The internet has become a part of our daily lives. Whether using it to conduct business, shop, or check on the latest sports scores, the web plays a central role in almost everything we do. But no matter how much we may use it now, our connectivity to it may be even more involved and important than ever before in the near future, thanks to the Internet of Things. It’s this new frontier that’s opening up many possibilities for small businesses.
The Internet of Things refers to the way some everyday devices and items—from laptops and smartphones to clothing and kitchen appliances—contain sensors and identifiers that allow them to communicate and network with other devices. Imagine nearly everything you own being interconnected, talking to each other and sending each other data. That reality isn’t too far off. Nearly 10 billion things are already connected, and that number is expected to climb to over 200 billion by 2020. The business world sees this as a vast field of new opportunities that could lead to some fascinating applications.
Products have the potential to be outfitted with technology that helps a business to better keep track of what they produce. The items transmit their locations and conditions back to the business, which collects and stores the data. From there, small businesses can better manage their inventory, keeping track of what they have sold and what is still in stock. By knowing where everything is at all times, a business can also get a more accurate picture of where products are selling, which products are more popular, and how they’re being used. This increase in efficiency will surely lower costs.
Another way the Internet of Things can lower a small business’s costs relates to keeping track of business property. Many businesses give employees devices like smartphones and tablets to use when they’re conducting company transactions. Occasionally, employees lose these devices, but if the devices are connected, they can easily be found. Businesses won’t have to waste time and resources tracking down the lost items, and they’ll definitely save money by not having to buy replacements.
Better Customer Interaction
The Internet of Things can also greatly improve customer interaction. Devices will be able to send real-time data on how the objects are being utilized. From there, small businesses can offer more targeted marketing campaigns and offers, often within moments of a customer transaction. The Internet of Things can also provide information on a damaged product, signaling to a business to send a repair team or a replacement with little hassle.
Small businesses have been prevented from embracing this technology before, mainly due to the cost of storing and processing the vast amount of data collected by the connected devices. But through flash array storage, the cost to store and process data is now more affordable.
The Smartphone Hub
As small businesses better use devices with the Internet of Things, employees will be better equipped with the tools they need to perform their duties quickly. Connectivity between devices allows for convenience, particularly regarding a smartphone’s uses. As more things become connected, the smartphone can be transformed into the central hub where selected items can be controlled and monitored. Any maintenance that needs to be performed can be ordered, new items can be shipped, and sold products can be tracked. The smartphone could very well hold the key to a better functioning business.
The Internet of Things can also save a small business money through the use of automated devices. Sensors in connected devices will be able to analyze situations and perform functions based on certain conditions. For example, a flower shop could use the devices as a way to monitor the temperature and condition of the soil, while also measuring water levels. If water levels get too low, a connected system can respond by watering the plants. All this is done without any input needed by an employee.
With these examples, it’s easy to see how the Internet of Things can transform the way companies both large and small will do business in the none too distant future. As the technology becomes more widespread, it will have a large impact on not only the business world, but our everyday lives as well.
Image credit: CC by vintagedept