Just a few years ago, the internet of things (IoT) — a network of connected devices and sensors — was a relatively new concept that was only just being understood by academic and business researchers in terms of its potential.
Fast forward three years, and the world not only has accepted IoT; it’s fully embracing the use of in-home IoT devices such as digital assistants (Alexa and Google Home), WiFi doorbells and thermostats, and appliances. Even more consumers are willingly connecting their vehicles to manufacturer apps.
Benefits Of IoT
Now that consumers are more excited about IoT, the focus is switching gears toward business applications for IoT. And, while there are applications for industrial and commercial use, small business owners may be wondering if this is the time to invest in IoT.
The benefits for businesses and consumers are similar in terms of the ability to share and receive information as well as minimize some time-consuming tasks through automated functionality. There is also a greater level of personalization that can be achieved thanks to machine learning that the devices use to improve various interactions and experiences.
In looking at ways to incorporate IoT within the business I work for, I’ve found five ways that small businesses might be able to start leveraging the power of this technology.
1. Add virtual assistants.
We’ve incorporated Google Assistant and other IoT assistants like Siri for individuals and teams to add productivity and efficiency to our workdays. It saves time looking things up — from a payroll question to fact-checking — as well as helps with scheduling meetings, changing appointments and reordering office supplies. This can be a better way to control inventory because the virtual assistant (paywall) can always be tracking what’s available and immediately reorder when necessary.
2. Leverage equipment management capability.
When you know in advance that something might be wrong with your equipment because you’ve incorporated IoT sensors, it can ensure you get maintenance and repairs done before downtime strikes. We’ve been able to schedule a technician ahead of time to minimize the downtime versus having to do so when there is an actual breakdown.
3. Track time, productivity and collaboration.
Linking our computers and mobile devices provides a way to understand exactly how much time each person is spending on a project, including individual and collaborative time. This helps us better understand who and what is impacting the ability to achieve greater productivity. Having a real-time ability to see what is impacting project completion can speed up how these issues are addressed. This is especially useful when working with remote staff who you cannot otherwise track in terms of their productivity.
4. Manage costs.
Many of the same IoT devices that help homeowners lower costs can also be used in a business environment. For example, incorporating light and temperature controls can reduce energy consumption and provide substantial cost savings. These devices can also control when appliances, machines and equipment are on and turn them off when not in use for further savings.
5. Collect more detailed business insights.
Many small businesses could never afford to get access to the data they needed about their customers. Plus, if they did make a significant investment in third-party data, what they received still might not have provided the information necessary to create a better customer experience. However, if you connect to customer IoT devices, you’ll be able to receive direct information about your customers and their preferences. In return, you can deliver the personalization they expect.