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November 30, 2018

Why IoT Means More for Your Company Beyond Fancy Thermostats

Businesses have been under pressure to start investing in the Internet-of-Things (IoT). There’s been much hype surrounding smart eco-friendly devices such as smart thermostats and appliances that organizations are now jumping on the IoT bandwagon. This even compelled providers like Nest and Ecobee to expand beyond the consumer market and provide solutions for businesses.

Market conditions have become quite favorable for these companies. The growing support for green workplaces increased interest in these devices. To be fair, these do help businesses simplify energy management and lower energy costs. They also work great as water cooler conversation pieces to perk up employee morale.

However, talking about IoT applications primarily in this light portrays IoT as more of a gimmick than a competitive advantage. This, unfortunately, can prevent some leaders from appreciating IoT’s capacity to revolutionize businesses. Companies must be able to understand how it can greatly impact various areas of their operations.

As a business leader, it’s only prudent to hedge on adoption if you lack a thorough appreciation of what IoT can do for your business. Many organizations have seen their initiatives fail when they fall into the trap of novelty. The fear of missing out is often a bad motivation to force the adoption of new technologies.

Here are three areas you could explore to see how your organization can benefit from IoT adoption beyond what’s typically hyped in the space.

Improved task efficiency

Gartner (News - Alert) estimates that there will be over 20 billion devices connected to the IoT by 2020. According to endpoint management service Cloud Management Suite (CMS), over 90 percent of IoT devices are business-related.

For offices, the use cases of smart devices are numerous. Since they’re the ones getting the most hype, energy management technologies like smart thermostats and lighting are expected to drive IoT adoption. Devices are becoming much more affordable and more office buildings are shifting to smart and eco-friendly infrastructure.

But aside from this use case, IoT could help organizations operate more efficiently. Human resources are also getting a boost. Thanks to increased connectivity, companies aren’t bound by geographic constraints anymore. Video conferencing and smart devices have improved telepresence allowing for distributed workforces to operate more effectively. Wearables can also provide workers with better means to be productive while on the go.

Developments in artificial intelligence (AI) and natural language processing are enabling virtual assistants and chatbots to handle more sophisticated commands. Tasks such as scheduling and booking are now being taken over by virtual assistants like Amazon Alexa. Chatbot development is now also being aimed at more specialized functions which means even expert tasks could soon be automated.

Opportunities to serve IoT adopters

Aside from adopting IoT for your own use, one other area you may want to explore are business opportunities in serving IoT adopters.

Just like any other technology, IoT adoption does have pain points. You may be able to find ways to offer solutions to address these. For instance, companies like CMS focus on helping organizations manage and secure the additional endpoints that come with IoT adoption. The service has helped companies like TM Wireless avoid manual patching of over 300 devices on its network. A task that could take days is done in just 15 minutes.

You may also want to explore how your business can factor into various IoT experiences. For example, among the use cases for smart refrigerators is to automate the replenishment of food when stock gets low or when items stored in them expire. Retailers can plan to serve this need by preparing online channels that could receive orders directly from devices and automatically fulfill them.

If you are engaged in business-to-business (B2B) transactions, you may also consider preparing for integrations where your products or services can interface with your customers’ devices. You may not have to aggressively adopt the devices yourself but, by making your company relevant for adopters, you can still benefit from the segment’s growth.

Better insights from analytics

Data and analytics efforts could also benefit from IoT adoption. Each new IoT device that goes online becomes a source of data, enhancing the quality and quantity of data that can be gathered from a business’ operations.

Manufacturing is benefiting greatly from IoT. The sector is finding new levels of efficiency and safety as machineries and devices become interconnected. Machines can now send their data to other machines to further enable automation. More importantly, it’s now possible to generate real-time insights from manufacturing data so decisions and adjustments can be made almost immediately. Even at its lowest estimate, McKinsey pegs the economic impact of IoT devices to factories to be potentially worth $1.2 trillion by 2025.

Analytics efforts for other verticals also stand to gain from these developments. Retail is one other segment that IoT is set to revolutionize. The use of product trackers, smart displays, and beacons allows businesses to track demand and the movement of products in real-time. This can greatly improve processes related to supply chain, marketing, fulfillment, and customer service.

Formulating a strategy

The IoT is obviously a disruptive and revolutionary technology. Your business would do well exploring how you can make IoT become you competitive advantage beyond what’s commonly hyped. Otherwise, you run the risk of getting caught flat-footed when the IoT becomes more ingrained in people’s ways of doing things.

For this to happen, you must create a solid strategy. There are issues that you have to anticipate. Security is already a growing concern in IoT where cybercriminals seek to breach business infrastructures through unsecure devices.

In addition, given the variety and volume of devices that you may have to use, you may also have to update and upgrade your infrastructure. Your IT team should also be prepared to maintain and manage these devices. You must also keep a watchful eye to new developments to which you might have to readily adapt.

These concerns, however, can be addressed as long as you plan judiciously. A strategy should put you in a good position to reap the benefits that IoT brings.

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