Internet of things: The buzzword to rule them all or 26bn reasons to embrace the Internet of Things and make your business more efficient.
The Internet of Things, IoT for short, is the killer buzzword we’ve grown weary of hearing. It was coined in 1999, but hasn’t made much of a practical impact. Or has it? In 2020, we’re surrounded by IoT technology — from smart pacemakers texting your doctor in emergency, to police cars catching offenders on the road with smart cameras, to British Gas smart meters monitoring your consumption in real time.
If you still think the Internet of Things is futuristic daydreaming, think again.
Analysts agree that IoT will grow exponentially, with Gartner predicting up to 26 billion devices in five years. That’s over three times more than all PCs, tablets and laptops combined.
How well will you and your business harness this potential? And what will your new business do to ride the wave?
It’s easy to dismiss the Internet of Things as a sophisticated concept only suitable for tech giants and think tanks. However, at a very basic level, adopting IoT means embracing a digital way of doing things.
The Internet is the power cable supporting all this technology; it’s just the web expanded to device-centric interactions. In addition to people looking at your website, you add mobile apps, real-time reporting, automated inventory management and other machine capabilities.
Whatever your business or idea, there is an IoT tool that will help you succeed.
Adopting digital means:
- Setting up an active website as your online identity
- Making it useful and engaging for visitors
- Using the Internet to interact with customers and colleagues
- Planning and running your business via the web
The more web-based services you adopt, the more IoT opportunities you discover for you and your customers.
Here are three examples of how everyday smart devices can improve your business:
- Smarter workplaces. If you’re a new business with no premises or infrastructure, IoT enables you to collaborate with your peers and mentors. You can plan projects, schedule meetings, and manage your entire business online from your phone.
If you have an office space, IoT applications are endless. Buy a smart whiteboard to capture your ideas while brainstorming. Invest in smart lighting to cut operational costs. Set up a warehouse tracking system to automate inventory management, and always know where your goods and assets are.
- Smarter workers. Efficiency is key to the success of a young business. Cloud-based collaboration software will enable you and your colleagues to work quicker, easier and in unison. For example, Microsoft Office 365 with unlimited cloud storage automatically syncs up all shared documents across all your devices. If you’re editing a spreadsheet on the train, it’ll pop up in your accountant’s folder automatically once you hit Save. Magic!
- Smarter services. IoT enables you to differentiate your business and provide greater value to consumers. Extra layers of data you’re able to aggregate and leverage from various devices can revolutionize the customer experience. For example, you can text or tweet a discount to a loyal customer if they are in your store, or display status updates and processing times on your website to manage the flow of enquiries.
Perhaps on reading this you realized that you’re living smart already in some way or are actively considering investing in IoT-enabled technology. It is beyond doubt the smart way to go, but it comes with new risks and considerations as well. Do your research before you take the plunge and start broadcasting everything via the web.
The more exposed you are to the Internet, the more you need to protect your data and your digital identity. If your website collects customer data in any way, even if it’s just their name, email address and phone number, you should invest in an SSL certificate to encrypt this data and protect it.
If you’re running an ecommerce website make sure whoever runs your IT and web infrastructure performs regular malware scans and upgrades to maintain your site and keep email and internal systems protected from hackers. If you’re a one-man-orchestra, don’t worry. There are easy and affordable managed solutions that will do the job for you.
Hopefully this last part didn’t dissuade you from embracing the Internet of Things, but simply warned you of new challenges and precautions necessary.
The IoT is here, and it’s here to stay; not coming along is not an option. Think about the early days of the web when companies were afraid to connect their computers for fear of viruses.
Smart devices are our next shift and you can choose how you leverage their potential to get ahead, to innovate, to succeed with your business idea. Do so safely and securely for the greatest benefit of your customers, and you’ll be a winner.