In an uncertain political and economic environment, it is perhaps unsurprising that many businesses are content simply to hold on – to survive. Yet in spite of the turmoil facing many business sectors, this is a time of enormous opportunity. As the Internet of Things (IoT) landscape matures, it has never been easier or more cost-effective for organisations across a range of sectors to deploy the technology – and harness the wide-ranging benefits it can engender.
The potential of the IoT to help businesses thrive rather than merely survive lies in two key characteristics.
First, the barriers to entry for an organisation wishing to deploy IoT technology are extremely low. Deploying connected devices or sensors within a limited area or department of a business, for example, can often be achieved very quickly, at very low cost, and with no impact on ordinary operators. It can be as straightforward is deploying a few connected temperature gauges throughout the machines on a factory floor, or installing GPS sensors in the vehicles within a fleet. Add a centralised platform or application for collecting and analysing the data collected – and if this is deployed via the cloud it will likely be a similarly quick and cost-effective process – and you are IoT-ready.
These low barriers to entry mean that even in periods of broader uncertainty, the IoT offers a quick and cost-effective means of driving innovation. It doesn’t need to be a complex or costly technology deployment project in itself, and yet it truly can be the doorway to digital transformation.
This is thanks to the second key characteristic of the IoT – it creates actionable intelligence.
The data collection aspect of an IoT ecosystem is just the first stage in a three-part process. Once that information has been harvested and centrally stored, it undergoes sophisticated analysis to transform it into tangible information about the organisation in question.
To return to the examples above, this information could relate to how quickly or how often the machines in a production line overheat, and how those trends relate to wider business context such as the orders being fulfilled or the time of year. In a fleet of vehicles, location data can generate detailed analysis of driver routes, the efficiency of different vehicles and operatives.
The third stage in the IoT process, then, is using that intelligence to make informed business decisions. This can be immediate – a real-time decision to reroute or reassign a particular vehicle or driver in response to a new job – or much longer-term – using analysis of hardware performance over time to build a more proactive and therefore cost-effective maintenance and repair schedule. The intelligence collected via an IoT ecosystem can be transformed into a wide range of trend maps, reports and dashboards, all aimed at helping organisations gain unprecedented visibility into their business processes.
The IoT, then, provides answers to business questions and delivers clear strategies, based on hard and highly contextualised evidence, for driving operational improvements. Crucially, it does all this on the back of very low-cost and straightforward deployments.
Steering organisations through uncertain economic and political waters can be a fraught task. Yet the IoT offers myriad opportunities for that navigation to not merely keep heads above the water, but to unlock new opportunities and innovation.