What is the Internet of Things (IoT) and why should you care?
We’re living in the midst of a hyper-connected digital age where technology evolves rapidly and automation is fast becoming a tangible part of our everyday lives. The Internet of Things is no longer the next big thing — it’s here.
And as costs decrease, IoT for business is becoming more accessible at every level. In fact, Gartner estimates IoT device use will reach 20.4 billion by 2020, up from approximately 8.4 billion in 2017.
Now, while it might be a scary concept for small business owners, our ever-shifting digital landscape does have its advantages — and the Internet of Things is one of them.
Let’s take a close look at what is the Internet of Things, what it means in a small business context, and how you can use the IoT for business.
What is the Internet of Things (IoT)?
“The Internet of Things is not a concept; it is a network, the true technology-enabled Network of all networks.” ~ Edewede Oriwoh
The Internet of Things (IoT) is best described as an interconnected system of objects and computers through the use of sensors.
Sensors transform everyday objects into devices for gathering data and sending information, essentially making the transition from an inanimate object to an invaluable smart device.
Data is sent from these sensors to your computer or smartphone for a variety of functions from domestic tasks in the home to complex commercial projects.
But to really understand the possibilities of IoT, we need to think beyond the physical aspects of devices and sensors and instead focus on the connectivity — and ultimately, the new and efficient ecosystem it’s creating.
An example that many IoT advocates point to is infrastructure, and bridges in particular. A bridge in Minnesota collapsed because the stress on it was too great. If the bridge was connected to the Internet of Things, sensors would speak to computers, telling them that the bridge was compromised. A smart bridge would save lives. If you were the contractor for the bridge, it would save your business.
That’s why companies like AT&T have launched infrastructure monitoring services.
Small business owners can also think bigger when considering the possibilities of IoT.
The potential of IoT for business
To give you a clearer perspective of the power and potential of the IoT for business, here are some essential insights you should know:
- As far back as 2008, there were already more objects connected to the world wide web than the number of people on the planet.
- The IoT wearables market (this includes the likes of FitBits and smartwatches) is projected to be worth $25 billion by 2019.
- By 2020, a quarter of a billion vehicles will be connected to the Internet, giving us entirely new possibilities for in-vehicle services and automated driving.
- A staggering 87% of people don’t know about the IoT in an official capacity. A prime opportunity to get ahead of the competition.
Related: The IoT in healthcare
How to use the Internet of Things for your business
Now that you understand the untapped power and potential of the IoT, let’s take a look at how you can use the IoT for business to enhance overall efficiency, productivity and intelligence.
Invest in a voice assistant
Not many people realize this, but voice assistants like Google Assistant and Alexa are devices that can let you use the IoT for business.
By investing in a voice-enabled assistant that you are most comfortable with — along with your laptops, desktops and smartphones — this device will essentially act as your IoT nerve-center.
It’s possible to connect voice assistants to both physical and digital objects or platforms, meaning you can use the IoT for business to order new supplies or inventory with a simple voice command.
Likewise, you can automate reminders and run task management tools to help you with everyday tasks or duties (you can also ask your assistant to do things like turn the lights or heating on or off, if you wish).
Related: 7 steps to get your business ready for voice search
Streamline your multitasking
As a small business owner, regardless of your industry, niche or trade, chances are you need to juggle a host of things at any one time — and multitasking is an area where you could use the IoT for business.
This technology enables you to streamline your daily activities and focus on the things that really matter.
By linking all of your most valued organizational, productivity and data analytics tools into a highly-organized IoT system, collating each tool into one central location, you’ll be able to create a steady workflow that will help you juggle your workload with ease through direct desktop notifications and automated task-based programming.
Moreover, if you’re a small business operating in a commercial space, minor mistakes like leaving lights on over the weekend or forgetting to arm the security system can prove detrimental.
By investing in a ready to use multi-device IoT package, you’ll be able to automate these simple office maintenance tasks, potentially saving you time, money and unnecessary hassle.
Related: Automate your business backend these six intuitive tech tools
Be transparent with your team
This is a quick pointer but it’s important nonetheless: while the IoT for business isn’t yet at a point where it threatens to override the human race, some of your employees might be confused or sceptical about using the IoT for business.
To ensure everyone is up to speed, feels secure and is able to take full advantage of the IoT’s inherent value, consider holding regular meetings, practical workshops and forums.
Choose the right tools
Using the Internet of Things for your business will only be as good as the tools operating or working within it. That said, here is a hand-picked selection of IoT tools that are particularly useful for small businesses:
As the adoption of the IoT is rising in the business world, certain software developers have created IoT suites that essentially help small business owners monitor devices, manage internal tools or platforms, and create their own custom systems with detailed step-by-step instructions and support.
It’s possible to use smart locks in offices or retail locations, and they’re relatively easy to install. By using smart locks, you’re minimizing the chances of your keys getting lost or stolen while keeping an accurate log of who entered or left the premises, and when.
Related: 7 simple ways to automate your home business
To help keep your business running as economically as possible, you can implement room occupancy sensors that gauge how many people are in a room at particular times of the day.
Not only does this data empower business owners like you to determine when a room is empty and automate a light or heating switch off (saving on utility bills), but you can apply the same notion to scheduling meetings by understanding the optimum times of the day or areas of the business for a productive gathering.
Image the possibilities with the IoT
It’s a brave new world, indeed, and those that embrace it today stand to reap incredible rewards tomorrow.
Imagining the possibilities of the Internet of Things is imagining a future in which sensors and devices do all the work, and people reap the benefits of a wealth of data.
For business owners, the Internet of Things is a gateway to higher efficiency, lower costs and invaluable market insights.
If the IoT continues to grow as big as predicted, we can expect more shifts in the fundamental way we do business in the coming years. By using the right tools and taking the right approach, the Internet of Things can enhance your operation in ways you never thought possible.
This article includes content originally published on the GoDaddy blog by Ariana Crisafulli.
Image by: Clint Adair On Unsplash