You may perhaps remember a time when you needed a TV for the news, a watch for the time, a dial-up connection for the Internet, and a landline for phone calls – but not at the same time, of course. Those memories are likely growing hazy: these days all of those functions and more can be managed by a device that fits comfortably in your hand. A combination of Moore’s Law and consumer demand has driven technology to innovate, doing more with less and doing it faster, smarter, and spontaneously.

This is technological convergence, but you’d be forgiven for never having heard the term. It’s been a science fiction dream for decades, and is now a daily reality for most of us: our smartphones can do anything, so can our computers and our tablets. Pick a device, and the chances are it can do anything and everything you want it to. Technological convergence hasn’t peaked just yet, however; we do still have multiple devices, even if they all overlap in their functionality significantly – but could convergence be going out of fashion?

Such questions have been prompted by the recent spate of wearable devices released across the technology industry. Smartwatches are the first thing that come to mind, of course, but there are also more specialised devices such as Fitbit or Jawbone, both fitness-specific peripherals. The Internet of Things provides an interesting case as well, a hybrid in which individual devices diverge, but converge by working through a single connected network.

Where does this leave the ultra-functional dream of technological convergence then? In the past, maybe. The concept of technology convergence is still relevant today: nobody wants to regress to having mutually exclusive phone calls and Internet access, but the market is changing. We are saturated with technology; it is both vital and ever changing. In a world where technology is more commonplace than ever, it becomes necessary to use alternative means of judging quality. When everything can do everything, it becomes more important to do something well.

Enter specialised devices, every one of which makes the technological landscape diverge a little further. No bad thing, mind you – jack of all trades, master of none is not necessarily a compliment. Nonetheless, this change in approach may force us to consider the ideals and goals that drive our development and use of technology: quality or quantity? Perhaps the hybrid convergence/divergence model presented by the Internet of Things is the key to the unthinkable – quality and quantity. Fancy that.

Image courtesy of SymoO