The Internet of Things, often called the IoT, is poised to change the face of business. As of 2015, researchers estimated that there were 3.8 billion connected devices in use; the projections range between 25 billion and 50 billion IoT devices by 2020. There are already cars, locks, streetlights, home appliances, fitness monitors and a wide variety of other smart devices available, and some experts assert that smart devices are beginning to power yet another industrial revolution that can prove as disruptive as steam, electricity and computers. Whether the IoT lives up to all of the hype remains to be seen, but one thing is certain — the IoT is already changing the face of business and will likely drive much more dramatic changes in the future.
The IoT Enables Smarter Products
Some of the IoT-enabled devices seem a bit bizarre or unnecessary. For example, how many people need the ability to determine the number of eggs in their refrigerator from a remote location or a smart diaper to let them know that their baby needs a change? You might think that not many people will embrace such devices, but 30 years ago, a lot of people could not see any use for a phone that could also record video, take photographs, send text messages and allow the user to access everything that the internet has to offer. Furthermore, most IoT devices serve useful purposes, such as locks that can be activated remotely or thermostats that can sense when a room is empty and adjust settings accordingly. Regardless of what a company manufactures, the IoT will provide it with opportunities to make its products more useful by making them smarter.
The IoT Can Boost a Brand's Image
Sensors that collect and transmit data can give businesses more information on how their products are used as well as the condition of their products. For example, the sensors in Rolls Royce aircraft engines transmit real-time information on their status, and this information can help prevent catastrophic failures of the engines. Many connected cars and home appliances are also capable of diagnosing their own problems and advising solutions. By averting major issues, a company can position itself as a leader in reliability and customer service while nurturing brand relationships with customers.
The IoT Enables Enhanced Operational Efficiency
Connected devices can boost operation efficiency, enabling businesses to better meet the needs of their customers. For example, connecting the scanners at a retailer's cash registers to the warehouse can provide a clearer picture of actual inventory levels in real time. Devices that notify personnel when preventive maintenance procedures are needed can help prevent failures while allowing routine maintenance to be scheduled at convenient times. Vending machines that notify operators of product levels ensure that the machines are always stocked to avoid lost sales while eliminating unnecessary visits.
IoT Allows Some Businesses to Revamp Their Business Model
The IoT can allow some businesses to make drastic changes to their current business model. One example of a company that has done just that is John Deere, the company that has been providing innovative products to farmers since 1837. Throughout the 20th century, the company concentrated on simply selling its equipment. Starting in 2012, the company added data connectivity that could advise farmers on which crops they should plant, when to plant or even the most efficient route to follow while plowing. Essentially, the company is now selling information as well as tractors. Other similar combinations of goods and services are certain to emerge as the number of smart devices increases.
The IoT represents a change in the way that businesses and their customers view and interact with the world. New revenue streams and business opportunities are going to increase, and forward-thinking businesses are going to be able to boost their sales by developing the services and devices that the IoT will require.