It is easy to see how the IoT offers exciting opportunities for large corporations. They can develop entirely new product or service lines, or use the IoT to drive substantial efficiencies on a factory floor or across a fleet of vehicles. But what about smaller businesses? What role does the IoT have to play there?
This Analysys Mason survey found that 51% of SMEs, across eight countries including the UK, were either unsure or unaware of the IoT. 23% said they simply had no interest in adopting it at all. On the one hand, these numbers are perhaps unsurprising. There are relatively few off-the-shelf enterprise IoT solutions available, which means that the onus is on smaller organisations to develop their IoT strategy and technology in-house. On the other hand, these numbers are disappointing. There are fantastic opportunities for smaller organisations in the IoT – if you know where to look.
The basic structure of the IoT is the same no matter how large or small the organisation deploying it. Simple sensors are embedded throughout the environment in question, and these collect information and transmit it to some kind of centralised analytics platform, where it can be analysed and turn into tangible operational insights. Often, instructions are transmitted back along the same pathways, enabling real-time responsiveness to, say, a bottleneck in a production line, or roadworks that a vehicle needs to divert around.
So, the first thing for SMEs to appreciate when considering the IoT is that it doesn’t need to be a major technology deployment. A GPS sensor in each of your vehicles. A connected thermometer in a climate-controlled area of your premises. These are small, simple and cost-effective ways of beginning to harness the IoT.
The analytics platforms which make sense of the data collected from your connected devices, and the security and management tools which control access to and verification of those devices, can all be deployed flexibly via the cloud. This makes them accessible and cost-effective for even the smallest organisations.
Consider the smart office
For many SMEs, a highly impactful way of engaging with the IoT is in the creation of a smarter office. Just as in the smart home, this involves deploying IoT sensors which focus on energy savings and careful resource management, ultimately leading to greater efficiency and cost-effectiveness. Smart sensors can automatically adjust lighting and heating levels, maximising energy efficiency and even improving productivity, because the environment is better for staff. Connected cameras or access systems can grant your security teams greater visibility over the premises and make staff feel safer.
Work with partners
Developing and deploying new connected products can seem like a bridge too far for many small business, who may believe that they don’t have the required skills or equipment in-house to get started. However, the IoT ecosystem is extremely collaborative. Sensor City, a collaboration between the University of Liverpool and Liverpool John Moores University, is a great example of a partner that can offer smaller organisations access to the equipment, expertise, and experience needed to turn their IoT ideas into reality. If your organisation has an idea for how the IoT could power a new product or service, such incubators and hubs can be the ideal place to seek development and advice.
Are you an SME looking to learn more about the opportunities the IoT can offer? Get in touch with Tern today for more ideas and advice.