients with greater efficiency or perform some medical procedures remotely.
- Autonomous vehicles: Self-driving electric cars combine automobile technologies, advanced navigation systems, remote sensing, computing, and high-speed connectivity to ensure safety in carrying passengers from point A to point B.
- Converged infrastructures: Smart cities connect critical public infrastructures to the Internet for easy and efficient monitoring. A converged bridge, for example, monitors traffic or tracks maintenance and sends information to the data center.
Technological convergence in enterprises
The integration of artificial intelligence (AI), IoT, IT, and operations technology allows enterprises to enhance productivity, efficiency, and adaptability to change. AI and data analytics convergence, for example, enable companies to better understand business processes, operations, and customers by analyzing and presenting data based on changing market conditions. Connecting computing, communications, and data management has led to increased automation in manufacturing, sales, inventory, and logistics.
What advantages and disadvantages does convergence in technology offer?
Technological convergence offers these advantages:
- Convenience and easy access to data: Data needed for more informed decision-making can merge with other business systems to transact business, make decisions, and communicate with others.
- Resource savings: Converged technologies can save on labor costs, inventory, overhead, energy usage, and space.
- Increased productivity, speed, and efficiency: Users can multitask with a single device that offers many different functionalities. The work of five people using specific tools can be done by a single individual through a converged device.