Three ways the Internet of Things continues to change businesses

The Internet of Things (IoT) isn’t just making our personal lives easier by automating our everyday processes, it’s also having a massive impact on the way businesses run. New efficiencies are created in three key ways as businesses access this innovation.

We don’t always see the IoT at play, but it’s one of the biggest technological forces humanity has ever encountered. In fact, when the IoT is working, we experience it seamlessly. This is because the IoT relies on internet-enabled devices connecting to one another and exchanging data. The IoT has turned the everyday objects that surround us into ‘smart’ devices.

In practice this means a fridge for your home will adjust to the temperature that ensures your food stays cool and fresh. It means streetlights come on at dusk, because they can sense that evening is beginning. And it means hundreds of almost invisible sensors working in concord to collect and disseminate data.

This is just the beginning. Soon we’ll see widely available smart cars, driverless and attuned to any potential hazard they could encounter. In your home or office conditions will constantly be adjusted, keeping your environment temperate and consistent. You won’t need to instruct your gadgets to carry out everyday processes like syncing, as this will all happen in the background.

While it’s nice not to have to remember to fill the ice-cube tray, the IoT is having an even more significant impact on large and small businesses worldwide, enabling them to work smarter and make huge gains. 

Data has your back (up)

According to Wired Magazine, “… the real value that the Internet of Things creates is at the intersection of gathering data and leveraging it. All the information gathered by all the sensors in the world isn’t worth very much if there isn’t an infrastructure in place to analyze it in real time.”

The IoT makes a huge amount of data available to your business. The insights you can gain from monitoring and analyzing your data mean you can adjust staffing and stock levels to create maximum profits and streamline time-consuming business processes like ordering and supply. 

But as Wired Magazine points out, the value here comes not in accumulating the data but in putting it into action. Before you embark on an engagement with the IoT, you need to have an idea of what you want to solve, to track the problem you’re looking to fix. Then you can design your data capture accordingly to ensure your results are meaningful.

Sensors make sense

Sensors are crucial to the IoT as they collect and share information. Taking all shapes and sizes, they are the workhorses of this revolution. Is there some way your business can use sensors? Examples might include controlling the temperature of stockrooms, keeping tabs on stock rotation, giving you a clearer picture of customer flow during the day or better monitoring of company vehicles and mileage.

Don’t expect sensors to be expensive or large either. We’ll start to see a rise in ‘smart’ packaging and labelling where the purchase process can be streamlined. It might be as simple as going into a shop, collecting the item you want and paying for it as you walk out the door – a system completely without contact, and with reduced needs for expensive staffing and purchase systems 

It’s not just retail that stands to benefit. As circuits and chips get smaller, ‘smart’ paper will help to authenticate documents, creating a massive boon for the legal profession. It will also be easier to take your real-world interactions online. For example, business-card company Moo has just launched a product embedded with an NFC chip – when a person connects the card with an NFC-enabled device, the business-card owner’s selected information is displayed, including website, online shop or app.

Operate in real time

The IoT does away with the need to collect and interpret data in a cycle; instead you can receive data in real time, allowing you to make continuous improvements and adjustment to ensure you’re always working as efficiently as possible. You don’t need to run out of stock to realize things are running low and you can use your information to plan ahead with new levels of detail, making forecasting a lot more reliable.

A note of caution. With these great powers come greater responsibilities. Security and privacy concerns are very real when you’re embracing IoT technology. Any plan for adoption of widespread data collection and dissemination also needs to include increased security and planning at every level.

Resources/further reading

http://www.wired.com/insights/2014/11/the-internet-of-things-bigger/

http://www.theguardian.com/small-business-network/2015/mar/31/small-business-internet-of-things-smart-connected