The Internet of Things (IoT) is not some Silicon Valley fad destined to be replaced by a newer, more innovative technology in the near future. On the contrary, IoT is here to stay. Gartner, a Connecticut-based IT research and advisory company, predicts that by 2020, the world will see in excess of 20 billion internet-connected devices in operation. Will these IoT devices only contribute to ‘smart’ homes and ‘smart’ lifestyles? Not at all. The impact of IoT business is set to be phenomenal. Mark Hung, VP of Gartner, has this to say: 

“The IoT will have a great impact on the economy by transforming many enterprises into digital businesses and facilitating new business models, improving efficiency and increasing employee and customer engagement.” 

What is IoT? 

We hear you saying ‘What exactly is IoT?’ A good question that is easily answered. The IoT is the collection of billions of internet-connected physical devices that share and collect data. Thanks to abundant WiFi and cheap processors, it is now possible for almost anything, from a child’s teddy to an aeroplane, to be part of the IoT. The IoT adds digital intelligence to devices and they communicate without human intervention, thereby merging our physical and digital worlds. 

Still confused? You probably use IoT every day, without even realising it: smart TVs, gaming consoles, thermostats, baby monitors, healthcare devices, and much more. Think about this: if your coffee maker can communicate with your alarm, then your morning brew will be ready by the time you drag yourself out of bed. 

IoT at work? There’s a lot in the office too: networked printers, coffee machines, air quality controllers, video cameras and more. Increasingly popular is Amazon Echo, the IoT smart speaker using Alexa, your friendly chatbot. With Echo, you can create a task list, manage your calendar, reorder supplies and set reminders. Alexa also supports phone calls to other Echo devices and the Alexa smartphone app. 

How can my business benefit from IoT? 

Businesses leveraging IoT can use it to significantly improve operating procedures including customer service, data processing and marketing. Here’s how: 

  • • Using IoT, you can collate data and use business intelligence (BI) software to track consumer behaviour. This will enable an improvement in your marketing strategies and customer relationships. By extension, you’ll increase your sales.
  • • Data tracking can have a predictive function as to when to inform customers about a potential need. For example, tracking data from IoT trainers can be used to notify users when their shoes are starting to wear out with a call to action for replacement.
  • • Data captured from IoT should to effectively analysed. Using analytical tools from software-as-a-service (SaaS) providers means you can track the right data, analyse it and adapt your marketing strategies accordingly.

Top companies using IoT 

An increasing number of top companies are jumping on the IoT bandwagon. Check out these four examples to see how IoT is being inculcated into the world of business IT.

Amazon 

Besides being famous for its IoT products Alexa and Dash, Amazon has in excess of 500 million stock keeping units (SKUs). Some SKUs have an enormous area of 1 million square feet. In the past, employees would have to walk around and scan products. Amazon now uses IoT-enabled robots for the job, saving an estimated £18 million every year. 

Disney World 

The theme park makes use of ‘MagicBand’, a wristband containing RFID tags. By tapping the band on receivers, Disney World visitors can enter the park, buy refreshments and get priority passes for rides. Disney uses this data to monitor visitor movement and can determine which areas, rides and attraction are popular and which need improvement. 

British Gas 

British Gas makes use of the IoT platform Honeycomb, a smart meter enabling you to control heating and hot water remotely. With Honeycomb, it is possible for customers to switch to ‘holiday mode’. This means a monthly utility bill can be considerably lowered since numerous devices are interconnected on the platform. 

Rolls-Royce and Microsoft 

Microsoft and Rolls-Royce have collaborated to support intelligent jet engines. Rolls-Royce has integrated Microsoft Azure IoT and its Cortana Intelligence suite to gather information on flight operations, fuel usage and maintenance planning. With IoT, it is possible for an engine to be remotely checked and maintained. 

IoT and cybersecurity 

Clearly, IoT technology has great potential for business in terms of prospect conversion, developing customer relationships and fine-tuning marketing strategies. But like any device internet-connected device, IoT comes with cybersecurity risks. 

In the American drama series Mr Robot, hackers exploit temperature sensors in a server room resulting in an explosion. Although this is a fictional account, the premise exposes the real IT security risks of IoT devices controlling temperature, humidity and light in physical environments. 

Closer to home is your business data. IoT platforms process unquantifiable amounts of data. What would happen if a product manufacturer’s IoT data was hacked? Besides the possibility of trade secrets being exposed, there would be untold GDPR compliance issues. 

Many IoT devices use one-time password verification, further exposing them to penetration and data compromise. To reduce the risk of hacking, IoT systems need two-factor authentication and advanced digital certification to restrict access only to authorised users. Moreover, with ransomware on the rise, your systems must be regularly updated and patched.  

Your company can use IoT to efficiently control processes, attract new clients and improve customer services. IoT is here to stay, as are cybercriminals. To ensure that your IT networks are secure and safe from hacking, IoT security must be a top priority in your cybersecurity playbook. When you are ready to innovate with IoT, contact your local Managed Service Provider (MSP) for their expert IT advice.