IoT: Coming to a Small Business Near You

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a growing market on both the individual and enterprise consumer scales. There are already 6.4 billion IoT devices in the United States, according to research by Symantec, and that number is constantly climbing.

What is the IoT, you ask? Forbes gives a great definition, explaining, “Simply put, this is the concept of basically connecting any device with an on and off switch to the Internet (and/or to each other). This includes everything from cellphones, coffee makers, washing machines, headphones, lamps, wearable devices and almost anything else you can think of.”

Believe it or not, IoT technology has the potential to save small businesses money, time, and energy, whether through mobile payment services (i.e., Square), or temperature control (i.e., Nest), or surveillance (i.e., AT&T Digital Life).

Here are three of the biggest benefits we’ve seen for our clients:

    Lower Operating Costs
    There are a number of ways that IoT can save small businesses money. One of the primary ways is through reduced operating costs. For example, smart lighting and climate control can reduce energy usage by up to 90%. As Brian Jepson wrote, “You pay for the energy you waste; not only is energy expensive, but poor resource usage is intimately connected to operational inefficiencies.”
    Increased Productivity
    IoT can save small businesses time by making data available in real-time and allowing your teams to accomplish large-scale tasks faster and with greater precision. This newfound capacity will enable you to scale operations in new areas and grow your business.
    Broader New Product Offerings
    Data is power, and IoT devices provide greater access to data for small businesses than ever before by connecting consumers in new ways with more interactions. Companies can take advantage of this new access to data – and data-based insights – in order to understand their target demographics and develop better products.

To ensure that your organizations enjoy these upsides of IoT, make sure to understand what you currently spend on equivalent services without IoT technology and what skills you have on your team.

Then ask: what are the upfront costs for the IoT services you are considering? Will there be future costs for the service? Upgrades you will need to make? New equipment you should budget into the overall costs? Skills your team will need to manage those devices?

Several providers are developing platforms that help companies take advantage of all the benefits of IoT and address these questions, thus minimizing any possible speed bumps along the way. As an example, Microsoft recently announced a cloud-based tool called IoT Central, which is designed to simplify IoT deployments and make them easier for businesses to manage. The platform enables users to monitor their devices through a cloud-based dashboard.

Keep in mind that IoT can also pose security risks stemming from lack of regulations or systematic reminders regarding upgrades. In our next post, we will delve into these specific risks and our experts’ recommendations to empower you to enjoy the upside of IoT, while protecting yourself from any potential downside!