SMEs Can Become More Efficient When Objects Are Interconnected
“The Internet of Things is going to have a huge impact on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) because it can be applied to many areas, including production processes, communication, logistics, and security. What’s more, the cost of implementing it is relatively low,” said Daniel Sanhueza, brand consultant at Fixer, a Chilean marketing and digital communications firm.
In 2015 there were around 10 billion devices connected to the internet, and that number will have reached 34 billion by 2020, 24 billion of which are estimated will form part of IoT.
It is vital for SMEs to take advantage of the ways this technology can make their businesses more efficient, especially in terms of production processes. It’s also a way of setting themselves apart from the competition.
The range of products and services that IoT will include is still hard for us to imagine. These range from a sensor that manages crop irrigation depending on soil humidity to a smart backpack that can charge different devices and contains disks for storing multimedia material. Multifunctional robots and homes you can run from a smartphone are other examples.
Just about any object can be part of IoT as long it can include a miniature processor and a wireless internet connection. IoT can be used in two main ways: on the one hand, to provide practical solutions for companies to optimize certain processes, and on the other, as part of the objects people use in their daily lives.
A recent article in The Pulse of IT reviews the different areas in which SMEs can benefit from IoT. These include:
- Retail trade: IoT can help protect retailers from theft and can help with marketing, communications, and transactions, among other things. For example, it can be used to send personalized special offers to users’ phones or to anticipate products they might need to replace or restock via sensors that let them know when they are running out of food or other supplies. Users can pay for things with their cell phones, and sensors help improve store security.
- Industry: Data connectivity in factories can help managers to supervise team performances in real time, assess the availability of inputs, control energy consumption, and improve the efficiency of supply and demand chains. This will enable manufacturers to compile data so as to adopt—or modify—production strategies increasingly quickly.
- Health: Some health providers such as dental clinics are taking advantage of IoT to cut costs, facilitate the work of their medical staff, and improve the quality of patient care. IoT helps firms make better decisions about resource allocation and improve patient experiences through data management. There is already software and an app that provide real-time information on drug delivery and measure sleep and physical activity.
The advance of IoT is bringing cultural and technological challenges for SMEs. Experts speak of a “third industrial revolution,” or at the very least a transition to a “new age of integration.” As with all changes, the key is thinking one step ahead so as to reap the benefits.
A report from the consulting firmGartner argues that it will be start-ups that drive the acceptance, use, and growth of IoT by creating multiple niche applications and being at the forefront in identifying numerous innovative solutions.
Sanhueza suggests using these tools to benefit clients and the company but warns against confusing tools with strategies. “You need to identify the problem, then seek ways to solve it and see if IoT will be useful,” he added.
- Tapia, Alejandra: “La revolución de Internet de las cosas en beneficio de las pymes [The revolution of IoT and how it can benefit SMEs]” (link in Spanish). Tecnopymes, Chile. 2016
- Carrasco, Francisco: “¿Estará listo para el tsunami de Internet de las cosas? [Will you be ready for the tsunami that is IoT]” (link in Spanish). Tecnopymes, Chile. 2015.
- Martínez, Fernanda: “Startups: En ellas radica el futuro del Internet de las cosas [Start-ups: the future of IoT]” (link in Spanish). Factory Pyme, 2014.
- Tecnología para tu empresa: “Tres áreas en las que el Internet de las cosas va a cambiar el funcionamiento de las pymes [Three areas where IoT can change the way SMEs work]” (link in Spanish). Spain, 2016.
- Gestión: “Internet de las cosas generará inversiones por US$ 6.000 millones en todo el mundo [IoT will generate investments worth US$6 billion worldwide]” (link in Spanish). Peru, 2016
- Teczar, Sarah: “How IoT Can Improve Customer Experience in Today’s Top Industries.” The Pulse of IT. 2015.