A Small-Business Guide to the Internet of Things

The Internet of things is one of those big tech developments that could directly affect your small business. Find out the 7 critical points you should understand about this hot topic.
January 14, 2015

As the owner of a small business, it may sometimes be difficult to understand where you fit into the much larger entrepreneurial sphere in which you operate. When large corporations throw around terms like big data, cloud computing and the Internet of things, do you feel lost? And even if you understand them, do you know how they fit into your business model?

One term it would be helpful to understand is the "Internet of things," or IoT. It sounds vague yet important, but what exactly is it?

“Simply put, this is the concept of basically connecting any device with an on- and off-switch to the Internet (and/or to each other),” Forbes.com contributor Jacob Morgan explained in a recent article. Morgan goes on to explain that this includes everything from cell phones and smart TVs to coffee makers and washing machines. Outside of your home, the Internet of things could also control the components of an airplane’s jet engine or the drill of an oil rig, Morgan adds.

In essence, the Internet of things is the idea that all the technology in the world will eventually be connected to the Internet for easy control and access.

Briefing You on This Tech Development

But as a small-business owner, what and why do you need to know about the IoT? How is it important to you on a micro level, and how will it help you operate your business on a macro level? To answer these questions, let’s take a look at seven important aspects of this concept.

1. Progression will be gradual. You don’t have to worry about the Internet of things suddenly appearing one day and making your company obsolete. On the contrary, it will gradually develop over time. In fact, it's already started.

Chances are pretty high that your company is already adapting and will naturally grow with the IoT—not against it. Think about where you were 15 years ago and where you are now. Since then, you’ve probably invested in things like wireless Internet, mobile devices, analytical software, cloud storage, virtual servers and more. Whether you realize it or not, you’re adapting to changes in the world around you, and it's that progressive nature that will allow you to stay on pace with the development of the Internet of things.

2. Sensor technology will be important. If there’s one technology that will drive the IoT over the next few years, it’s probably sensors. As Business Insider editor Julie Bort writes, “Sensors can be programmed to sense the environment and share that information over the Internet, such as the location of items, their temperature and so on.” Your ability to understand how, when and where sensors can be used will help you get the most out of new and existing technology.

3. You can become more efficient. In conjunction with big data, the IoT will potentially allow you to use resources more effectively and efficiently by providing information on energy use and associated technologies like thermostats, air quality monitors, lighting, building security and more. For companies in service industries, remotely connected devices and sensors may allow your service technicians to assess and monitor issues without having to make time-consuming trips.

4. Security is more important than ever. With more data, information and connectivity comes an increase in the need for better security. While the IoT will be more beneficial than detrimental, it could potentially open new avenues for hacking and data loss. Therefore, it will be more important than ever for your company to supplement new technologies with additional security measures and preventative action.

5. It’s backed by influential supporters. The Internet of things isn’t just some new idea with little actual traction—it’s a serious issue with powerful and influential supporters across the globe, including the British government, which has already invested £73 million in it. Research firm CB Insights reports that in 2013, investors made more than $1.1 billion in investments into the IoT. Just recently, Google purchased a connected thermostat company for $3.2 billion. With so many deep-pocketed supporters behind it, the IoT is no joke.

6. Consumer impact could be great. Aside from the internal workings of your company, the consumer impact of the IoT will most likely be great. According to Herman Chan, senior vice president of global marketing and general manager of DCIM from Raritan, “The Internet of things will be extremely convenient and efficient from a consumer point of view—something that will directly benefit small businesses everywhere.”

7. Business opportunities abound. According to numerous industry experts, there will be hundreds and possibly thousands of unique business opportunities that arise out of the growth of the IoT. Specific areas include improved customer service and personalization; the ability to address real-time threats, demands and needs; improved process optimization; and more accurate and effective forecasting.

Regardless of how well you understand the IoT and its potential benefits for your company, it’s important to remember one thing: The future is bright. As technology continues to evolve and becomes readily available to small businesses and consumers alike, processes will become more efficient and life more comfortable.

Are you ready for the Internet of things?

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