As a small business owner, it is likely you have heard about IoT (the Internet of Things). It is also likely you have thought: the IoT is only for big business, it’s not going to benefit me. This is false. Small businesses can actually benefit more from incorporating IoT into their everyday processes than big businesses.
“I don’t have the budget” – IoT saves you money
Smart devices are usually more expensive than their offline predecessors but this is an upfront cost. The aim behind much IoT development is to save you money in the long term, a benefit which is incredibly valuable for small businesses with restricted budgets. There are many smart technologies out there that save money by improving your energy efficiency and cutting emissions costs. Sensors and trackers can monitor the heating and lighting throughout your offices. They also allow you to remotely control the heating and lighting so that you can tailor each zone to suit work activity which will help you cut costs. Another way that IoT can save small businesses money is by ensuring production quality. There are other trackers and sensors designed to help businesses monitor and manage the temperature and UV exposure across sites. Small businesses can save money by reducing waste and subsequently, reducing the number of employee hours required to catch up on production. This kind of technology is ideal for businesses dealing in agriculture, food processing as well as general production. It also benefits businesses in the technology industry, as temperature control can stop hardware from overheating and crashing. Before assuming that IoT is a frivolous cost, consider the long-term benefits that help small businesses use their budget more efficiently.
“The IoT will dehumanise my business” – IoT helps you understand customers
There is a widespread understanding that we are all glued to our smartphones and so, it is often assumed that using more technology will further isolate us from social interactions and will encourage the complete dehumanisation of business. Small business owners are particularly afraid of this, as many small businesses utilise their friendly, sociable and local persona to draw in clients. This is not the case. Consider this notion from Sensible Object founder, Alex Fleetwood, who argues that, ‘voice-activated IoT devices such as Google Home and Amazon Echo will usher in a more “socially positive” era where people are not such slaves to their smartphones’. The IoT encourages interaction with technology that does not necessarily revolve around a screen. For, it is on a fundamental level that voice-control encourages conversation; it literally enables us to have conversations with technology, rather than simply stare at yet another screen. With voice control and IoT, technology becomes part of our conversations and moves into our social environment, rather than isolating us.
Some small business owners sometimes fret that incorporating the IoT into their everyday functions will distance their business from both consumer and staff. In fact, IoT can help you understand your customers better and improve customer service, thereby increasing sales and generating profit. TCFCR highlights exactly how IoT can do this.
“One benefit of the Internet of Things in the world of customer service is data. All of those connected devices and technology your customers have are constantly gathering data on those customers. If used appropriately, that data can give you the tools to reach your customers more efficiently, giving your company clear insight into what your customers want and how they are using the services you provide”.
Customers do not like to fill out surveys, so if there is a way to collect feedback without relying on active customer participation, it is worth considering.
The IoT connects both technology and people to networks. It is not isolative but inclusive and holds the potential to revolutionise market targeting.
“IoT is a security risk” – IoT improves safety and security when properly monitored
It is understandable that many small business owners see the IoT as a security risk. There have been many, recent reports on security breaches of, and facilitated by, IoT. A particularly famous example, ‘WikiLeaks’s trove of CIA documents’ which ‘revealed that internet-connected televisions can be used to secretly record conversations’ may be called to mind. The irony in this excuse is that much of the smart technology that uses IoT is developed to improve security.
We must first acknowledge that hackers are more likely to target big businesses as opposed to small businesses, so small business owners should not be so quick to disregard IoT as a security risk. Nonetheless, any business that deals with confidential, client or customer information should prioritise security, and IoT facilitates this necessity. Most small businesses store confidential information either on paper or on computers, both of which have their own security risks. Thus, the argument that IoT has revolutionised the security industry is easily validated; with the invention of wireless cameras, remote access, smart locks and access control, small business owners can monitor security 24 hours a day, from any location. IoT helps to ensure that only the right people have access to information as well as physical access to offices.
IoT can improve business safety and security when it is properly maintained. There are regular updates for smart devices and they exist for a reason. As long as you take a security-minded approach towards adopting the IoT into your everyday business, then the IoT will increase the safety and security of your company. There is a multitude of advice online. For example, there are many blogs offering advice such as this one from Observe It, ’10 Best Practices Cybersecurity 2016’. If you stay aware and do your research then IoT can help to develop and progress your business safely and securely.
IoT is certainly not just for big businesses. The long-term benefits of IoT quash any excuses or misapprehensions. Small businesses that need to use their budget more efficiently, understand their customers better and improve their security can all benefit from using smart technology.