Technology plays a prominent role in business today. It seems that there are advancements and progressions happening all of the time, and it is critical that companies keep pace with this.
In this blog post, we are going to focus on one of the most important business tech trends for 2022; the Internet of Things (IoT).
What is IoT?
There is only one place to begin, and this is by explaining what the Internet of Things is. IoT refers to all of the billions of physical devices spanning the globe that are now connected to the Internet, sharing and gather data.
As a consequence of the ubiquity of wireless networks and the arrival of extremely cheap computer chips, it is now feasible to turn virtually anything into a part of the IoT. This could be something as large as an airplane or as small as a pill.
All of these various objects being connected and sensors being added to them create a degree of digital intelligence to devices that would otherwise be dumb, giving them the ability to communicate data in real-time without human interference being required.
The IoT is making the fabric of the world that we live in more responsive and more intelligent, merging the physical and digital universes.
Understanding what is classed as an IoT device
You may be wondering what can be deemed an IoT device and what cannot. Virtually any physical object that can be connected to the Internet can become an IoT device. If a product can be connected to the web to either communicate or control information, it is an IoT device.
There are so many different examples here, so let’s take a look at some of them:
- Driverless trucks
- Children’s toys
- A smart thermostat
- Motion sensors
- Jet engines
As you can see, the products and devices that can be categorized under IoT are extensive. This is because of the sheer capacity and capability of technology today. In fact, we are even seeing smart city projects whereby entire regions are being fitted with sensors so that we can better understand the environment and control it as needed.
The term IoT tends to be utilized for devices that you would not typically expect to have a web connection, and that are able to communicate with a network without any human aid.
Because of this, we do not tend to speak about the likes of smartphones or PCs as IoT devices. Despite the fact that there are many sensors on smartphones, we tend to look more outside of the box when it comes to the Internet of Things. A fitness band or smartwatch, however, may be counted as an IoT device.
Why is IoT important for businesses
Now that you know about IoT and what it is, let’s take a look at why this matters from a business perspective.
Here are some of the different ways that organizations or companies can use IoT technology to gain an advantage and achieve digital transformation today:
Facilitate remote working
There is no denying that more people are working from home these days than ever before. This is a trend that was already on the horizon, however, it has only become cemented due to the pandemic. A lot of businesses were forced to switch their work environment to a home-based one, and we suspect that we will see much more flexible working conditions as we move forward.
The good news is that IoT is going to aid this move to remote work. This is because we can connect a whole host of different devices to the same network at the same time. This means employees will be more connected and closer to their job than ever before, despite being far away.
Such workers are going to be able to complete tasks for their team from diverse locations by connecting to the devices in the factory or office floor.
Share data effectively
Smart devices are known for their ability to keep tabs on consumer behavior in an effective and impactful manner, which is critical if businesses are going to flourish today. You need to gather data and learn from it, yet the way in which data is gathered has changed considerably in recent years, with more data being handled than ever before.
IoT devices will not only provide access to customer data but they will also use machine learning to record and track their usage patterns in terms of customer interactions with these devices.
Machine learning makes these devices increasingly smarter so that they can provide an improved user experience and help companies in interpreting data. This exact data is being used by companies to find out what their customers truly want, where improvements can be made, and to create new marketing and advertising methods.
Efficiency and productivity gains
By connecting the key processes of a business, leaders are able to better identify the ways in which they can enhance productivity and efficiency.
According to a recent Inmarsat report, businesses expect the Industrial IoT to increase their revenues by $154 million.
An incredible example of this is what is currently happening in Valencia, Spain, at the Engine Assembly Plant for Ford. Employees at this firm are wearing a special suit that boasts body-tracking technology. Created by Ford themselves, the pilot system has incorporated 70 workers in 21 different work areas.
The technology works in a very similar manner to the motion-tracking systems you are already aware of, which record the ways athletes turn or sprint, or how actors speak or move. The same sort of technology has been used by Ford to design workstations that are not as physically stressful so that the manufacturing process is enhanced.
By tracking workers’ movements in an accurate manner, Ford is enabling changes that are driven by data to its vehicle production processes, which makes them more efficient and safer too.
You can apply the same principles to machines so that problems in the production lines or bottlenecks can be identified, irrespective of how small they may be.
Reduce downtime and lower costs
One of the chief advantages associated with the IoT is that you can lower downtime and operational expenditure.
For instance, digital twin technology is quickly emerging, and this is a key competitive differentiator in industrial IoT sectors. For those who are unaware, digital twin technology refers to digital models of physical assets that are created with the use of real-time data, either in an explodable 3D representation or in pure data form.
If you were in charge of an industrial installation, one small yet vital component failing could mean days and days of downtime while you get to the bottom of the issue and rectify it.
This is something you would not have to worry about with digital twin technology. You can use technology to find out about the failure before the construction begins. It enables you to discover what the problem is before you end up losing out in terms of time and money.
You can slash both system downtime and operational costs with this sort of technology in factories and other industrial installations, as well as helping workers to learn on the job about how machines work or how they can be broken apart for upgrade and maintenance – perhaps smart goggles, AR headsets, or tablets.
Better company insights and improved customer experience
Connected equipment in a wide range of industries, like healthcare, agriculture, supply chain, aviation, and manufacturing, creates more analytics potential and further streams of data. This means that businesses are able to gain much better insights into the operations of their company and how their consumers are using their services or products.
In many instances, cloud platforms by the likes of Google, IBM, AWS, Azure, and Microsoft have enabled this. However, we have also seen that there has been a shift toward edge-computing in certain sectors in an attempt to lower the latency and other drawbacks that can come with relying on third-party, remote data centers.
When a business can understand how its consumers use its products, it can much better fulfill their needs and enhance the consumer experience. In a lot of ways, the retail sector is at the forefront of technologically driven change in this domain. The need for change is reflected in the fall of a lot of household names in the industry, whereas those with data-driven strategies, like Amazon and Ocado have thrived.
If you have a physical store, the time to innovate is now. Smart fitting rooms and predictive recommendations are now a reality. Moreover, we can expect AI, AR, and further trends in the IoT to further transform the industry.
In a shopping environment, it is all about reducing friction in the purchasing experience when it comes to IoT and aiding consumers in terms of interacting with products, typically in an augmented or virtual reality environment before they purchase.
The solutions may still be a little on the clunky side for some, but the message that high street stores can get a boost with IoT is there for all to see.
You can get a good insight into future trends
Aside from all of the benefits that we have spoken about so far, another reason why IoT is critical for businesses today is that you will be able to get some foresight into trends of the future.
As companies are turning valuable data into more efficiencies, the ability to identify trends in the future is becoming more common.
Making sense of current data enables you to make more room for the opportunity to be ahead of the curve and to identify the next big thing.
By assessing current IoT data, businesses are able to creatively and effectively introduce fresh opportunities for new revenue streams, reduced costs, improved productivity, and improve the overall quality of life for employees, clients, and customers.