How Your Business Can Take Advantage of the Internet of Things
Written by Steve Ross
The landscape of the world wide web is about to shift again - as the 'internet of things' changes our office environments how can your business take advantage of the internet of Things?
In an increasingly-connected business world, the 'internet of things' represents the next frontier. For anyone unfamiliar with the name, the internet of things essentially takes our current culture of cloud connectivity to a new level, on which each powered device your business uses could potentially become part of your networked IT infrastructure. With every device in your business connected, the internet of 'things' could be fine-tuned to create a smoother, more efficient and more productive work environment.
Harness cloud connectivity
The number of potentially connectable devices is already huge. Approximately 1.5 billion internet-connectable desktop computers, laptops, phones and tablets are sold each year. Beyond that, it is estimated another 200 billion devices could potentially be connected, while 14 billion already are. Tech firm, Cisco Systems estimate the number of connected devices will rise to 50 billion by 2020.
Thanks to the cloud, the internet of things has already found a footing in modern life: smart thermostats allow us to control the temperature of our premises from the comfort of a phone screen, fitness bands record our activity levels, and smart televisions are told what shows to record and when. Almost everything, from the food in our refrigerators to the clothes we wear, may become part of the IoT so there's no reason small businesses shouldn't harness its power to enhance their own products and services.
What does the IoT mean for small business?
While tech experts and commentators once sung the praises of the world wide web and urged SMEs to join the revolution, what can we expect from this latest frontier?
Efficiency: The internet of things will involve vast connective networks transferring huge amounts of information across the cloud - meaning businesses will be able to monitor every aspect of their operations in unprecedented detail. From the factory floor to payroll, the IoT can deliver analytic data on every business process - for example:
- Scanners at point of sale can monitor purchases and send information to the warehouse to ensure inventories remain stocked to the appropriate levels.
- Networked printers can communicate exactly when ink and paper levels need to be replenished.
- Delivery driver routes can be tracked to help determine the shortest, most energy efficient routes between locations.
Retail opportunities: The IoT can bring small businesses closer than ever to their customers and help them find new ones. In particular, the retail industry can take advantage of the IoT to connect customers to products in new and innovative ways.
- Smart sensors in the home - for example, in the fridge or freezer - may detect when supplies of a certain product run low. Users may monitor that information via phone app and then place online orders with your business.
- Smart televisions may be able to send details of products featured onscreen (in commercials or otherwise) to users' phones: where to buy, product stock, etc...
- On the shop floor or on the high street, customers and staff will be able to draw information from the products around them to find alternatives
Security: Since the internet of things will introduce thousands of new points of connection, it will also introduce new vulnerabilities to IT networks. While desktops, tablets and smartphones are subject to stringent security certification in business networks, the same measures may not yet be in place for the vast number of new devices introduced into an IT infrastructure.
With that in mind, your integration of the internet of things will require thought - with phased integration schedules not unlike the management of software updates. Small businesses will have to think more carefully than ever about how their data is stored, and how access is managed and authenticated.
The IoT Has Arrived
The integration of the internet of things into small business has already begun - chances are you have implemented some form of it, in one way or another. Apple Pay was rolled out in the UK last year, revolutionising the mobile pay marketplace. To date over 250,000 businesses accept Apple Pay, with Android Pay and Samsung Pay also available. Your business' integration may be easier than you think: first steps could see you introduce a notification system to inform customers when a delivery is expected, or when a product is back in stock.
Ultimately, your integration process will only be limited by your imagination - so, if the IoT represents exciting new business territory, it's worth beginning your journey today.
Are you planning to take advantage of the internet of things? Contact us to find out how to create new opportunities for your business’ IT infrastructure...
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