Make Your Business Stay Ahead with IoT (Internet of Things)

Godwin Oluponmile
Godwin Oluponmile
Published: 29.11.2022

The Internet of things (IoT) technology has radically improved our lives with digitization over the past decade. From smart home appliances to self-driving cars to sensor-equipped robots, IoT undoubtedly plays a vital role in improving the quality of living.

Over 12.2 billion connected IoT devices on the internet are speculated to increase sporadically in the next three years. How can businesses maximize the unlimited potential of IoT? Advanced technologies in IoT can optimize workplace productivity, improve safety, and boost the energy efficiency of physical assets, amongst others.

An illustration on how the IoT (internet of things) interconnects various walks of life

This article explores various ways to stay ahead of your competition using IoT technology. We also analyzed potential use cases of organizations that have started implementing these strategies with proven results.

What is IoT, And How Does it Help to Drive Business Goals?

IoT is a system of interconnected devices embedded with sensors, software, and other technologies that transmit data over the internet. The sensors integrate data from the connected devices into a centralized IoT platform for further analysis.

Businesses can tap into the avalanche of data obtained from IoT sensors and devices to improve marketing strategies and product designs to boost revenue. For example, a manufacturing company can integrate sensors into the electrical system to collect energy usage across different building floors. The data obtained from this system can be used to determine ways to improve machine efficiency in the future.

Aside from collecting and tracking data, here are other reasons why world-leading companies are investing in IoT:

  • Facilitates supply chain management
  • Helps CEOs and supporting teams gain a better understanding of their customers
  • Promotes efficient operational management
  • Reduces operational costs
  • Improves business-customer relationship

How Can Businesses Stay Ahead using IoT?

In a recent, widely circulated study by Mckinsey, IoT is expected to create up to $12.6 million in global economic value by 2030. The technology presents a perfect opportunity for business leaders to gain customer insights and improve business value. Listed below are foundational steps to consider when venturing into this space.

Invest In Advanced Mobile Networks to Transmit Signals

One of the significant pitfalls limiting IoT in business is connectivity. Organizations need to invest in advanced network technologies for streamlined IoT operations. These technologies include 5G, Low-power-wide-area Networks (LPWAN), WIFI 6, and satellites.

  • 5G: The 4G LTE and the lesser counterparts have limited bandwidth, making them unsuitable for newer IoT infrastructure. In addition, these connectivity technologies will not be reverse-compatible with the 5G network, as Abhinav Somani from Leverton espouses.
  • LPWAN: LPWANs are energy-efficient and cost-effective data transmission alternatives suitable for connecting devices with low-bandwidth usage across large distances. IoT devices connected over LPWAN can operate on a single battery charge for up to ten years. The most prominent LPWAN technologies in IoT are LTE-M and NB-IoT.
  • WIFI 6: This is the newest (and fastest) generation of WIFI technology. Organizations with multiple devices connected to a single network can use WIFI 6 to transmit data effectively and reduce data interoperability. Features like the orthogonal frequency-division multiple access (OFDMA) make this technology suitable for extreme scenarios or areas beyond 5G coverage.
  • Satellite: Compared to the terrestrial network that covers 30% of the earth’s surface, the satellite network provides unlimited coverage even to areas inaccessible by WIFI 6 and the 5G network.

Think Outside The Box

A robotic hand demonstrating thinking outside the box.

In this era of rapid globalization, organizations must go beyond the usual to retain relevancy. Although there are amazing ways IoT has impacted the business sector (for instance, wearable smart devices), it’s safe to say that there are still several untapped benefits. Let’s examine some cases.

  • Integrate IoT with Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence (AI)

IoT sensors and devices send signal transmissions to other connected devices and collect data. Lots of data. By incorporating machine learning and AI into IoT, the data received from devices on the network can be further analyzed to obtain accurate data and map out trends.

  • Digital Twins

A digital twin is a virtual replication of a device, machine, or real-world object. Usually, it is adopted in running simulations before the actual device is created. They can help manufacturers and developers to visualize products in real life, understand product performance, refine assumptions with predictive analysis, etc.

Time-Stamping

In IoT projects, exchanging data at the correct date and time is critical. Unlike human-controlled assets, IoT devices are heterogeneous and neither understand time nor date. For instance, if data is being transmitted from one device to another at the wrong date, there's no way the machine would decipher this mistake or even effect a change. This results in a glitch in data accuracy.

However, timestamping using a standard time format helps secure your data. The common conventional methods, for instance, Real Time Clock (RTC), cause variations and may require conversions. Epoch unit of time is a standardized date and time reference used in computers and cloud servers, according to this research. Unix Epoch time is measured in seconds, starting from January 1, 1970, Epoch, 0 hours, 0 minutes, and 0 seconds.

Timestamping IoT data in Epoch time can give accurate information about when the data was measured rather than when received. Why is this important? AI algorithms rely on and make decisions based on the data collected from these devices. If wrong, the algorithms may give impaired conclusions, causing severe damage. In addition, using a standardized timestamping approach ensures consistency of time and date across the IoT network.

Integrate IoT Into The Data And Marketing Strategies

The efficient use of data is the foundation of any successful organization. Access to information from IoT devices provides organizations with an unparalleled opportunity to extract actionable insights from customer behaviors.

Walmart, for example, handles more than a million customer transactions each hour. They collect this information from different sources, including customer location, past purchases, and social media, to initiate targeted sales promotions. For example, if you have bought any gym equipment from Walmart and happen to be within a Walmart store with gym wear in stock, you might receive a push notification for a discounted voucher for a gym suit!

Here are the five ways companies can utilize the data gathered from the IoT system, according to Benard Marr:

  • Informed decision-making
  • Understand customer behaviors
  • Deliver customer value proposition
  • Generate revenue and improve business value
  • Optimize business operations

Adopt the Use Of Smart Building Features

Smart offices have become a new trend for organizations seeking to boost employee productivity. Compared to the traditional model, this intelligent technology has proven records of increasing business efficiency and driving relevant goals–faster.

For instance, when you begin to feel hot, the sensors will automatically trigger the HVAC system to adjust the air quality until you're comfortable. Other benefits include determining how many people are in the building, keeping track of energy usage using smart meters, and many more.

If your company uses the remote or hybrid work model, you can opt for these intelligent devices to facilitate collaboration between your employees and other teams worldwide. With these interconnected devices, they can make changes to any project, connect or perform any work-related tasks without being in the exact location.

Equip Employees on How To Use IoT

Companies venturing into IoT and other smart facilities must equip new and incumbent employees with the technology. New technologies potent unknown risks as well as the mode of operation. It's only imperative that employees are thoroughly trained on how to utilize this technology to their advantage. This will prevent accidents and reduce the costs of hiring human resources. A better option is to hire a competent IoT development agency to handle more technical issues.

Use Cases of IoT in Businesses

Business leaders seeking to venture into IoT can learn from existing users to learn the best practices and mistakes. Listed below are companies in diverse industries that use IoT to improve their business.

Healthcare

From wearable devices such as smartwatches to more complex devices such as Augmented Reality surgical lenses, IoT is already transforming the health sector.

For example, FindAir is a med-tech giant in Europe that focuses on providing smart inhaler devices to asthma patients. These devices are infused with IoT sensors that trigger a sound when they’re out of the user’s reach. The data gathered from these sensors are transmitted to the doctor to facilitate better and swift care.

Industrial and Manufacturing Companies

Equipment and production machinery with smart sensors can help manufacturers determine the level of work output, track product quality, detect faults before they occur, etc.

Augury, a global tech company in the United States, uses Industrial IoT sensors coupled with AI to eliminate downtime, reduce maintenance costs and improve machinery productivity. As a result, they reported that their customers saved over $100M in operational costs!

Agriculture

IoT can be deployed for farmlands with vast land areas to perform tasks such as fertilizing, watering, and planting in areas beyond human reach. IoT sensors can be embedded into farming machines to understand how they operate and how farmers can use them to ease their workflow.

AeroFarms, for example, uses AI and IoT to improve the production of fresh food and how they're grown and distributed. The smart farms are embedded with sensors that gather insights on plants and how they can be better quality and improve nutrition.

FAQs:

Q1: What are the three challenges IoT is currently facing?

The three significant challenges facing IoT today are technological, societal, and business, according to Professor Joakin Lindh, a professor of IoT at the University of San Jose. Let’s discuss each point briefly.

Technological Challenges: Until today, one of the most predominant challenges IoT faces is securing the enormous data it collects across devices. This has limited the technology adoption in some areas, as customers are wary of their data falling into the wrong hands.

Societal Challenges: In some areas, governmental regulations have restricted the adoption of IoT. This, in turn, limits the operations or expansion of IoT companies. Also, a lack of in-depth understanding of this technology has inhibited its growth and use. In addition, human needs are unlimited, and creating a system that caters to these incessant changing needs requires expertise and high capital.

Business Challenges: Complexity is another major challenge businesses face when incorporating IoT technology. IoT devices collect a lot of data which, when ineffectively analyzed, can result in wrong or impaired decisions. This will affect the expected return on investment (ROI) for the organization at large.

Q2: Is there any future for IoT?

Yes, IoT has a huge potential to disrupt diverse sectors in the future. We have already seen the benefits of voice recognition technologies, smart automobiles, wearable devices like the Apple Watch, and many more.

As highlighted above, we will see an advanced collaboration of IoT with artificial intelligence and machine learning. This will exuberate proper use of data and help organizations and people make better decisions.

Paul Daugherty, the CTO at Accenture, espouses that IoT will also play a significant role in the metaverse alongside other developments like quantum computing and synthetic data.

Q3: What are the two major concerns while using IoT?

The two major concerns of using IoT today are its lack of encryption and concerns around security. More specifically:

Lack of encryption: IoT devices collect data, some of which may give details of your personal life, for example, your location, web history, or contact details. The data is openly accessible to the IoT platform, which violates privacy regulations. Quoting Diego Ojuela, CEO of Cables and Sensors, in a contribution to Forbes: “As we have learned from the recent Facebook debacle and the millions of personal data that they have shared with its partners, the IoT faces a similar threat as more devices join the network and share data. Managing and protecting users’ data will challenge the IoT industry.”

Security concerns: IoT software is connected to the Internet, which exposes companies and their customers to safety risks. The more devices are connected to the network, the higher the chances of vulnerability to cyber-attack. For instance, if one of these devices is compromised, it can be used as an access point to affect other devices leading to a Mirai malware or distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack.

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