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How Small Businesses Can Benefit from IoT Technology

Couple reviewing health data at the gym

A small gym could introduce connected fitness bands that offer a subscription-based premium level of health data and interaction with trainer staff.

June 24, 2019 - There’s a myth that big technology initiatives need to be championed by big enterprises. Don’t buy into that narrative.

For every Space X that spends hundreds of millions of dollars to develop a rocket that returns to earth and lands vertically so it can be used again, there are a hundred women’s clothing shops that implement smart mirrors in the dressing room or bodegas that install smartphone-powered self-checkouts.

Not just for big companies

That means the Internet of Things isn’t just for large companies with the budget to experiment with bleeding edge automation. In fact, some variation on the IoT is no doubt perfect for almost every small business, since the whole goal of IoT is to improve efficiency, lower costs, and streamline workflow.

If you lead a small business, you don’t need to think about paradigm-changing, expansive technological rollouts. Instead, you should adopt the flavor and scale of IoT that promises to solve one of your known and well-understood business problem, at a cost that makes sense to you.

You can start small

Since there’s a tendency to think that if you’re not thinking big, you’re doing it wrong, it can pay to deliberately think small – at least for starters – when considering how the IoT can help your business. In an understaffed office, for example, something as simple as an AI-powered personal assistant that can control devices, take notes and deliver reminders, and provide information instantly could be a godsend. You can also implement a smart security system, connected door locks, smart kitchen appliances, and IoT-enabled climate control to automate all the things that take previous time away from your office manager’s day.

Or consider the way a winery in Napa Valley now uses smart weather sensors to automate irrigation for its grapes. In Massachusetts, a fishing business is employing a simple network of cameras and sensors on their boat to be automatically informed when they needed to file certain kinds of compliance paperwork. And a boutique metalwork shop in New Jersey has instrumented its safety gear – like fire extinguishers, eye baths, and oxygen masks – so shop managers know everything is properly located, maintained, and kept current. That’s a dual win, both for employee safety and for Federal compliance.

Examples abound

These are all examples of how the IoT can improve your business’s existing processes – but the IoT can be monetized on its own as well by finding an IoT solution that’s an organic extension of your business’s core mission. For example, a waste management company could leverage smart trashcans – receptacles that have sensors and can “phone home” when full – to contract with municipalities to manage, maintain, and empty these cans around town. Not only is it a great evolution of the sanitation business, but it’s a net win for the city as well. Or consider the case of a small gym that might introduce connected fitness bands that offer a subscription-based premium level of health data and interaction with trainer staff.

If you want to explore ways the IoT can help grow and improve your small business, be sure to create a roadmap that lays out an affordable, sustainable, and scalable plan. Involve not just your IT department, but employees who will interact with the IoT who have insights on how the plan can be improved. And again, set your sights on something that’s achievable in the short term – not a 5-year plan that will take you into the next Presidential administration before you start to see any benefits.

And like the sanitation company or gym, keep an eye out for scenarios in which you can not just streamline your internal processes, but monetize your new technology to your existing or new clients. There are a wealth of ways to do this, from offering subscriptions to IoT-managed services to delivering outcome-based performance that’s monitored by sensors in the products you deploy int the field to customers – to selling the data itself, if the information that your network captures is valuable enough. Regardless of the path you choose, this is a superb time to differentiate your business with an IoT application.

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