How IoT Can Help your Small Business?
Internet of Things (IoT) has been the buzzword of the 21st century, often used interchangeably with ‘Industry 4.0’.
IoT has promised paradigm shifts in business applications and consumer products markets.
Consumer IoT is all around you, and already a part of your life. Think wearables, smart sensors, monitoring devices, and more. Also, world-leading corporations are already leveraging the power of IoT to optimize processes, control costs, and improve productivity.
Between these two ends of the spectrum, there’s a massive market that’s warming up to the IoT’s potential – that’s small businesses.
A recent Gartner study shows 80 percent of companies implementing IoT technology feel that they are getting more ROI than expected.
This guide tells you everything you need to know about how IoT is relevant for small businesses.
IoT For Small Businesses – An Introduction
At its core, any physical device that can now connect to the Internet, is a part of the IoT ecosystem. Think of IoT as another dimension of information generation, recording, and analysis. It’s the equivalent of non living ‘things’ being able to talk to you!
This permits hyper-customization and minute process control, which then empower businesses. Small business owners can use IoT technology to manage almost every aspect of a business better.
How is IoT Relevant for Small Businesses?
IoT devices solve traditional business problems and eliminate process constraints effectively. This, in turn, allows businesses to optimize everything, enjoy more productivity, reduce costs, and do a lot more.
Take, for instance, these 5 common business requirements that IoT serves exceptionally well.
1. Access Control
Businesses in the retail and manufacturing industries can benefit from Internet-enabled smart locks. These are the perfect examples of IoT solving real business problems, effortlessly.
Smart locks allow businesses to control access to physical spaces without traditional constraints. Changing password remotely, logging all accesses, and revoking access with ease – smart locks allow everything with a few clicks.
2. Monitoring/Event Recording
Another superb example of IoT devices empowering small businesses is smart cams. These Internet enabled video cameras can record high definition footage and upload it to cloud storage.
The result – businesses don’t have to invest in closed circuit cameras that cost $1,000 to $4,000 apiece. The cost cutting is too good to ignore for any business that needs extended footage recording.
3. Dynamic Inventory Management
For businesses dealing in fast moving consumer goods (FMCGs), smart RFID tags are of immense value. These small devices demonstrate how IoT can bless businesses with unprecedented boosts in productivity.
These affordable RFID tags can be attached to products. Then, handheld devices can record events such as sales, returns, quarantine for quality audit, etc. This speeds up store operations like nothing else.
4. Equipment Maintenance
Downtime is the bane of existence for many small businesses. Most businesses need several hours to recover from equipment crashes, and it costs businesses an average of $10,000 per hour.
Now imagine being able to conduct repairs and maintenance before downtime even strikes! Sounds like magic, doesn’t it? That’s the power of IoT sensors.
When set up properly, IoT sensors can warn small businesses of an impending breakdown so that they can schedule a technician ahead of time to reduce downtime. This beats attempting to manage the entire mess once a breakdown already occurs.
5. Energy Management
Homeowners can use IoT technology to reduce costs. The same applies to business environments.
Small businesses work with limited financial resources. So, lower energy consumption with temperature and light controls can enable major savings.
These IoT devices control when machines, equipment, and appliances are switched on and off. This optimizes use, increases the life of equipment, and reduces operational costs.
Success Stories of IoT in Action in Small Businesses
The Teslas, Targets, and Amazons are already using IoT to do business better. For some reason, however, these success stories don’t resonate with small businesses.
The reason – the numbers are just too massive for small businesses to relate to. Does that mean IoT is not accessible to small businesses? Absolutely not.
The 21st century is all about a level playing field. IoT device manufacturers as well as IoT service providers offer customized solutions for all kinds of businesses.
Consider the Google Nest Thermostat E. After the resounding success of the Nest Thermostat (which targets home users), the industrial variant was launched with a focus on small business owners. The device promises up to 12% reduction in energy consumption for heating, and 15% for cooling, which could mean thousands of dollars saved per year.
Here are a couple of success stories of IoT empowering businesses to save money, and control processes better.
1. Millions Saved in Energy Costs
EcoEnergy Insights, a leading IoT services provider, made news in 2018. Why? It developed a customized IoT based energy management solution for American West Restaurant Group (AWRG).
The solution worked so well, that AWRG observed almost 18% reduction in energy usage across several of its Pizza Hut eateries in just a few months of implementation. This highlights how IoT can deliver the dual benefits of low carbon footprint and major dollar-savings for energy intensive businesses.
2. Better Waste Collection
Garden City Sanitation Inc. is a garbage collection service in California.
How’s it different from any other similar service? It uses a smart waste collection solution WasteOS. This cloud-based waste management platform cuts company waste collection costs by 40%.
The solution uses software and sensors to analyze real-time data. This data helps plan the best routes for waste collection fleets.
Also, data from serviced dumpsters helps optimize scheduling and routing. This makes the business aware of roll-off inventory and when each container was last emptied.
According to President Louie Pellegrini, WasteOS helps provide better customer service.
Why? Because haulers understand when clients need services even before they do. And this makes the routing process more efficient.
More Applications of IoT In Small Businesses
Decreasing cost of ownership of IoT devices augurs well for businesses. As more and more players embrace these smart devices for routine business activities, the practice will become a standard in the industry.
Here are some more applications of IoT that are empowering small businesses across industries.
1. Management of Perishable Goods
The future looks bright for the food and hospitality industry. IoT can provide insights for better food safety. Businesses can now measure temperature and humidity in cold storage facilities with IoT. The technology also optimizes energy management during food storage. Restaurants and cafes can use alerts, heat maps, and reports to plan storage and use.
2. Workforce Management
Companies can already send targeted messages to the smartphones of their target audience. But as device costs go down, the technology can help with workforce management too. Beacons can replace traditional time sheets.
Organizations can also use beacons to know if employees are using suitable safety gear. This has major application in the healthcare industry. Beacons can track floor workers and ensure they follow the right protocols for handling equipment, helping businesses ensure compliance with safety norms.
3. A Goldmine of Data
Most small businesses lack the budget to create channels for capturing data from consumers. Consumer IoT products bridge the gap.
Connecting to customer IoT devices gives direct access to vital data related to how end users engage with products. This helps device manufacturers implement truly revolutionary design improvements.
What do Small Business Need to Consider Before Hopping on The IoT Bandwagon?
The key to success with IoT is for small businesses to identify processes where they can truly benefit from granular process control.
The key success factor here is to identify processes where you can achieve extraordinary improvements.
- Is product design the key to your business success? Use IoT to capture data from the product in use by an end consumer.
- Is cost control the key? Use IoT sensors for control and optimization?
- Want to cut down on manual labor expenses? Use IoT for process automation.
In addition to this, business owners should devote enough time to security measures. These networks contain sensitive and valuable data that is a target for criminals. So, it is important to secure all IoT endpoints and safeguard the network from cybercriminals.
IoT – A Threat to The Industrial Workforce?
Just like artificial intelligence, IoT was seen as a threat to the industrial workforce. However, IoT has already proved that it’s an ‘enabler’ and not a ‘replacement’.
IoT makes it easier to automate routine activities. This frees up employees’ time to perform more value adding activities. So, earlier reports of IoT replacing people were greatly exaggerated. The technology is actually empowering them to perform better.
It’s estimated that global spending on IoT will hit $1.29 trillion by 2020. And the burgeoning interest of small business owners in embracing IoT devices is going to be a big contributor.
Irrespective of their industry, small businesses can benefit from IoT in many ways. The key to success is to identify the right use cases for IoT to maximize business benefits.