Technological convergence is a tendency for technologies that were originally quite unrelated to become more closely integrated and even unified as they develop and advance. Technological convergence, in general, refers to the trend or phenomenon where two or more independent technologies integrate and form a new outcome. One example is the smartphone. A smartphone integrated several independent technologies—such as telephone, computer, camera, music player, television (TV), and geolocating and navigation tool—into a single device. The smartphone has become its own, identifiable category of technology, establishing a $350 billion industry.
“Technological convergence” is a concept whereby merging, blending, integration, and transformation of independent technologies leads to a completely new converged technology. This broad, complex concept encompasses a wide range of technologies, including IoT and smart home devices. When a converged technology emerges, it often replaces single-function technologies or renders them obsolete. In this sense, technological convergence can be viewed as a progression or evolution of technology
A discussion of technological convergence in isolation is difficult because technological convergence is closely associated with media convergence and network convergence. Media convergence refers to content that is made available through multiple forms, formats, and access points. Media convergence proliferated as analog mediums of communication became digitized. For example, the contents on a newspaper used to be available only in print. The same content is currently available in both print and digital forms, as text, visual, and/or audio formats, and through multiple devices and platforms including social media.
Network convergence refers to a single network infrastructure that handles and distributes multiple types of media. Network convergence became prominent when telecommunications and information networks integrated; it became prevalent when mobile cellular communications incorporated access to the internet and made it widespread. For example, today’s cable companies process information in forms of voice, video, and data on a single network and often offer their services as a bundle package (e.g., phone, television, and internet services). Similarly, cellular networks, which distribute information to and from mobile devices and fixed platforms, process voice, video, and data.
Prior to network, media, and technological convergences, a separate, independent network was dedicated to handling and distributing one particular type of media that was processed by a single-function device. For example, a telephone network distributed audio information (i.e., voice) between telephone handsets. A broadcasting network delivered video to television sets. Convergence removes such pairing (i.e., “decouples”) between media, network, and device. Decoupling gives convergence its versatility, flexibility, and complexity.
Technological convergent devices share three key characteristics. First, converged devices can execute multiple functions to serve blended purpose. Second, converged devices can collect and use data in various formats and employ machine learning techniques to deliver enhanced user experience. Third, converged devices are connected to a network directly and/or are interconnected with other devices to offer ubiquitous access to users.
Many technological convergence devices are called “smart” devices, which often include IoT devices. Despite a wide range of applications, smart converged technologies share key characteristics: Smart devices can execute multiple functions to serve blended purposes; Smart devices can collect and use data in various formats and employ machine learning algorithms to deliver optimized and enhanced user experience; and Smart devices are connected to a network directly and/or are interconnected with other smart devices, offering ubiquitous access to users from anywhere on any platform.
This occurs when the functions of different technologies are merged and interoperate as a single unit. A converged unit can typically process multiple types of media that correspond to each technology that merged. Technological convergence includes devices and systems that interface with end users. For example, a user interacts with converged devices, such as a smart television (TV), to access the contents that are distributed over a network. A smart TV has combined the functions of a traditional TV, a computer, and several other devices that used to have one specific purpose. In addition to displaying over-the-air broadcast TV channels, smart TVs interface with users to surf the internet, view photos taken from smartphones and stored in the “cloud,” display feeds from home security cameras connected to a network, play music, notify users of incoming calls and messages, and allow video teleconferencing. Smart TVs can process a variety of formats of media to perform multiple functions.
The IoT is a common example of technological convergence. The IoT is a system of devices that are connected to a network and each other, exchanging data without necessarily requiring human to-human or human-to-computer interaction. In other words, IoT is a collection of electronic devices that can share information among themselves (e.g., smart home devices). The IoT possess all three characteristics of converged technologies: multiple functions, data collection and use, and ubiquitous access. Various categories of IoT include industrial Internet of Things, Internet of Medical Things, smart city infrastructures, and smart home devices.
Formally Convergence has been defined as a deep integration of knowledge, tools, and all relevant activities of human activity for a common goal, to allow society to answer new questions to change the respective physical or social ecosystem. Such changes in the respective ecosystem open new trends, pathways, and opportunities in the following divergent phase of the process”
Scientists have considered many types of technology convergences. NBIC, an acronym for Nanotechnology, Biotechnology, Information technology and Cognitive science, was, in 2014, the most popular term for converging technologies. It was introduced into public discourse through the publication of Converging Technologies for Improving Human Performance, a report sponsored in part by the U.S. National Science Foundation. Various other acronyms have been offered for the same concept such as GNR (Genetics, Nanotechnology and Robotics). Journalist Joel Garreau in Radical Evolution: The Promise and Peril of Enhancing Our Minds, Our Bodies — and What It Means to Be Human uses “GRIN”, for Genetic, Robotic, Information, and Nano processes, while science journalist Douglas Mulhall in Our Molecular Future: How Nanotechnology, Robotics, Genetics and Artificial Intelligence Will Transform Our World uses “GRAIN”, for Genetics, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, and Nanotechnology. Another acronym coined by the appropriate technology organization ETC Group is “BANG” for “Bits, Atoms, Neurons, Genes”.
Artificial intelligence (AI) and biotechnology are both on an exponential growth trajectory, with the potential to improve how we experience our lives and even to extend life itself.
Biotechnology, in cost-benefit terms, has been improving by a factor of ten every year. The cost of deciphering the human genome has dropped from $3 billion in 2001 to about $1,000 today; a process that took months ten years ago can now be completed in less than an hour. Likewise, based on current developments, Pricewaterhouse Coopers estimates that AI’s contribution to global output will reach $15.7 trillion by 2030 – more than the current combined output of China and India.
For example combination technologies could tackle a global health issue such as organ donation. According to the World Health Organization, an average of around 100,800 solid organ transplants were performed each year as of 2008. Yet in the United States, there are nearly 113,000 people waiting for a life-saving organ transplant, while thousands of good organs are discarded each year. For years, those in need of a kidney transplant had limited options: they either had to find a willing and biologically viable living donor, or wait for a viable deceased donor to show up in their local hospital.
But with enough patients and willing donors, Big Data and AI make it possible to facilitate far more matches than this one-to-one system allows, through a system of paired kidney donation. Patients can now procure a donor who is not a biological fit and still receive a kidney, because AI can match donors to recipients across a massive array of patient-donor relationships. In fact, a single person who steps forward to donate a kidney – either to a loved one or even to a stranger– can set off a domino effect that saves dozens of lives by resolving the missing link in a long chain of pairings.
Since the first paired kidney exchanges took place in 2000, nearly 6,000 people have received kidney transplants from donors identified by algorithms. But this could be just the start of AI-facilitated organ transplantation. AI can already identify potential donors and recipients; in the future, it will be able to account for even richer patient data, perhaps including moral and religious factors, to help with sequencing and triage decisions (that is, determining whether someone should get a transplant before someone else).
The convergence of nanotechnology, biotechnology and information technology is transforming every aspect of life. Info, bio, nano complement each other and have begun to join forces with cognitive science. Unprecedented enhancement of human performance shall become possible including physical and mental abilities and life extension.
Nanobiosystems shall become essential to human healthcare. Nanotechnology may enable implantable information chip that can be directly wired to human brain Synergism is also possible with psychology and other social sciences. The Brain-computer interface shall become common with systems taking commands directly through brain waves. Brain-to-brain communication shall also become possible through conversion of neural signals into radio signals and vice versa shall be future of communication. The cognitive warfare may become reality with maturing of interface between the human brain and machines between people. Cyborg vision may also become reality through convergence of human and machine intelligence.