If you’re someone who still thinks the Internet of Things (IoT) is tomorrow’s technology, it’s time for a wake-up call. It’s already here and making a big impact on business.
For those that are still confused by the term, the Internet of Things is simply technology that uses the internet to send and receive data. And it’s all around us; we can monitor our health via a watch, keep track of gas and electric using a smart meter, turn on our central heating using a phone, and set the Nespresso machine to make us a coffee. The list goes on.
In the business world too, the Internet of Things is being used by many companies. Rolls Royce constantly monitors its aircraft engines’ performance whilst in flight, UPS monitors mileage, speed and engine health of its fleet, Disney World uses a Magic Band to monitor which attractions people visit when at the theme park. The National Trust even used IoT technology to keep track of its cows.
As you can see, the Internet of Things can bring big benefits for both businesses and their consumers and as more and more businesses take up its use, it’s the ones who don’t who are being left behind.
So, if you have not thought about it before, here are nine ways the Internet of Things can affect your business.
Collecting precious data
One of the main ways businesses use the Internet of Things is collect data about their products. By having a detailed understanding of how different customers use your products, it makes it much easier to analyse how you can make your products more useful for them in the future. For example, an IoT-enabled training shoe could lead to soles which help athletes run faster on different surfaces or prevent joggers getting knee injuries.
Communication with customers
Three-quarters of consumers believe good customer service is vital when choosing a company. As IoT technology can gather vast amounts of information and present it in a consumer-friendly way, it is possible to provide customers with helpful data above and beyond the normal expectations of customer service. For example, a swimming app could analyse which types of stroke have the most positive effects on health and can let other swimmers know how to improve their fitness. Similarly, if manufacturers of products could monitor how frequently individual parts lasted, they could detect when customers would need a replacement and then remind them to order a new one.
Clearer business inventory controls
Using IoT devices can give businesses a much clearer and up to the minute understanding of stock and of their use of resources. The IoT makes it much easier to keep track of where things are, what’s been sold or used, what’s been damaged, etc. Analysis of this data can improve efficiencies, ensure stock and resources do not run out and help keep finances in check by preventing over ordering.
By using smart technology to share this information, it can also aid businesses to improve productivity, reduce errors prevent unnecessary damage.
Reduce environmental impact
IoT devices that monitor how you use energy can have a big impact in helping your company become more environmentally friendly. There are numerous ways this can be achieved, such as finding better routes for transport, monitoring room usage so that lighting and air-conditioning are shut down when a room is empty, and analysing the use of perishable resources to reduce waste.
The other benefit, of course, is that by being greener, there is usually a reduction in overheads that benefits your company financially.
Improved safety and security
Many of the current CCTV and access control products now available are IoT-enabled and bring with them lots of safety and security advantages. As a business owner, it is possible to view what is going at in your premises from anywhere in the world. CCTV systems are now so sophisticated they can spot and track suspicious behaviour and report it directly to security companies or the police.
Access control devices not only control who can enter the building or restricted areas but can be used to monitor where people are, book rooms and resources, keep tabs on attendance and punctuality, prevent overcrowding and, in emergency situations, can be used to direct people to the safest route out of the building.
Updating to the new IoT technology
If you are going to embrace the benefits that the IoT has to offer, then you will also need to invest in both IoT-enabled devices and the software that is needed to gather and analyse the data you are collecting. Depending on what you want to achieve and the technology required this could be a significant capital investment – but one with an even more significant RoI.
However, technological developments move at a pace; microchips with built-in sensors and wireless connectivity are getting cheaper all the time. Indeed, many products now already come IoT-enabled. According to Gartner Inc., there will be 6.4 billion IoT devices online by the end of this year. That’s a 30% increase on 2015. By 2020, the estimate is for 20.8 billion.
Adapting to the IoT future
Enabling your employees to use IoT technology is vital if you are going to make it work for your business so it is important that you also invest in training staff to use the devices and how to adapt to the new business practices and procedures that the IoT will inevitably bring.
Challenges in online security
One of the downsides of moving to an environment that relies on the Internet of Things is that the devices can be susceptible to hacking. We’ve already seen instances reported on the news about drones which can be taken over mid-flight and the potential for IoT-enabled pacemakers to be turned off. In addition, malware can be installed on a great many IoT devices to render them useless or to carry out malicious activities. Even a child’s toy that stores data can be used to send spam.
For businesses that use these devices, it is important that you employ the most robust security measures to safeguard your system and protect any consumers whose data you collect and use.
Changes to your hosting
If you begin to use IoT-enabled devices then the chances are that you will be starting to use what is known as Big Data – the collection and analyses of very large amounts of data. In order to do this, you will obviously need greater storage capacity for that data; the ability to scale up when demand is high; increased processing power to analyse the data; better performance to deal with the speed at which data is collected; unlimited bandwidth in order to constantly collect your data; and in addition, high availability to ensure your IoT devices do not go offline.
Whilst this can be achieved by creating your own data centre, the capital expenditure is likely to be significant. By far the most cost-efficient and quickest way to enable your business to cope with the increased demands of using IoT devices is by opting for a cloud hosting solution. This can provide you with all the hardware and computing resources you require without the need for capital expenditure. It will also provide you with a fully managed, high availability service and the ability to scale up on a pay per usage basis when needed.
The Internet of Things is already making an impact on the way businesses operate and this will increase rapidly as more and more everyday objects and devices become internet enabled. From reading this article, you should now be aware of how businesses can benefit from collecting data from IoT devices and should also understand the challenges that come with them.
If you are considering using IoT devices in your business and need to examine your computing capacity, take a look at our cloud hosting packages.
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