How Internet of Things can make your Business Thrive
The IoT (Internet of Things) is a concept which encompasses much more than technology associated with smart homes. It contains amazingly powerful applications for the future business world and that too with built-in capability to efficiently perform data analysis to let companies to function more cost- efficiently and productively. The IoT can also enable digital transformation and drive new business models & values in all the size of companies, across almost all industries. Upon connecting people, systems, processes and assets, IoT business leaders can make better-informed decisions which can improve customer experience and competence, reduce costs and generate more revenue.
The figure 1 shown above borrowed from article referenced as  is simplifying the term IoT, as in the figure it can be clearly seen that, devices are connected to the internet. These devices are connected to transmit critical data back into the cloud for further analysis as data generated through IoT devices could be a game changer for the organisations. According to the Gartner’s market research, spending on IoT technology has been increased by 30 % from year 2015 to 2016. According to McKinsey Global Institute, IoT can potentially create an economic impact of 2.7 trillion to 6.2 trillion dollars annually by 2025. This will not only open up great amount of business opportunities for big business to create new value using highly digital and data driven future but also help small business to have the same advantage. 
Experts affirm that still IoT implementation is in early stages. In regards to IoT devices, consumers are only aware of Nest’s Learning Thermostat as an IoT compatible smart device. This device learns and get adapted to consumer patterns of behaviour and the change of seasons to program itself for ideal proficiency and ease. The feature that makes IoT such a powerful tool for individuals and businesses is its ability to learn and make decision without any human involvement. There are many organisations that are already using networked sensors and products to serve variety of purposes including modernising the manufacturing process, to better understand the consumer needs, to track shipments and to make better decisions.
Ryan Lester, director of IoT Strategy for IoT platform states that he sees three main use cases for the IoT in the organisations he works with.
- The first is connectivity to enable new feature. This connectivity allows capturing Telemetry data. Telemetry process is about automatically measuring and wirelessly transmitting data from remote sources. Following use cases are also achieved using telemetry data.
- The second is related to better service as to identify when a product will fail or it requires new parts.
- The third way is periodic replacement. For instance, an air filter company can automatically send a replacement based on the customer usage.
In recent years, retailers have started using IoT to get complete understanding of how consumers interact with products in the retail environment. Manufactures have also started using IoT to develop better manufacturing practices and process by using networking essential machines and using robotics throughout the process. It has also been observed that companies have installed sensors on the manufacturing machines, and this can allow them to process the data to identify the trend of poor quality. The IoT can be used to monitor whole product lifecycle including its creation to its end point. For an instance, networked manufacturing monitors the creation of the product for ensuring quality and production efficiency. Next step, IoT can help tracking and coordinating shipping logistics and this can ensure efficiency, speed and accuracy. As soon as products are in distribution center, information including inventory and organisation along with interaction taken place between automatic systems like stock picking robots, can also be achieved by an IoT system. The IoT can also deliver more personal and customized customer experience by providing data about maintenance and user interaction. Thus, IoT will help business at great extent to boost the loyalty and create lifetime customers.
Upon understanding more about a person, his behaviour and life, moving from a one-time transaction to selling them a product as a service, unique customer experience can be delivered by giving them power and control. As you understand customer’s challenges, the possibility of delivering better product increases.
The Future of IoT
According to the Business News Daily survey conducted from industry experts about how IoT technology may grow and how businesses will incorporate these systems into their business in the future, below are some of the predictions about the future of IoT.
Predictions about consumer behaviours and needs
Justin Davis states that as IoT devices will start storing the data about our daily activities, it will have complete understanding about our lives. The information collected from all the devices will be merged using software platform and humans will interact with devices using virtual assistants. For an instance, the virtual assistant of coffee machine, it reminds you that you are going to run out of coffee, and as it knows about your coffee brand and the amount you pay for the coffee, it may recommend a different brand for same or low cost.
A famous clothing brand was facing major issue in manual inventory counts as accuracy levels were 60 to 70 percent and this used to lead to missed sales and disappointed customers due to out-of-stock situations in the store and online as well. This brand was also facing problem of clear visibility of what customers would buy from shelf as how often items were considered or tried in a fitting room before being sold off the shelf i.e. conversion ratio. Upon implementing IoT solutions such as Smart Cosmos, Rain RFID tags, network connected RFID sensors, METRICS empowered clothing giant with end-to-end supply-chain visibility and real-time analytics provided consolidated reports through which store and shelf availability of merchandise can be identified and great customer satisfaction can be provided. The benefits don’t end here, as in the long run, deployment of METRICS in stores can provide major improvement in sales, cost savings and good improvement in gross margin.
Personalized one-to-one marketing
Businesses using interactive displays that provides answers on real-time basis for the consumer needs would be successful. Interactive displays can help an organisation to create own set for model of products and it can take you through variety of products and solutions. One of the best examples is Nike, the footwear giant. Your phone can also provide detailed information about product including pricing information and that can be achieved just by pointing at any product in the store and using the store’s interface.
Continued refinement of business operations
IoT in conjunction with big data analytics would not only revolutionize traditionally managed businesses, but it would also result in more effective and efficient use of resources. Especially service companies can make best use of IoT based solutions by sending their technicians to monitor and identify the issues by visiting the customer’s location. Small and medium scale enterprises will have greater advantage of using IoT, as it would bridge the demand supply gap by integrating the inventory management and customer relationship management systems. Thus, in a world where everything is connected and devices are intelligently communicating with each other, we can definitely say that IoT can become internet of everything instead internet of things.
New Business Opportunities
The IoT not only offers greater efficiency but it also opens up many doors for new business opportunities. It also has great potential to change the way companies and customers approach the world. However, they both will have to get adapted to new devices and services to this changing and ultra connected space. The current wave which has been emerged of IoT embraces billions of devices, which would flourish every business domain including all sectors like retail, manufacturing, healthcare etc. The Cisco Internet group has made forecast that approximately 50 billion units of IoT devices will be in use by next 20 years. 
The figure 2 given above borrowed from article referenced as  depicts the estimated number of installed IoT devices by sector. The key findings from the estimation are given below,
- It has been predicted that by 2021, IoT market would be the largest device market in the world as it will be double the size of smartphone, tablet, wearable devices (fitness tracking devices, smart watches), and computers combined.
- The IoT business would add almost 1.7 trillion to the global economy by 2021 and this would include software and hardware installation cost and management services.
- It has also been predicted that by 2021, government sector will be the leading sector for IoT device shipments as soon as government and home sectors gain momentum.
- The topmost benefit offered by IoT will be increased efficiency and reduced costs as IoT promises to increase efficiency within home, city and workplace by providing utmost control to the IoT device user.
These IoT connected devices includes wearable’s such as fitness tracking devices, smart homes and the offices where connected devices can be lights, thermostats, TV, refrigerators, weather sensors, pollution sensors, security systems, and cars ( connectivity is defined between the engine and car parking sensors). Umbrellium’s Thingful, the world’s first search engine specially designed for public IoT devices, can provide the geographical index of where exactly the things are, who is the owner and how and why these things are used.
In current market, globally, Google and Apple are the two major companies in the IoT market. The application developed by Google, named as ‘ Google Glass’ provides fast access to information by giving commands to the microphone built-in smart eyewear device. Apple has developed a new smart framework called as Homekit which can be used to control devices connected inside home. Giri Krishna affirms that IoT can surely increase business efficiency, as in the recent time it is best innovation in the science and technology world and IoT has been and will benefit companies as it not only supports but also provides a new angle to have a comfortable lifestyle.
Although, IoT offers huge and wide-range possibilities, there are few challenges associated with IoT deployment.
IoT Security Challenges
Security and privacy remain the major concerns associated with IoT. IoT is about more data and more connected devices and this means that more opportunities for hackers and cybercriminals to steal private information or misuse this information. When security systems are fully automated, hackers can break in and lock the entire system. Therefore, the security risk associated with IoT must be taken into account by all the businesses and entire industry will continue to develop strong and creative remedy as IoT expands. Currently, there are only few standards (regulations) available that are used to run IoT devices. However, there are groups comprising of electronics, global industrial and tech companies to standardize IoT and solve the major concern of IoT i.e. security. 
The companies who primarily adopted IoT products and technologies in their business environments are facing real scalability challenges. Even necessity of having highly specialized and customized solutions makes IoT more difficult to scale. Due to this, IoT deployment is moving at very slow pace than anticipated. The news also states that many organisations are still in the POC (proof of concept) stage for IoT, despite working from past several years.
To better understand the scalability challenge associated with IoT, let’s assume that a manufacturing company would like to deploy IoT technology to gather better insights about its overall operations, improve its manufacturing efficiency and modernize its operations. Also assume that manufacturer already has multiple manufacturing plants with different kinds of equipment with multiple workflows. In the computer world, the devices and software are referred as legacy when they turn five years old. However, in the manufacturing world, even 35 years old equipment would be fully functional and it is very difficult to deal with manufacturing equipment of different age of one site and it can get very challenging when it comes to dealing with number of dissimilar sites. Hence, it becomes extremely challenging to find out ways to reliably get set of data to analyse across all types of devices.
Nevertheless, modern equipment offers wide range of data. However, upgrades typically are done by outside specialists. Thus, simple solution can be used to replace all the old equipment with new ones, but this will require high capital, and it is not realistic option.
One challenge can be is making customer to trust and get adapted to the new technologies. As, IoT is sort of buzzword and some people don’t want their personal information to be shared; this can cause adoption challenge. However, this can’t be applied to businesses as companies have already started to implement IoT on mass basis and businesses will definitely adapt IoT with less hesitation.
Another challenge associated with IoT is building and maintaining IoT systems. According to Lester till the time IoT systems are properly built and open enough to share and analyze data, most of the information will not be much useful to the organisations looking to profit from own networks and sensors. Lester also states that organisations are too busy understanding the technical part of IoT and due to that they are missing business opportunities. Majority of the companies says that, it is very important to connect to the production data, however only 51 percent of companies are actually gathering the data, and less than one-third are using that data for decision making, and are able to analyse it. Hence, there is a clear gap and to bridge such gap, companies will have to bring already organised data into business systems and not use separate dedicated IoT system. This will allow easy access to the people who would need to use data daily to analyse it.
It is usual that many businesses, especially smaller businesses adopt technology very lately. However, IoT can add value to the businesses of all the size including areas such as customer satisfaction, bottom lines and other important KPIs. The companies will have to remain very proactive in building a concrete plan to practically deploy IoT. It is highly recommended to invest in the IoT technologies such as sensors, data intelligence and infrastructure to support the connectivity and data. Nevertheless, there will be unexpected and impulsive challenges that can occur in real-time and it will be hard to be prepared for such challenges. Nevertheless, the conclusion is to proceed with more caution and strategies on adopting a data driven business model which can create new and improved insights into customer behaviour resulting into innovation in product design, customer management and product delivery.
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