Convergence of technology is when two or more different entities, originally unrelated, come together in a single system to save space, time and power.
A good example of technological convergence is the mobile phone, originally created to make and receive calls, now, our mobile phones combine multiple technologies; calling, texting, emailing, internet browsing, taking photos and videos (plus much more) from the one device.
There is also a type of technological convergence called Telecommunications Convergence, also commonly referred to as "network convergence" which is where telecommunications technologies, and network architecture is used to migrate multiple communications services into a single network. Such as telephony and data into one single device.
To quote Wikipedia, “Telecommunications has changed from a world of scarcity to one of seemingly limitless capacity.“
How does this apply to a business?
Quite easily, in business, we all have customers. Customers who are busy and want information, service and results quicker than ever before.
Technology convergence allows us to service our customers, easier than ever before and whilst doing that we can significantly reduce our overheads.
Technology Convergence Tools
This is a typical example of telecommunication convergence as mentioned. There is a huge demand for businesses to be flexible, agile and fast to react, ahead of their competitors. Unified Communications (UC) helps you do that by bringing together different technologies to run in sync so that a business can run effectively and competitively. Essentially, it streamlines all communication by converging technologies into one application where you can make, receive voice and video calls, Instant Message and share files/calendars with multiple people, internally or externally.
Unified Communications allows for a smoother communication path for customers, suppliers and staff. Unified Communications is really revolutionising the way businesses operate, especially for small to medium sized businesses, it enables them to have an advantage over their larger competitors.
Chatbots are another form technology convergence where they serve multiple functions such as automated conversation, sharing documents and instant messaging.
Chatbots are used to save a business time, usually, they are more apparent in a support function such as call-centre. The business has a host of documents that may solve a customer’s problem but rather than having to speak to someone directly, a chatbot can automatically offer up the solution to the customer whilst appearing to be an internal person. If the problem can’t be solved, it is then directed to a “real” person to take up the enquiry or problem via instant messaging.
Internet of Things
A perfect example of technological convergence is the Internet of Things (IoT.) Our dear old friend Wikipedia sums it up quite nicely; the Internet of Things, or IoT, refers to “…the internetworking of physical devices, vehicles, buildings and other items – often referred to as Smart Devices or Connected Devices, which are embedded with electronics, software, sensors, actuators and network connectivity that enable these objects to collect and exchange data.”
Have you seen the references to controlled ‘smart’ homes? Controlling the heating and lighting in your home from a connected device such as your phone, so you don’t have to come home to a cold house, or have to turn around at the start of a journey because you think you’ve left a light on. Smart fridges and appliances are becoming commonplace, Samsung have launched a WiFi-enabled model with its own built-in touch screen, so you can order your groceries from your fridge. Yep, that is technological convergence.
It is within the workplace that the IoT is going to make a huge difference to the way we go about our daily lives. Whether a factory, bank, office, you name it, the smart devices that connect to the IoT will become permanent fixtures.
The IoT will connect all aspects of your business, each ‘thing’ will be able to ‘talk’ to something, someone or somewhere else. Running low on ink? Your printer will automatically order more from the supplier. Internet speeds running low? Your router will let your provider know. With the IoT, everything you use and everything that is important to you and the way you work can, and more than likely will eventually be connected.
IoT data is likely to help your business optimize workflows and staffing levels, in turn maximising productivity and efficiency. Predictive analytics will ensure that problems can be prevented. Not only this, but businesses will be able to use the IoT to track customer behaviour, spot trends and roll out new services and products quickly in-line with the consumer.
Frost & Sullivan* has estimated that the IoT will grow to over 80 billion connected devices by the end of 2020.