Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC 2014) on Monday offered a fascinating glimpse into the future of technology. Among the many announcements made that day, Apple unveiled a HealthKit app for iOS 8 that will allow iPhone users to track personal health and fitness data and a HomeKit that will allow them to control “smart devices” in their home, including garage doors, lights and security cameras.
The Internet of Things—the idea that anything from the eggs in your refrigerator to your washing machine can be hooked up with sensors, monitored and controlled via the Internet—appears to be becoming a fast reality. (A recent Pew Research Center report predicts that the Internet of Things will be thriving by 2025.)
While it’s a cool idea, the implications and benefits of an ultra-connected world aren’t always obvious to business owners. In fact, one recent survey by security software maker AVG found many small-business owners still don’t even know what the “IoT” means. But the concept could very well revolutionize small businesses in three major ways:
1. More efficient, real-time operations
Being able to connect more devices to the Internet will allow businesses greater intelligence and the ability to bolster the efficiency and effectiveness of their operations. According to a recent Microsoft report on IoT:
An intelligent system is transformative. Point-of-sale scanners on a retail floor are connected to warehouse systems and analytics software at headquarters for industry-leading efficiency in inventory. Robots on a factory floor send production and maintenance information directly to those who need it, for unparalleled reliability and uptime … In each case, new insights are generated that drive the organization’s objectives forward on many levels.
Many small businesses will likely upgrade their equipment in coming years and install “smart” machines and devices that can be hooked up to the Internet.
2. New business opportunities
The Internet of Things doesn’t just offer greater efficiency—it also opens to door to many new business opportunities and revenue streams that entrepreneurs can seize upon. It has the potential to change the way businesses and consumers approach the world, and, in turn, they will need new devices and services that help them navigate this changing, ultra-connected landscape.
3. More cybersecurity and privacy concerns
One drawback to this ultra-connected world is cybersecurity. The more data that’s collected online inevitably means there’s greater potential for thieves to hack into online data troves and steal valuable and sensitive business information. Privacy advocates also worry about how much information is being collected by businesses. According to a recent article on TechRadar, small and mid-sized businesses will have to consider how they secure their data collection methods:
Connected devices are considered vulnerable to hacking because many of them use the Linux operating system - which isn't patched in the same way as licensed services such as Windows. Therefore, firms must approach IoT in the same way they do all IT systems, by updating them regularly and using identity management and authentication.
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