IoT tools will reduce costs and increase profits
The Internet of Things, or IoT, is growing at a breakneck pace, and it’s showing no signs of slowing down. The number of IoT devices is expected to surpass mobile devices in 2018, and experts have predicted that by 2020, there will be somewhere between 20 billion and 30 billion devices connected to the internet.
The IoT represents a huge opportunity for businesses of all sizes. It isn’t just big enterprises that can make use of this network of sensors and devices—small businesses can, and should, get in on the action. Of all business leaders, 61% feel like they “have barely begun to scratch the surface of what IoT technologies can do for their business.”
The opportunity is tremendous, but where do you start? Here are eight great ideas to get you going.
1. Smart Locks
Small businesses can leverage the IoT to increase convenience and security. Smart locks can be used for offices, retail locations, and any other places that need locks. They offer several advantages:
- Digital keys that can’t get lost or stolen
- The ability to create—and, more importantly, revoke—keys at any time for employees and anyone else you’d like
- Detailed logs of who opened the door and when
2. Connected Cameras
Similar to smart locks, connected cameras are great for security. Many of the top cameras, like the Nest Cam, come with a large amount of cloud storage that house automatic uploads of high-definition footage, so you can always go back and review your tapes. Be aware that having a reliable internet connection will be especially important, as the quality of the footage will depend on the bandwidth available.
While these services sometimes require a subscription, the cost is relatively low for the convenience and lack of maintenance compared to traditional closed-circuit television (CCTV) systems. A standard CCTV setup can cost between $1,000 and $4,000 to install.
3. Smart Lighting and Thermostats
Smart lighting and thermostats can provide a big convenience boost—you won’t have to worry about constantly setting and resetting your thermostat or turning off lights when you leave the room or head home after work. Eliminating all these little stressors from day-to-day life can take a big load off your shoulders.
These appliances often come with big cost savings, making them an even smarter choice for your company. For example, Nest says its Learning Thermostat pays for itself after two years, and all those savings can go right to your bottom line.
4. RFID Tags for Merchandise
Small retail businesses can greatly benefit from the use of smart RFID tags on their merchandise. These tags are great for inventory tracking. They can automatically update your inventory as items are sold, and then set the sold items up for reorder. This ends up serving two purposes—maintaining an accurate inventory and maximizing store efficiency to save hours and money. Target is one of many major retailers using these tags extensively, but there’s no reason RFID tags should be limited to only big businesses.
5. Azure IoT Suite
Microsoft’s Azure IoT Suite provides management tools for small businesses. These tools monitor devices and sensors, secure networks of devices, and put all the information other IoT tools are gathering to good use. Microsoft also provides detailed instructions and assistance to set up your IoT system with Azure and get the most out of the software.
6. Mobile Card Readers
These card readers aren’t just great for mobile operations—they can also be used in place of cash registers. Like many credit card processing companies, Square does take a decent chunk of each transaction through processing fees. The average credit card processing fee is usually between 2.5% and 3% per transaction, and Square charges a flat rate of 2.75% for in-person transactions. Some POS systems offer cheaper rates, but keep in mind that these systems can be a bit more expensive in the long run and are certainly less convenient.
7. Shipping Trackers
Connected sensors are great for tracking the location of inventory in transit. This is particularly helpful in the food industry to ensure perishables arrive in sellable condition and are ready to serve. It’s also been helpful in the shipping industry, according to Parikshit Joshi of Simform. “Logistics and supply chain are greatly benefiting from being able to track all data remotely and reach higher levels of compliance,” he says.
8. Sensors to Measure Room Occupancy and Usage
A variety of small businesses are using the IoT to help save on utility bills and schedule meetings more efficiently. This is accomplished by using connected sensors to measure the occupancy of rooms and track where people are in the building at any given time. Obviously, empty rooms don’t need to have the lights on, and if you know a room is only used at certain times of the day, you can schedule your thermostat accordingly to minimize energy usage.
How does that help with scheduling meetings more efficiently? These same occupancy measurements can be used to determine when people are in certain rooms in your building, allowing you to schedule meetings in those rooms around those times.
Of course, these eight tools only briefly touch on the IoT and the ways it can be implemented. Over the next few years, you can expect to see major advances and innovations in how connected devices are used. Don’t let your business get left behind!