The Internet of Things (IoT) is one of the most exciting technological advancements of the last few decades, combining wide-scale connectivity with a capacity for data collection.
Indeed, its unique ability to interact with various elements separately and in cohesion is a ubiquitous construct in the modern day. It implements a convergence of myriad technologies, such as real-time analytics, embedded sensors, machine learning and commodity sensors to continually send and receive information over a network between different elements and items.
It's not just in our daily lives that this technology has potential, though; it also has a massive part to play in business. Used correctly, it can allow your company to understand your consumers on a much deeper and more interactive level, enabling you to better identify their needs and behaviour.
To illustrate how, we're taking a look at the Internet of Things in business, and the prospective benefits it can offer.
How You Can Leverage the IoT in Business
From inventory demands to consumer demands, and shorter buying cycles to remote work, IoT can impact the way you do your business — in a positive way.
The IoT's ability to track and monitor shipments using a combination of connected devices and communication channels can not only improve transit flow but also help reduce the impact on the environment, by eliminating redundancies (as it facilitates predictive equipment maintenance).
Indeed, the IoT is predicted to play an integral role in B2B applications, helping enterprises (big and small) to generate as much as $300bn in revenue by 2020.
As supply chains churn out massive amounts of data, the IoT can help find new insights to make your brand more meaningful and relevant to your consumer.
The fact that IoT enables you, as a business, to stay in touch with your consumer directly builds a relationship that is far more likely to last.
When it comes to applying the IoT in business, you need to focus on the philosophy that everything has marketing value. By holistically connecting your consumers' areas of life with the products and solutions that are most relevant and appropriate to their needs, the potential is self-evident; indeed, McKinsey & Co. predict that its impact will be worth around $6.2 trillion to the global economy by 2025.
The IoT can make that initial connection better and stronger. You can be a small business and generate better revenue through small marketing campaigns by understanding your consumers' specific requirements and target your communication to them accordingly, without having to spend big dollars on mainstream marketing campaigns.
While your consumers generate your revenue, to get your business to them, you first need employees. Even then, only once they begin to function efficiently can your consumers obtain your products and services in a way and manner that fit their needs.
Through wearable tech and quantifiable data, you, as an employer, can monitor the health, efficiency and productivity of your employees. The IoT enables your employees to exchange ideas between them and build a stronger bond between your business' mission and vision statements, and your employees' growth within the organisation.
The implementation of IoT in your business allows your employees and your business to have more flexibility in terms of working remotely and better time management, too.
The Challenges of Implementing the IoT in Your Small Business
Even though it's a compelling proposition, optimising the IoT for your business is easier said than done. For starters, the cost of implementation can be high, depending on the number of layers you are integrating it to.
As the IoT is not a one-size-fits-all mechanism and is customised based on each organisation's unique needs, businesses have to go to great lengths to understand the physical devices concerning the sensors, PLCs, and legacy machines.
Also, while the IoT makes everything seem like a walk in the park, it does bring with it a certain level of data security risk. The higher the number of portals used to exchange information, the more significant the threat of a security breach.
While the IoT connects multiple nodes and exchanges information on a constant, uninterrupted loop, it can also be detrimental should it record bad data or the wrong information at just one juncture. An incorrect feed might reflect across all the channels and interface points that your devices are synced to.
While the world of communications is moving at a rapid pace, connectivity issues are still not a thing of the past, either. Even the most advanced cities and facilities undergo network downtime and connection problems. In the case of the IoT, it matters to know whether or not a crash in one connected spot will affect the other chains that you are connected to.
How the IoT Is Here to Change the Game
The need for the IoT is clear. Businesses are getting intricate, and consumers' needs are changing by the week, day, and even hour. What was relevant yesterday is not relevant today, in the literal sense – the IoT bridges that gap. Through a connected series of communication channels and a constant exchange of information between multiple variables, the IoT can keep your business relevant and meaningful to your consumers.
In this day and age, no data is too small, nor too big. All information is important, and everything can make an impact on the way you conduct your business. That is why all the major growth industries, including automotive, retail, healthcare, manufacturing, energy, real estate, and transportation, are using the IoT to help define, align, and grow.
Of course, the Internet of Things is still an evolving technology; as a society, we are still in the early stages of our understanding and comprehension of its potential. The more it is used, however, the more it will help your business grow. It is already changing the way consumers interact with companies, and it is most certainly helping businesses to understand their customers on a whole new level.
There is no doubt that there are concerns about its implementation and the possible vulnerability it might bring to the architecture of your business, but with the right IT structure in place and a smart approach to data security, the benefits far outweigh the possible negatives.
That said, the Internet of Things is a revolution that is already beginning. There is a stark learning curve, but once you adapt and adjust, it has the potential to be a hugely productive tool for your business.
Are you implementing the IoT in your business? What are your experiences so far? Let us know in the comment section below!