Small businesses across many industries are using the Internet for more devices now than ever before. Beyond point of sale terminals, tablets, laptops and desktops, the Internet is now collecting and transferring data from:
Touchscreen self-serve kiosks
• Metering and monitoring devices on equipment and machinery
• Barcode readers
• Trucks and company vehicles
• Drones for cameras and transport
• Heating, ventilation and air conditioning
• Building security
• Wearable devices
• Product inventory
Though all of these devices, sensors, and items will cost your business money, there are tremendous savings opportunities to be discovered.
Here are six areas of your business where the Internet of Things (IoT) will drive down cost, create efficiency, and lighten your workload.
1. Operational Building Costs
Let’s say you are a Chartered Accountant, and you needed to work late at the office. You were the last out of the building, and forgot to do the rounds and turn off corridor lighting. Fortunately, you are equipped with a smartphone enabled device, so you can turn off the lights from your driveway, instead of driving back to the office.
Climate control, security systems and other environmental infrastructure can also be interfaced with a mobile application. You’ll benefit from the system’s convenience, and the cost savings of being able to regulate your office even when you’re not at the office.
2. Self-Serve Kiosks and Devices
Here are a few more scenarios. Let’s say you run a restaurant, or a retail store. Your employees work hard, yet there are often long line-ups, or your employees can’t be in every aisle. Self-serve touch screen devices can take food orders, help shoppers find what they are looking for, and even find out about promotional offers you have in your establishment.
If you your business is in an area where it is difficult to get qualified employees to serve your customers, or if your business is growing rapidly, IoT connected kiosks, tablets and other devices will increase the accuracy of customer orders, increase the productivity of your staff on the floor, and improve customer satisfaction.
Cashier-less check-out machines have helped to process express lane customers for several years. Since fewer customers are using cash, and turning to credit and/or debit cards, so it seems fairly certain retail transactions will continue to evolve to automated systems.
3. Connected Equipment Monitoring Devices
If your business is in the manufacturing or construction business, you will have machines and equipment which require regular maintenance. Connecting these company assets to the IoT ensures they are maintained either on a usage cycle, when they are due for some down time, or in case a sensor identifies some sort of performance or safety issue.
Telematics sensors can be equipped on transport trucks or fleet vehicles, to monitor for maintenance, performance, or on-site/off-site location. Although telematics gear and related apps historically have been geared towards large enterprise and public sector, the technology cost is now affordable for small and medium businesses.
5. Wearable Devices
The use of fitness bands, smart watches and IoT enabled garments continues to evolve for personal and business use. For healthcare-related businesses, patients with diabetes, dementia or other mental/physical challenges can be outfitted with connected devices which will alert loved ones or medical professionals in case of an emergency.
6. Practical Uses for Drones
Internet-connected drones have been getting a bad rap lately for their privacy implications and safety. If you have a large warehouse, or operate farms with livestock, or plants, drones can be very useful.
• Want to find out where your horses went when the gate wasn’t secured?
• Looking to find out if you have any forest green gas ranges left in inventory, but don’t want to walk back in the warehouse?
• Interested in creating a video of your car dealership from a few hundred feet above, and stream it to the web?
There are drones for that!
The Internet of Things offers small businesses many opportunities to save money. The role of employees and management will change as more tasks become automated, small businesses will find ways to benefit, and adapt to the evolution of smart things.