The "Internet of Things" Is Coming. Are You Ready?
Mar 19, 2015
By Lorna Collier
The Internet of Things, also referred to as IoT, is being touted as the next big tech development set to transform our lives and change the way we do business. It's already partly here but as technologies coalesce, is likely to become even more of a force in the near future.
So what is it? IoT refers to Internet-connected devices working together. "Devices" include everything from smartphones to wireless printers to Internet-enabled sensors to the thermostat in your office and more. Industry analyst Gartner, Inc. says that 4.9 billion connected things will be in use this year, and that number is expected to soar to 25 billion by 2020—more than three times the number of people on the planet.
As these billions of connected devices "talk" to each other, all kinds of use cases become possible, many of which make business processes more streamlined and efficient. Check out our list of smart business applications:
Create a more energy efficient office. Similar to "smart homes," a smart office can be established by interconnecting devices like motion sensors, lights, thermostats, even automated window shades. Did everyone just leave the room? The lights will automatically go off and heating or cooling drops. Super-sunny day? The window shades will close on their own.
Better understand your customers through sensors and data analytics. Want to see how your sales display is working out? Sensors in your store can track how customers respond to it, showing "where customers are and aren't gathering," says the National Federation of Independent Business.
This is just one example of what's possible using multiple data streams to track retail sales and customer behaviors, and thus to boost sales. "Companies will need to start using IoT data as part of their planning in order to stay competitive and to offer new services and products," Mary J. Cronin, business professor at Boston College, tells Business News Daily.
Track inventory and fulfillment. Sensors can be used in many ways throughout your business' workflow, and that includes tracking where inventory is and whether it needs replacing. The Pew Center found that tech experts expect IoT to result by 2025 in "vastly improved productivity in manufacturing at every stage, as supply chain logistics are coordinated."
One example: putting GPS sensors in shipping pallets to track their location, providing data not only about where they are but what conditions they are encountering.
Monitor your business remotely to enhance productivity. You can track employees through devices they carry or wear. You can also view your workplace through live security video, streamed to your phone or other mobile device. Some tools exist that let you talk to visitors, such as delivery drivers, via video, Inc. reports.
Other remote sensors can track things like whether your plants need watering or your fish tank has sprung a leak, sending you text alerts before expensive damage occurs.
Take extra precautions when it comes to security. A word of caution when it comes to IoT: the more devices that are connected, the more havoc a hacker can wreak on your system. That's why cybersecurity will be crucial as IoT takes hold. While IoT promises many benefits, you will need to stay vigilant to ensure your business is safe from breaches.
About the Author
Lorna Collier is a Chicago-area writer whose articles about business and technology have appeared in the AARP Bulletin, Intuit Small Business Blog, Workforce Management, Crain’s Chicago Business, CNN.com, USNews.com, the Chicago Tribune, and many others. Follow her on Twitter at @lornacollier.
All content provided herein is for educational purposes only. It is provided “as is” and neither the author nor Office Depot, Inc. warrant the accuracy of the information provided, nor do they assume any responsibility for errors, omissions or contrary interpretation of the subject matter herein.
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