How IoT Can Improve Your Small Business Processes
A few decades ago, the idea of smart devices seemed fantastical: A cool concept, but not likely to exist anytime soon. But technological advances prevailed, and now, the Internet of Things (or IoT for short) is everywhere we look. The IoT essentially refers to the interconnected web of smart devices that gather data and communicate via the Internet. In doing so, they can make everyday life easier by automating tasks that people would otherwise have to complete manually. And while it’s useful for consumers (who doesn’t like products that make life easier?), it’s an essential technology for businesses. In this guide to IoT benefits for businesses, we’ll explain why and offer advice on how you can leverage the Internet of Things to propel your small (or not-so-small) business to new heights.
What is IoT?
The Internet of Things describes a network of physical devices that are capable of collecting, processing, and transferring data over a network (often, without human intervention). While the devices included in the IoT are capable of accessing the Internet, that’s not their primary purpose. One example is the smartwatch. Unlike computers, which are designed for browsing the Internet, the main function of a watch is to tell time. However, smartwatches offer much more than that. With one, you can receive phone calls, answer messages and emails, track your movement, monitor your vital signs, and more. Some models even function as a virtual debit card, allowing you to pay without the need for cash or a physical card. And because smartwatches are able to gather and process data via the Internet, they’re part of the interconnected IoT.
Another important aspect of the IoT is that devices within it can be connected to others. For example, smartwatches can be wirelessly connected to your cell phone, which is what enables you to receive phone calls via your watch. Smartphones are very often the “control hub” for smart devices, including smart security systems, smart home devices, and more. Most smart devices have an app that transmits the data collected directly to your smartphone. And this allows you to use your phone to control settings and access data collected from other devices.
How IoT Helps Small Businesses
With the broad definition out of the way, we can explain the benefits of IoT in business—and there are many. First, IoT can optimize and streamline processes, saving you (and your employees) time to complete other tasks. For example, smart security systems can collect data autonomously and alert you to any security concerns, eliminating the need for an employee to watch security footage. And the data collected from IoT can be used to boost productivity: Without the need to (for example) check security cameras, employees can spend their time focused on more important tasks.
Although smart devices can be an investment, utilizing them can save you money in the long run. And keep in mind that you don’t have to buy every smart device out there to reap the benefits. Focus on what really matters for your business and evaluate which options will be beneficial to you and your employees. If your business operates remotely, for instance, you may be able to forgo smart security systems.
Because the IoT works via the Internet, making full use of it requires having a strong, dependable Internet connection. Optimum offers secure business Internet with built-in antivirus protection and speeds of up to 300 Mbps. Plus, the reliable service allows you to have several smart devices connected to the same network simultaneously.
IoT for Small Businesses
If you’re unsure how to take advantage of IoT in business, keep reading. We’ve compiled a list of six smart devices that can help improve your small business’ day-to-day processes.
If you and your employees work in an office, it might be a good idea to invest in smart thermostats. Unlike regular thermostats, which need to be controlled manually, smart thermostats automatically adjust the temperature based on weather conditions and the number of people in the room. In doing so, they can increase your energy efficiency and help you save money on monthly electric bills.
With a smart lock, you’ll never have to worry about misplacing the keys to your office. These high-tech devices allow you to use your fingerprint, voice command, or a connected smartphone app to gain access to your building. Smart locks can also be operated remotely, which is useful if you have several employees at your small business. But the biggest benefit of smart locks is that they eliminate the need for a physical key, and access to the building can be revoked when an employee departs without needing to change the lock itself.
Smart lights are Internet-connected lights that can be controlled via an app on your smartphone or other smart home devices. Depending on the model, you can adjust not only the intensity of the lighting but also the color balance (great if you’re prone to eye strain). In doing so, smart lights can help cut down on energy usage and, ultimately, energy costs.
Having a security camera at your business is not a new concept. But today’s smart security models offer greater security than those of the past. Modern integrated security systems often utilize artificial intelligence (AI) to gather information, eliminating the need for an employee to manually watch the camera feed. These systems can also automatically detect suspicious activity and send alerts to other devices connected to the network. Some even automatically contact the police for you in case of a break-in. Plus, with smart security systems, all footage is saved to the cloud, so you don’t have to worry about the limited capacity of a physical server—you’ll have access to it all.
Voice assistants are much like personal assistants. They can take notes, deliver alerts, send reminders, and even make online purchases for you when supplies run low. But since they can be connected to other IoT devices, voice assistants can also help keep your other smart devices running smoothly. This gives you (and your employees) the freedom to spend time focusing on important tasks to help grow the business.
Running out of printer ink at a crucial time can throw a wrench into your business proceedings. Smart printers can help ensure that doesn’t happen. These Internet-connected devices do all the things standard printers do but also deliver maintenance alerts, let you know when they’re running low on ink, and more. Through the IoT, some can even connect to inventory systems and order more paper and ink by themselves.
Of course, having a reliable, fast Internet connection is essential to ensure all your smart devices run smoothly. With Optimum Business, you’ll get the fast speeds, reliability, and low latency that you need to conduct all of your business quickly and efficiently. Our Business Internet even offers separate guest and private networks, which can help keep all of those time-saving IoT devices safe.
Looking for more ways to help grow your small business? Take a look at the Optimum Business blog, where we share tips to help take your small business to the next level.