The Internet of Things (IoT) is booming—and business owners are embracing it. A recent survey found that 57% of small businesses think IoT will have a significant effect on their bottom lines.
IoT, a network of computing devices (desktops, laptops, smartphones, tablets, cars, refrigerators, etc.) that can transfer data over the internet without human intervention, is replacing subjective judgments and manual tasks with automated data collection. That means business owners can monitor real-world things like inventory, energy usage, and credit card payments more efficiently.
“More and more of my clients are drawing a direct line between efficiency and the bottom line,” says Steven Bowman, founder and COO of Leale Solutions in Boca Raton, Florida. “The automated exchange of data leads to increased efficiency and more profit.”
While new clients may not come in asking for IoT setups, they often realize they can use IoT solutions, Bowman says. ”Clients will say, ‘Hey, my software is ancient and it doesn’t work for us anymore’ or ‘Hey, we’ve got this idea we want to get off the ground but we don’t have the technology to do that.’ Often, the solution that works for them involves IoT technology.” Some examples include:
Payment processing: Square, the nearly ubiquitous device that plugs into smartphones and tablets to process credit card payments on the go, allows the point of sale to be anywhere there is an internet connection—on location with clients, in a storefront or on the road. Square can automatically sync up with QuickBooks, Weebly, Zoho and Jobber, eliminating the need for you to manually sync up sales or services rendered.
Smart office spaces: Not only can you arrive to a temperate and well-lighted workspace, you can program the devices for optimal energy savings. Nest Thermostat, for example, uses data to know when users arrive at work and what temperature they like the space. Geofencing technology can determine when users are 30 minutes away and can turn on the air conditioning or heat. For a truly connected physical workplace, smart locks can eliminate the need to give employees keys and can allow owners to lock up or open a space remotely.
Tracking inventory of products and supplies: Smart RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) tags can automatically update your inventory as items are used or sold. Taking this a step further, owners can devise a system in which products can automatically be reordered by setting up an automated workflow with the Zapier or Microsoft Azure platforms.
The automated exchange of data leads to increased efficiency and more profit
The first question you should ask about any new technology is, does it work with your existing systems and apps? “You do not want to find out your shiny new software or device doesn’t play well with your accounting software, your mobile device or other critical technology,” Bowman says. “Before getting sold on a new technology, make sure it doesn’t require a special device that you can’t afford, and that it follows industry standards.”
Business owners should also set a budget and invest time to research IoT options. You may discover you can implement IoT in phases or find a solution that you can pay to scale as your needs grow.
Last but not least, prepare for greater demands on your bandwidth. Because these devices and apps are dependent on internet connection, they can put a strain on your bandwidth that will make your devices run aggravatingly slow. Contact your internet service provider to understand what applications connect to the internet, how much bandwidth they need, and how that lines up with your existing setup.
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