How the Internet of Things is a small biz dream

The Internet of Things (IoT) is here to connect every device and make great things happen – here’s how you can make the most of it.

The Internet of Things is everywhere. It encompasses so much and has limitless possibilities, but beyond turning on your lights or heating using your smartphone, how can it be a useful for small businesses?

Well, there’s a whole world of sensors and devices just waiting to be connected in your small business. So let’s start with the basics. Here’s a breakdown of all things IoT.

The Internet of Things is a network of internet-connected objects. They can communicate with one another by collecting and sharing data using onboard sensors. For example, this could be the way your smartphone adjusts your central heating when you’re not at home or in the office.

An Internet of Things Device is any device that can be monitored and/or controlled from a remote location via the internet. This could be anything from your smartphone to a games console or a personal assistant like, Alexa or Google Home.

An Internet of Things Ecosystem is how we refer to the components that enable people to connect to their devices. The ecosystem can include everything from access dashboards and security to the data networks.

Radio Frequency Identification Devices (RFID) isn’t spoken about in most guides to the IoT despite being one of the most crucial parts of an IoT ecosystem. RFID tagging is an ID system that uses small Radio Frequency Identification Devices to identify and track objects.

For businesses, this is particularly useful as RFID tagging helps supply chain management. While it’s more expensive than barcode technology, which often includes using stickers that can become defaced or go missing, RFID tags can report their status back to a connected device without requiring line of sight. RFID took a backseat to flashier IoT developments as the newer technology took off, but recent developments in supply chain management mean that RFID is once again claiming its fair share of the spotlight.
 

Here’s why small businesses should care about connecting

RFID is more affordable than ever

 
RFID is no longer reserved for big business. After all, it’s something that we’re all using already; contactless card payments are made possible by RFID. Being such integrated part of our everyday lives means it’s on the verge of taking off in a big way. It’s relatively inexpensive and powerful: the more developed and widespread it becomes, the lower the price point falls.

What makes RFID so exciting is the ease in which it can identify an object and corresponding location. The application for supply chain management or asset tracking is already optimising the efficiency of businesses everywhere. There’s also scope to tailor it to any business, such as a farmer tracking livestock or a solicitor who needs quick access to a library of files.

IoT is going further

 
The IoT market is exploding. Experts predict that it’ll grow in value from $215 billion to $832 billion. One of the most prominent ways this has helped small businesses is through technology like mobile credit card readers connected to smartphones and tablets. This has provided a huge boost to entrepreneurs making the most of their local communities to sell their products and keeping their customers happy with a wide range of payment options.

Small businesses have increasingly embraced IoT over the last five years, rising from 12% in 2013 to 28% in 2017.

Easy efficiency gains with the IoT

 
As IoT became more mainstream, off the shelf solutions appeared from providers who wanted to give their small business customers an easy entry to the benefits, which can broadly be categorised as the following:

1. Reduced operating costs
2. Increased productivity
3. Easier expansion into new markets
4. Development new product offerings

What’s more, 55% of adopters are using IoT to increase efficiency and 49% can increase their revenue. New revenue streams have appeared thanks to the connected nature of IoT. With a constant connection to their customers’ needs and a real-time stream of data, small businesses can use the IoT to effect real change.
 

Preparing for the future of IoT

While IoT is expansive and seemingly limitless, its success will be determined by four factors.

Internet connectivity

 
The IoT runs on the internet. The transfer of data and the triggering of actions and reactions over distance is only made possible by a reliable, speedy internet connection with adequate bandwidth. New low-power connectivity band options, like Narrowband and Low-Power Wide Area Network are being investigated by 28% of those who plan to adopt IoT in the future, thanks to increased network coverage and a great cost efficiency.

High mobile adoption rate

 
Simply put; the more people who use smartphones, the better. 61% of total digital minutes in the UK come from smartphones – 85% of adults now own one. If more people are connected, then there’s a bigger audience and more connectivity.

Cheaper sensors

 
Sensors, which send and receive data and communications in devices are an essential part of an IoT network. As the cost lowers, the adoption will spike.

Investment

 
Governments and businesses are thought to be investing up to $6 trillion over the next five years. As the technology matures and fixes more problems, it’ll be more ubiquitous and accessible to the general population.
 

The future of IoT is exciting

IoT is about to take a step up, becoming one of the biggest drivers of change in the world. The businesses who embrace IoT and the benefits it can provide to every aspect of our lives will be the ones who stand out and reap the biggest rewards.

To find out other tech trends to make your business future ready, check out more great content on Your Ready Business.

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