Internet of Things (IoT) technology is increasingly being developed for a wide range of business uses. For example, Daimler uses the IoT to help cars stay at safe distances; Ericsson monitors ship location and cargo temperature; Virgin Atlantic collects in-flight component data; and Disney World uses its visitor wristbands to see which attractions are the most popular. Drinks company Diageo has even made a smart bottle of Johnny Walker Whisky that can tell when it’s been opened and send messages to the owner’s smartphone.
There are thousands of other devices being developed, with countless applications, each bringing benefits for enterprises and their customers. If the Internet of Things has not been something you have considered before, here are some of the main ways it can have an impact on your business.
The advantages of IoT
1. Gathering rich data
The Internet of Things enables businesses to gather a wide range of data about their customers and their products, giving them a deeper understanding of how those products are used and how they can be developed in the future to give customers an even better user experience. For example, an IoT-enabled car tyre could monitor usage and performance in different conditions, helping to improve tyre design. It could also be used to suggest the most appropriate tyres for different customers and let them know if any tyres had defects which needed attention.
2. Customer communications
The information gathered by Internet of Things devices can be easily sent to your customers via app notifications, device screens messages, text and emails. This can help you provide on-going customer service that is above and beyond what you offer today. For example, smart metres could remind you to turn off lights in empty rooms and food packages could notify you when their contents were about to go out of date.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. Better stock and resource control
IoT devices enable enterprises to have a clear, real-time overview of their inventory and use of resources. They can know where items are and what has been shipped, damaged or used. The ability to analyse this information will lead to greater efficiency, prevent stock and consumables from running out and reduce the financial burden of over ordering.
4. Enhanced security
IoT-enabled access control and CCTV equipment can help strengthen the security of your business. Developments in CCTV technology mean it can discover and track suspicious behaviour and notify security companies and the police. Anyone responsible for security can also watch CCTV footage remotely, in real time, over the internet.
IoT access control devices can do far more than control and restrict entry to your premises. They can be used to monitor attendance and punctuality, book rooms and resources, and even manage car parking. Importantly, for those businesses with multi-site operations, this can all be managed remotely or from a single control centre.
Gearing up to use IoT
If you are considering taking advantage of the Internet of Things, then there are a few challenges you will need to overcome along the way. Below are some of the main ones.
1. Investing in IoT devices
To reap the benefits of IoT in your business will require some investment in the necessary technology. For this, you will need to acquire the devices you wish to use and the software needed to operate it and analyse the data. Whilst this could amount to a significant capital expense at the outset, the return on investment could be well worth the spend. Luckily, many new products being developed are already IoT-enabled.
2. Training your staff
Adopting new technology will require you to train the staff who are going to use it. The amount of training you will need obviously depends on the number of staff needing to be trained and the complexities of the technology.
Training will require staff to take time off from other duties and may involve training costs, both of which need to be taken into consideration and planned for before the IoT technology can be used.
3. Security challenges
As you may have read in recent newspaper reports, one of the potential pitfalls of IoT devices is that some are vulnerable to hacking. This has been the result of device manufacturers enabling internet connectivity without giving due thought to the security aspects. Some devices, for example, do not have password protection or enable default passwords to be changed.
However, demands from industry and the negative publicity which these cases attract means that more and more manufacturers are taking security more seriously. That said, you should make sure that any devices your business uses offer the security you need.
4. Upgrading your hosting needs
Many companies that use IoT-enabled devices take advantage of the highly detailed data they provide. However, benefitting from this will require you to do Big Data analysis. To achieve this, you will need the following:
- Increased data storage capacity for the significant amount of data you’ll hold
- Scalability for 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
For most businesses, cloud hosting is by far the most cost-efficient and expedient solution to deal with these increasing IT needs. It provides all the hardware and computing resources required without the need for capital expenditure and you get fully managed, scalable, high availability hosting included in the service.
As more IoT devices are developed, the Internet of Things will have an increasingly bigger effect on the way enterprises operate. From reading this article, you should now have a clearer understanding of how your business can take advantage of IoT devices and Big Data and should be better informed about the obstacles which you will need to overcome.
If you are considering using IoT devices or Big Data analysis, take a look at how our cloud hosting packages can help you meet your hosting requirements.