The Internet of Things (IoT) is a broad term that describes the relationship between the physical objects around us and the internet. IoT-enabled objects can track, store, and even make inferences from data.
Computers and sensors can not only communicate with each other (as in M2M connections), but they can make relevant connections by bringing in outside information from the internet or other databases. This increasingly interconnected relationship is reshaping modern society, helping us monitor our health, cars, and homes for starters.
The classic picture of IoT is the “smart house,” complete with a fridge that orders milk when it’s empty, automated temperature controls that save energy, and entertainment systems with a life of their own. However, IoT is not just reserved for the personal, consumer world. IoT can significantly help your small business thrive better, too.
Let’s explore the ways in which IoT can boost your business. But first, keep in mind that – as with all tools which use the internet and record data – caution must be taken so data doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. For example, cyber security companies in London use these tools to protect the businesses they serve from hacking.
Consumer Use of IoT
As life with increasingly advanced technology becomes normalized, consumers come to expect a certain level of convenience that only IoT can bring them.
They’re used to using IoT applications in their every-day life, so it will appeal to them to interact with your business in a way that makes the most sense to them.
Small businesses should recognize consumer behavior and involve IoT tools during customer interactions. According to a Forbes Insights study, 90% of businesses said improved customer experience is one of the most important aspects of IoT.
For example, you can create an entirely personalized experience from first contact to delivery of product/service by sending personalized communication to your customers. Additionally, you can create an app to make using your products or services easier – and more appealing – to your consumers.
If your company has a physical product, you can consider having smart chips installed to make your product compatible with IoT.
Data can be tracked by certain devices and instantly recorded into cloud systems. This removes much of the admin process and eliminates wasted (human) time and energy.
Additionally, there’s highly sophisticated Business Intelligence (BI) software which can increase a company’s competitiveness by studying the collected data. The insights gained from such analytics can inform major decisions for the business.
Long gone are the days when a company had to rely on creating customer surveys to try and understand their customers better. Instead, it can gain insights very quickly about its average customer, such as what kind of customer buys which kind of product, and/or during which range of time.
Advertising and promotions can be adjusted in real-time depending on various factors, such as consumer location, current sales, or inventory levels. The possibilities are almost limitless.
Most people enjoy engaging with virtual, robot-like intelligent assistants like Siri for Apple, or Alexa by Amazon. Unsurprisingly, they can also have a significant impact on increasing your business’ efficiency by ensuring processes are organized and well taken care of.
AI assistants can perform a variety of amazing tasks, such as conducting research, sending emails, and adjusting schedules. They easily sync to your other apps and devices, using automation as part of the process. Staff can better focus on other tasks – rather than busy-work – while the assistant manages their calendars, tasks and all administrative needs. You can even streamline such processes as ordering office supplies or making travel plans.
Using IoT in – and outside of – the office can significantly foster better teamwork amongst your employees. They can easily work remotely while using an IoT device, the internet, and a cloud service. This allows your team to work together regardless of location.
Of the 269 companies surveyed by Harvard about IoT, 58% said it increased collaboration within their business.
As Cisco asserts, IoT is essential because it affects – and dramatically enhances – human communication, and humans evolve because they communicate. The ability to acquire pieces of data and make correlations between them is a human trait which facilitates wisdom and advancement. With IoT, we can speed up that process.
In terms of business, this means catering to your customers (who want to gain wisdom quickly) in the way they’re most accustomed to. It means being able to analyze your customers or your products in revolutionary ways, without using excessive human resources. It means streamlining administrative tasks so your business runs smoothly, and your employees are free to use their time more productively. It means enhancing collaboration amongst employees so they can better serve your business.
Just as a “smart home” uses IoT, a business that uses IoT is a “smart business.”
Author: Roy Castleman is founder and managing director of Prosyn Ltd. (PROfessional SYNergy), a London-based IT support organization focusing on small and medium-sized businesses. An experienced consultant in disaster recovery, he has accreditation with such companies as Microsoft, HP, and Cisco.