Driven by advances in technology and consumer demand for enhanced customer experience, the Internet of Things (IoT) is becoming an integral part of daily life both at home and in business. At the end of 2020, there were 8.7 billion IoT connected devices, a figure expected to triple over the next decade. Today, that technology is increasingly being developed for a wide range of uses and here, we’ll look at some of these and explain the benefits and challenges of IoT for business.
Examples of IoT use
Most consumers in developed countries will already have access to IoT devices. We’re all familiar with smart products: energy meters, voice-activated speakers (Google Home, Amazon Echo), wearables, like fitness watches, and the growing number of connected appliances, like kettles and fridges. Their connectedness provides us with helpful information, makes life more convenient and provides more engaging and enjoyable experiences. To satisfy our growing demand, more and more companies are striving to create and deploy smart devices of their own.
Businesses don’t just create IoT devices to sell, however, they also use them to improve their products and services. It is IoT technology that helps Daimler’s vehicles keep at safe distances; it’s what Ericsson uses to monitor ship locations and cargo temperatures and how Virgin Atlantic collects in-flight component data. Disney uses it inside theme park wristbands to monitor attraction popularity and Johnny Walker Whisky has put it in bottles so it can send messages to the owners’ smartphone when it’s opened.
The advantages of IoT
1. Insights from rich data
The Internet of Things enables businesses to gather vast quantities of customer and product data, giving insights into how products are used and how they can be improved to enhance the customer experience. An IoT-enabled car tyre, for example, could monitor performance in different driving conditions, helping to improve tyre design so that it was safer, lasted longer and reduced carbon emissions. IoT data could also be used to help customers find the best tyres for their needs and inform them if any defects needed attention.
2. Better customer communications
Data collected by IoT devices can be used to trigger automated communications via digital channels or even to display on the screen (or voice) of the actual device to help improve the customer experience. For example, IoT lighting could send messages via its control app to remind users to turn off lights in empty rooms and food packaging could notify users when their contents were about to go out of date. Similarly, manufacturers of consumables, such as printer ink, could detect when customers need a replacement and dispatch them automatically before they run out.
3. Improved stock and resource control
IoT device data provides enterprises with a clear, real-time overview of inventory and their use of resources. This helps them know where items are and what has been shipped, damaged or used. Analysis of this data also provides insights that lead to greater efficiency, prevents stock and consumables from running out and reduces the financial consequences of over-ordering.
4. Enhanced security
IoT-enabled access control and CCTV technology are being deployed to strengthen business security. Today, it can discover and track suspicious behaviour and send automated notifications to security companies and the police. At the same time, those responsible for security can watch CCTV footage remotely, in real-time, over the internet.
IoT access control technology goes further than controlling and restricting entry to business premises. Companies are using it to monitor attendance and punctuality, book rooms and resources, and even manage car parking. Being internet-based, it also allows businesses with multi-site operations to manage access control remotely or from a single control centre.
Adopting IoT technology
While IoT is bringing increasing benefits for businesses, some important challenges need to be overcome when adopting it. Here are some of the main ones.
1. Investing in IoT devices
Adopting IoT will require some investment in the necessary technology. This will include the devices you wish to use and the software needed to operate them and analyse the data. While this can be costly at the outset, the return on investment could be well worth the spend. Luckily, as many new products being developed are already IoT-enabled, prices are likely to go downwards.
2. Training your staff
Adopting any new technology requires staff to develop new skills unless you buy in the services of a third-party. The amount of training and associated costs will depend on the number of staff needing to be trained and the complexities of the technology.
3. Security challenges
Before purchasing IoT equipment, it is important to check that the devices are secure. As you may have read in newspaper reports, some don’t enable users to change default passwords and this makes them vulnerable to hacking. There are a number of security issues to consider, such as encryption, network security, user anonymity, data storage and access and so forth. At the same time, companies need to ensure their use of IoT systems and the data they collect complies with regulations, like GDPR
4. Upgrading your hosting needs
Insights from IoT data is one of the biggest advantages of using IoT. However, storing and processing that data requires significant hosting capacity. Before you can undertake big data analytics, you will need the following:
- Increased data storage capacity for the growing data you will hold
- Scalability for a cost-effective way to cope with periods of high demand
- Improved processing capability and performance to analyse big data
- Unlimited bandwidth for the consistent sending and receiving of data from devices
- High availability to ensure your IoT devices and critical apps stay online
The infrastructure best suited for this is the cloud. Cloud hosting is by far the most cost-efficient and effective solution to handle the IT needs of businesses using IoT. It provides all the hardware and computing resources required without the need for capital expenditure and gives companies the benefits of fully managed services, scalability, high availability and 24/7 technical support.
As the IoT continues to develop, it will have an increasing effect on the way companies operate. Hopefully, from reading this article, you should now have a clearer understanding of how your business can take advantage of IoT technology and big data and should be better informed about the obstacles which you will need to overcome.
If you are considering using IoT technology or big data analytics, visit our cloud hosting page.