You may have previously heard the term ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) in discourse. However, if you’re encountering this term for the first time, here’s a chance for you to learn more about it.
IoT is a term used in the digital technology sphere to describe the interconnectivity of smart objects. These objects are fitted with sensors, software, and other technological accessories to communicate with each other. Through this network, they can exchange data, listen to each other, and pass on information to be used later.
Due to the many advantages this technology provides, some small business owners are looking to implement this handy innovation in their processes. But how can you pull it off?
Here’s a rundown of how to simplify your work processes as a small business owner with IoT.
Essentials Of IoT Implementation
Implementing IoT technology is pretty simple, especially if you’re a technology guru. If you’re not one of them, you can always work with a managed service technology expert within your reach.
With the primary essentials for running an IoT ecosystem in your small business, you’ll be ready to kickstart your journey. Here are some of the requirements you need to consider:
1. Internet Connectivity
As the name implies, you need an internet connection to run your IoT network. For the best possible results, work with a reputable internet service provider to help you provide the framework for your small business’s devices.
Try choosing a provider that specializes in implementing IoT as they have a good grasp of what your business will need. Also, you should look out for the following as you shop around:
This is a very critical aspect of the success of your IoT network.
To reiterate, an IoT network is a connection of devices, the cloud, actuators, and sensors that need to be in seamless communication. And to attain this level of communication, you need a suitable protocol.
Popular protocols that tech experts use include MQTT (Message Queuing Telemetry Transport) and HTTP (Hyper Text Transfer Protocol). The two offer different features and perks if you rely on them for your IoT network.
HTTP is most effective in regular communications over the internet, especially the client-server model. In this case, the client searches for information online, and the server returns a response to the search. It’s the protocol you typically find in search engines.
On the other hand, MQTT uses something different, known as the publisher-subscriber model. It’s the most suitable model for an effective IoT environment.
In this model, one of the devices in the network can publish information. The other devices then subscribe to the data to listen and respond accordingly.
Whichever model you choose depends on the goals you want to accomplish. You can read more about HTTP vs MQTT online to make a well-informed decision.
The data collected from your devices needs to be sent to the cloud. To do that, it must first go through gateways.
The function of a gateway is to translate the protocols you’ve put in place for seamless interaction of the devices you have in your network. This makes it a key component for managing your data traffic.
Aside from that, gateways also protect your network from unauthorized access and cybersecurity attacks. According to network infrastructure, a gateway is a security layer because any information flowing through your gateway is secured through the latest encryption programs. Knowing this, your service provider must update your gateway with the latest encryption protocols regularly.
Additionally, gateways can modify information gathered from sensors before it is transmitted to the cloud. They preprocess the data and reduce it to small volumes at this stage. More intelligent gateways can even analyze and average your information before it gets transmitted.
2. IoT Cloud
The cloud serves as an accessible, well-protected place to store your data. To know if you want to settle with a specific IoT provider, you must know how well they leverage cloud technology.
The cloud can process tons of data in under milliseconds. Decisions must be made in the shortest time possible to ensure no quiet time between devices. This aspect is critical in health and safety-related applications to avoid life-threatening situations.
In summary, the cloud acts as the hub of your IoT network for sending commands, taking analytics, processing, and accounting for any collected data. In the cloud, protocols, storage, devices and gateways are united for effective real-time data analysis.
The cloud also has high computing power, networking options, analytics, and storage capabilities, thus making it highly useful for handling data. The best part is that it offers scalability and reduced operational costs, unlike physical storage options that take up space and consume energy.
3. Data Management And Analytics
Data is critical in any business, and IoT can help your small business collect and analyze data in real-time. However, your data needs to be processed for visualization and better interpretation. In this way, you can use data as a key performance indicator to spot errors and irregularities.
Analytics helps convert raw data into insights that lead to better decision-making. You can deploy smart analytics for simple functions, such as determining whether a room’s temperature is within the preferred range. If the measurements deviate, it can set off an alarm or send a notification for you and your team to act.
On the other hand, you can use deep learning analytics to perform predictive analysis. This is useful for forecasting trends, helping you plan or make other important decisions for your small business.
Due to the kind of data involved, you’ll have to ensure that you have good storage and computation capabilities. The cloud has both in spades.
4. Embedding And Sensing Components
These components constitute the first layer of your IoT infrastructure. Without them, collecting your data would be impossible. These include:
They’re also called detectors. Their function is to detect the slightest changes in their environment and record them as real-time data. There are different kinds of sensors that you can install in your small business, such as smoke, heat, and motion sensors.
More advanced one can work with several data points at the same time. Also, some devices are fitted with several sensors to help them carry out a range of complex functions.
In contrast to sensors which work to compare changes in data, actuators are designed to act on those changes. Once they receive a signal, they initiate a programmed action to address them. That’s why they’re usually in collaboration with sensors.
A practical way to use them is in climate control. Consider having some actuators in your small business site that can control your cooling or heating system in a smart AC.
Advantages Of IoT In Small Businesses
1. Improved Productivity
If you’re like most small business owners, leveling up your business’s production should be a significant priority. The IoT is here to do just that.
In most cases, IoT devices employ automation in their operations. This allows your regular employees to focus on other processes that require human intervention while your networked IoT devices execute other mundane tasks.
2. Boosts Work Safety
Safety should be a priority for every business, especially small-to-medium ones.
You can invest in smart devices that help your enterprise stay secure. For instance, you may have sensors that can detect fire and smoke. These sensors can be connected to actuators that activate extinguishers upon receiving a signal.
You can also have sensors that monitor room temperature, especially if you have goods, machinery, or other assets that are sensitive to heat or cold. Shifts can be relayed to an actuator that either raises or lowers the temperature to a safer range, as described in a previous example.
3. Better Customer Service
Excellent service is everything if you want to cultivate a loyal customer base. The IoT can provide tools to help you be more engaged with your clientele.
For instance, you can try having a smart network that tracks devices bought by your customers remotely. It can send notifications for follow-ups when it needs servicing.
This way, you can remind your customers to bring what they bought to the store for maintenance. Or, you can use it to prompt them to call for services from your employees.
4. Improves Your Brand's Trust
The benefits mentioned above go a long way in building your business’s standing in your target market. Smart IoT utilization makes a lot of things easier for you, your team, and your clients, guaranteeing more recommendations to choose your brand over others. When that happens, you can secure a path to growth.
Are There Disadvantages To Using The IoT In Small Businesses?
Like any other kind of technology, IoT comes with considerable investments. Procuring the equipment and experts to install them might take a toll on your small business, especially if you’re working with limited options.
In addition, you need to have a contract with a managed service provider to help run and maintain the network. All these expenses add to your budget, but it’s nothing good planning can’t fix.
IoT: The Next Big Thing For Small Businesses?
You can never go wrong by trying out an innovation like IoT to upgrade your business. Just weigh your options and compare prices to get the best deals. Feel free to talk to experts if you need more advice. Either way, the pros outweigh the cons. And IoT may be the boost your enterprise needed all along.