Keeping on top of technology has been a wild ride for small business owners in the last few years. It’s not stopping anytime soon, either! But here at Business Plus Baby I want to help small business owners embrace the changes rather than being afraid, overwhelmed or just left behind by them.
So today, let’s look at the the Internet of Things (IoT).
So what is the Internet of Things?
The Internet of Things is connecting any device to the Internet, and to each other. This could include the types of device we’ve had around our homes for decades such as washing machines, lamps and even coffee makers right up to wearable devices, smart phones and the components of industrial machines. And if you think this is some way off in the future you’d be wrong, according to analysts Gartner there will be over 26 billion connected devices by 2020.
In fact the IoT is already here. Last year Amazon launched its Dash service in the UK where you press a button on your washing machine to order replacement detergent. The button uses your wi-fi and a smartphone app to place an order at Amazon. It’s not just washing powder either, you can get buttons to order replacement supplies from printer ink to dog food, deodorant and mouthwash.
Here’s another example; if you need to get somewhere by car, your car could work out the best route to take based on your calendar. If you run into traffic your car could text the person you’re meeting to let them know you’ll be late.
How would this work for you as a small business owner?
It’s not too hard to visualise how this would work for a huge company like Amazon, but how would it work for a small business? It’s tempting to feel overwhelmed by how complex this seems, so first let’s consider the benefits. You could use IoT to reduce operating costs, for example if you start to automate tasks that you’ve previously done manually. That, in turn, could increase productivity. It could even help you expand into new markets or launch new product offerings.
A good way to get started is to use tools like Trello, Slack, OneNote and Google Drive to automate workflows for you. This will save you time on repetitive tasks and mean you spend less time digging around in your inbox because the information you need has already been sent to where you need to action it. You could also consider a digital personal assistant such as Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa.
For more complex business systems you’re going to need a platform to handle your IoT business activities including your ad-hoc reporting and self-service reporting. As automation increases it becomes more important to monitor the status of your orders and other activities. Giving your customers or uses access to their own reports will cut down on the time you spend on customer service, too.
If you haven’t already explored the potential for using the Internet of Things for your business, why not give it a try now? Start by automating a simple but repetitive task and then you can develop from there.