You may already have a few smart devices at home — whether it’s that Amazon Echo or Google Assistant, a Nest thermostat or even smart plugs. You love the convenience of being able to turn off those lights that you accidentally left on, or see who’s at your front door.
All of those are part of the Internet of Things (IoT), or devices that connect to the Internet, continuously collecting, sending and responding to data acquired from the surrounding environment. The market has exploded in the last few years, with the majority of connected devices still belonging to consumers.
But, businesses are increasingly using smart devices and services, too. Bain & Company is forecasting the IoT market for businesses to grow to $520 billion by 2021, more than double the $235 billion spent in 2017.
So, what’s the draw for businesses? There are a lot of opportunities: the Bain report found that 60 percent of executives surveyed are exploring the new use cases for them. IoT can help lower costs, in part through business automation, increase employee productivity and buff up that bottom line.
Wondering how? Our Kinetic Business by Windstream team will take you through five ways you can use these smart devices and services to your business advantage:
1. Voice-Activated Devices & Virtual Assistants
No need to spend some of your coveted budget on extra personnel, who will require among other things training, benefits, vacations and sick days: Use those voice-activated devices — whether on your smartphone, computer or smart speaker — as a virtual assistant. You’ve probably asked Siri or Cortana to call someone or dictated a text message and sent it, all hands-free. Similarly, you can use voice-activated devices to add an appointment to your schedule, dictate a note or reminder and even link them to your other smart devices or management systems with Amazon Echo Show or Google Home Hub.
2. Smart Security
Smart devices are another way to cut down on personnel costs, while strengthening security. Opt for smart locks in which you can give access to certain areas of your business to only the employees that need it. Or, as another example, if you manage properties or show houses, you can allow delivery drivers or maintenance workers to enter a home — without having to be there physically. The opposite is also true, in which you can revoke access. Some smart locks will also track activities, including lock and unlock times and who’s doing it.
Depending on your business set-up, you might also consider smart cameras, many of which will work in sync with your voice-assistant devices. These come in indoor and outdoor versions, with many allowing for livestreaming video, sensors and a bit of storage. You’ll likely need more than one if you aim to install these around your business perimeter and/or if you have a large indoor space.
Don’t forget environmental sensors, such as smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and alarms, too. And, if your business is in a flood prone area, rainfall and water level monitors can help you prepare before your business suffers any water damage — and potentially, lost data.
3. Energy Efficiency
Energy efficiency — and savings — can be one of the biggest motivators for getting all that smart tech for your home. It can be a boon for your business as well! The most common here would be smart thermostats, lights and plugs.
How many times have you gotten into work only to have your space still trying to warm up? Or, how often do you leave your business lights on — with no dimmer option — at night, when no one is there, so your current security cameras can catch something?
In the latter example, if you had smart lights, you could dim them to a level where your security cameras can still catch all the action. While smart lights may cost more than purchasing a traditional bulb, they generally last longer, use less power and allow for more control and convenience.
4. Continuous, Real-Time Monitoring & Business Efficiency
We have already noted that IoT devices are constantly keeping track of data that they receive from their environment. This is no different for businesses, many of which should invest in the IoT-enabled data logging sensors. This could prove incredibly useful for manufacturers, who want to keep a steady eye on their production systems, assembly lines and other things to ensure that everything is working to a T. Retail operations can use monitoring to see that inventory is always stocked or to reorder items. Those in the agriculture industry can use IoT-enabled devices to track soil content, rainfall and temperature. And almost all businesses can use real-time monitoring when tracking packages, deliveries or movement of any materials.
Since those connected devices are gathering all that information, it only makes sense that your business figure out how to cultivate it for your benefit. The data can help you see where you may need to improve and where you are currently excelling.
5. IoT & Customer Experience
If you’ve ever been to Chick-fil-A — a fast-food restaurant — at its peak hours, you’ve found employees going through the drive-thru taking orders and your payment information on tablets, so all you have to do is collect your order and drive away.
Those in the retail, entertainment, restaurant and hospitality industries can use similar techniques, including self-checkouts and mobile card readers, like Square.
And yet other smart devices can help you get a clearer understanding of your customers and personalize messaging to them. As an example, some retail stores have rolled out bluetooth beacons, which send continuous signals to smart devices in the area. These can be used to disseminate in-store promotions or tell shoppers about new products.
Ready to get started on further digitizing your business?
Note that because these are connected devices, it can open up your business to vulnerabilities online. That doesn’t mean you’ve got to stray far away from them, though. There are some easy ways for you to curb potential cyberattacks, such as changing the default administrator access to the device and making sure your devices are up to date. Learn more about protecting your business IoT from cyberattacks in this Forbes blog.
And, remember that IoT devices are always connected and will require a more robust Internet connection. Do you have the speed you need for your growth in smart devices and services? Talk to a Kinetic Business by Windstream representative today to ensure you have enough bandwidth or to inquire about our Kinetic Internet options.