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IoT in the workplace: How the “Internet of Things” levels up small businesses

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a form of technology that can help individuals and businesses streamline processes and boost productivity by integrating wireless network capabilities into physical objects. 


Even if you haven’t heard the term before, you’ve probably been using IoT devices for years. Do any of these sound familiar?


  • Smart appliances
  • Speakers with voice assistants 
  • Smartwatches 
  • Digital health monitors
  • Smart home automation
  • Security cameras and security systems


According to Kaspersky, more than 60% of companies globally have implemented IoT applications like shipment trackers and supply chain monitoring into their operations strategies. 


IoT technology has numerous advantages for small businesses like:


  • Sensors to help improve organisation and increase functionality. 
  • Machine learning that delivers insights to improve sales and marketing strategies. 
  • Virtual assistants that help people find and connect with your company.
  • Cameras, sensors, and artificial intelligence technologies that help companies monitor their facilities and inventory.


Read on to explore what IoT devices are, how they can benefit small businesses, ways to leverage IoT for your business, and examples of IoT throughout different industries.

What are IoT devices?

the definition of IoT devices with a computer monitor hooked up to a wireless device

IoT devices are hardware devices that connect to Wi-Fi and transmit data. IoT devices aim to extend Internet connections beyond standard devices, like smartphones, tablets, laptops, and desktops, to everyday objects like tools and appliances. 


For example, IoT devices for small businesses include: 

  • Consumer IoT: For everyday consumer use, including home appliances and voice assistants.
  • IoT virtual assistants: This technology can help your team streamline productivity by completing tasks like scheduling meetings, finding information, and tracking inventory.
  • IoT equipment monitoring: IoT devices can monitor your machinery and tools and alert you when they need maintenance. This can help your small business catch problems before they arise and keep your product or services on track.  


Essentially, if a physical object can connect to the Internet and be controlled or communicate information, it’s an IoT device.

7 benefits of IoT devices for small businesses

benefits of IoT devices with someone holding a green smartphone

IoT devices have revolutionised the way that technology and the physical world connect and cooperate with each other. IoT has many benefits in the workplace, including boosting productivity, automating processes, and expanding opportunities. 


According to a study conducted by Aruba, 46% of businesses that stated they integrated IoT devices experienced gains in productivity. Explore the different benefits of IoT devices for small businesses below.

1. Save time and optimise workflows


Implementing IoT devices into your business’s strategy can help boost profitability and productivity in the workplace. 


  • Productivity: Since IoT devices help create optimised workflows through automation, repetitive tasks can be reduced and available machinery and resources can be optimised to their fullest. 
  • Profitability: IoT devices can speed up operations, resulting in increased reliability, improved performance, and reduced costs.


A business may also be able to perform more challenging tasks when it comes to production quantity, time, or difficulty. This can result in producing more advanced types of products and increasing output in general. 

Example: GPS fleet monitoring systems can ensure that all transport, logistics, and sales fleets remain as on-budget and efficient as possible by collecting data from the travelling. 


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2. Get accurate analytics and data takeaways


Since IoT devices connect software, hardware, and artificial intelligence, data insights and analytics are much more in depth. With these more advanced analytics, businesses can: 


  • Unlock more opportunities.
  • Build different product lines. 
  • Switch up revenue models depending on the data patterns.

Example: All IoT devices can track and monitor different types of data, such as environmental data, equipment data, product purchase data, and more.


3. Enhance the customer experience


By building products with IoT capabilities, you can boost customer satisfaction. For example, chatbots and artificial technologies are the latest e-commerce trend that can help not only streamline customer service, but can also synthesise data and spot issues with a product or service that can be improved by getting feedback from the customer. 


The buying experience is increased with IoT, resulting in friction-free commerce.

Example: Voice assistants, including chatbots, can elevate sales and services as well as deliver a more efficient customer support experience. 


4. Potential to decrease the carbon footprint


IoT devices can help your business adopt more sustainable habits, which in turn reduces your carbon footprint. Additionally, smart collaboration tools can make it easier for teams to work remotely, thus reducing the number of fuel emissions from daily commutes.

Example: Installing smart thermostats in your workplace can help regulate and optimise energy consumption, consequently reducing your carbon emissions as well as lowering your utility bills.


5. Improve workplace safety


IoT devices can help ensure workplace safety with automatically scheduled and controlled maintenance. This can also help ensure workplace compliance with the required regulations. IoT devices can also help reduce human error during the stages of operation. 


Having improved workplace safety that meets compliance standards can help your business attract investors or partners and boost your reputation.

Example: An IoT robot could perform a dangerous task much easier and quicker than a human would, thereby eliminating any risk of injury. 


6. Foster a modern brand image


IoT devices can help market your brand name and spread awareness Additionally, IoT devices and software can help you attract more experienced and trained employees, which also looks good to consumers. 

Example: Any IoT devices that you implement into your business processes can help foster a modern brand image, whether it be inventory tracking or quality control process automation. 


7. Improve inventory management


Businesses that have large inventory can benefit greatly from IoT technology. If your business is having a hard time keeping up with inventory analysis and is losing assets in the process, IoT can help with automatic control options. 

Example: IoT sensors can automatically track physical inventory, eliminating the need for manual scanning of labels or bar codes. IoT package tracking assets within a supply chain can also help catch any assets that went missing during transit. 


Drawbacks of IoT devices 


Although there are many advantages that IoT offers small businesses, there are also some cons to be wary of, including: 


  • Cost: Implementing IoT devices and software in a business can be costly. Your business will need to install an integrated network of smart devices and technical infrastructure, and will require professional help to maintain and grow this software. However, the benefits these devices provide will likely outweigh the initial installation costs over time. 
  • Security flaws: Since IoT devices have widespread access to sensitive data and information, there is increased concern for data leaks and cyberthreats. It’s especially important that your business hires professionals to help with proper implementation and security to reduce hacking attempts.
  • Dependent on power and network supply: IoT devices require a power source and network connections to operate properly.
  • Requiring professional experience: Installing, configuring, deploying, and maintaining advanced IoT devices can be costly, especially if you need to hire staff or a contractor to assist with the setup or operations.



Steps to leverage IoT for your business

steps to leverage IoT devices: access security, conduct audits, make information accessible, implement cybersecurity solutions

If your business is ready to incorporate IoT technology, you can get started by following these brief steps:  



  1. Access security: Be sure to assess the security status of an IoT device before implementing. Consider using devices or products that have cybersecurity certifications and come from manufacturers that prioritise information security, if possible. 
  2. Conduct audits: After implementing an IoT device, ensure that you conduct regular security audits. 
  3. Make information accessible: Put procedures in place for obtaining information covering vulnerabilities in applications and software to ensure that any incidents are resolved quickly. 
  4. Implement cybersecurity solutions: If your resources allow, invest in comprehensive cybersecurity solutions to analyse network traffic, prevent attacks, and eradicate existing threats.

IoT within different industries


IoT integrations have become a vital part of operations for businesses across a variety of industries and fields. IoT technology that is not solely for consumer use is referred to as Industrial IoT (IIoT). 


IIoT technology is particularly impactful in the manufacturing, logistics, healthcare, and agriculture sectors although they all have different cases of use.


Industrial production and manufacturing


IoT in manufacturing uses predictive maintenance for equipment. This is an IoT technique that helps determine when equipment needs to be serviced or needs maintenance, thus improving worker safety. A small business can use these kinds of applications and can also predict machine failure ahead of time, which can help reduce the downtime. 


Logistics and supply chain


IoT technology is also seen in the logistics and supply chain industry. IoT allows for a digitally integrated supply chain, assisting with inventory management, fleet management, scheduled maintenance, and supplier relationships. Many shipping companies use IoT applications to optimise fuel consumption and track assets. 


In transportation, IoT can regulate the temperature in refrigerated shipping containers. If your small business has inventory and ships products, it may be worth implementing IoT into your structure. 


Healthcare


The healthcare industry also benefits from IoT. With IoT technology, healthcare businesses can track their patients’ health at home, so they don’t have to come into the office every time, preventing costly and unnecessary trips. Certain devices can also regulate temperature for different vaccines and medications, and provide medication refill reminders and sleep monitoring. 


Agriculture


In the agriculture industry, IoT devices can measure data about a farm and transmit the information to a farmer in real time. These devices can help small agricultural businesses monitor things like chemical application, soil moisture, livestock health, dam levels, weather, vehicles, and farm fences. 

Streamline your business with IoT


IoT devices and technology can open many doors for your business and help increase productivity and profitability. In addition, it can provide your business with stronger insights into consumer behaviour and the ability to connect with the world in a more meaningful way. 


To further fast-track and simplify your business growth, be sure to utilise tools, such as QuickBooks Online to help you organise and run your business.


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