Expert advice to put your IoT fears to rest

Still questioning whether or not the Internet of Things (IoT) is the right fit for your business? Find your answer with a little help from an industry expert.

With a tech career of almost twenty years, including spots as the producer of the Stacey Knows Things newsletter and the Internet of Things Podcast, Stacey Higginbotham is the ultimate IoT expert.

She tells Your Ready Business why it’s time for small business owners to overcome their fear of implementing IoT and realise that it has the potential to change everything.

What’s the reason behind your passion for IoT?

I could see all my past experiences coming together in IoT, in a way that was actually really interesting to people and had the power to change the way we live.

What digital transformation trends should small businesses be aware of?

I wish people would focus less on transforming their business. Yes, it’s good to think about but, when it comes to actually starting, it’s too much. So, start by picking a problem; “I want to make a process more efficient or stop one from breaking down” instead of “I want to instrument my factory line” or “track my employees’ movement.”

What can small businesses do with the data they collect?

There’s a company in the US called Gazelle. You ship them your old gadgets and they sell them on for you. They found that when their orders piled up, they needed more people to ship things out in their warehouse because that’s how they made their money with a fast turnaround. They bought a lightbulb and took the API (basic programming skills were needed) so when their orders started coming in, it triggered a signal to turn the lightbulb red. Everyone in the warehouse then saw this and knew they had to start packing the gadgets for shipment.

If it’s that simple, why aren’t more small businesses implementing IoT?

I think the biggest barrier is they don’t know what they want to do. That’s why I really encourage people to identify a problem. Start in one place, trial it and if it doesn’t work or it doesn’t scale, it’s not the end of the world. Just try it again. In any small project, you’re going to face questions that you didn’t even know you had to ask.

When it comes to IoT, businesses worry about their security. How can you reassure them?

Everyone needs to practice good security hygiene. In your company, you need to make the effort to train your employees, not just say – “be awesome” because they won’t know what that entails. In the industrial world, they teach people not to pick up a USB from a car park and plug it into their device, and they actively do phishing campaigns so they can train their workers on how to avoid them. It’s just about making yourself less of a target to hackers.

And what about using IoT to improve their sustainable practices?

Google has a really interesting project with Aclima. They’re putting pollution sensors on their street view cars and getting really granular pollution data. They can interpret how highway design has influenced pollution levels in a particular area and can use this to change the way communities value the environment.

There’s also an Australian company called The Yield. They work with oyster farmers by putting sensors in their waters to track temperature and pollution. If the temperature fluctuates or the pollution is high, that data is sent to the farmers and the government so they know not to harvest those oysters, saving them time and money.

Accenture just came out with a survey, which focused on the role of businesses and sustainability as they start their projects. It talked about being able to calculate the impact of your operations on the environment, on your workforce and your bottom line, and about taking responsibility.

[Check out our article on how IoT is transforming the future of sustainability for businesses.]

What are your predictions for the future of IoT?

I think a shift will produce new use cases. This isn’t going to happen in the next five years. But, I think we’ll have a lot more information about the world around us. Once we have that, I hope we’ll start calculating costs and prioritising things differently. A practical example is, you can measure the externalities of pollution if you have a sensor network that can communicate. Once you have that, you can start charging people for it, which is a really powerful key change.

Want to read more about the IoT revolution? Check out the myth-busting guide to IoT for businesses or discover the 5 IoT nations championing a connected world.