Small businesses have witnessed and benefited from multiple waves of new digital technology over the last two decades. From email to social networks, online and mobile payments (e-commerce) to digital transformation and cloud-based storage, software and tools.
Now we have the Internet of Things (IoT), which for some small and medium enterprises (SMEs) is already transforming service delivery and customer interactions.
But what does the “Internet of Things” (IoT) mean? It is also known as the world of “connecting devices”, which doesn't only mean smartphones, tablet and laptops but, literally, anything.
Technology is making it possible to connect almost anything to the Internet, from light bulbs to doors, fridges to water pipes and hundreds of other things that previously weren’t connected to other devices or computers. Everything about connected devices is designed to work in a practical setting, creating cost savings, improving efficiencies and increasing revenue.
Although at present, IoT applications and services are increasingly common in the home (e.g. Amazon Echo, Google Home, Apple HomePod, and smart meters etc.) and large businesses; SMEs are yet to fully embrace connected devices. However, experts point out that once they do, cost savings and improved efficiencies could generate returns that are hard to ignore.
IoT Benefits for Small Businesses
#1: Energy Efficiency
Smart meters are the most common example of connected devices right now. Meters are connected to gas and electricity coming into a house; they monitor usage in real-time, transmit that data to energy companies and ensure customers save money since bills are based on actual - not projected - use over a month.
Businesses are also getting them installed, to keep energy costs low. With sensors and tracking devices, such as Tado, Hive and Nest or more advanced systems, you can monitor and manage an entire building remotely, thereby improving energy efficiency and cost savings even further.
#2: Reduce Vehicle Insurance
Telematics for fleet management is also nothing new. Dash cameras are also increasingly popular, which can include an automated remote recording of video footage. For businesses, this is a great way to reduce insurance costs and - if anything happens – identify who is at fault.
Telematics and smart-driving monitoring apps and other connected devices make it easier to assess driving patterns, speed, and other information that can reduce insurance costs.
#3: Monitor Stock
Manufacturing and ecommerce SMEs can also benefit from stock management systems. Buying too much or too little - especially when there are production timescales and shipping to consider - can cause serious problems for small business. Either customers are unhappy waiting so long for products, or you’ve got an overextended cashflow, with too much capital put in stock instead of the bank.
With software and tagging systems, you can keep an accurate real-time record of stock levels. No more guessing or undertaking time-consuming stock counting exercises.
#4: Improve Production Quality
Smart sensors and monitors aren't only useful for ensuring the heating goes on before people arrive on a cold winter morning. When an SME is manufacturing products across multiple sites or multiple product lines at the same site, smart monitors can track and assess production quality in real-time. Production, quality control and management oversight is easier when various systems monitor production outputs and other inputs (such as soil quality - for farms and specialist growing companies).
Connected devices - also known as the IoT - is the next wave of innovation that small businesses can access and benefit from. It can be challenging, getting your head around another new area of technology, which is why it’s always worth speaking to your IT partner to see how you can benefit from the Internet of Things.
As with any technology, new systems will need to be managed to ensure they deliver their promised ROI. Speak to your IT service provider about how they can help your business integrate IoT solutions into your existing IT infrastructure.
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