How Custom IoT Software Can Improve Business Operations
IoT and Business
With billions of active smart devices now in the hands of consumers around the world, IoT is proving to be a catalytic force in the world of technology. From smart homes and cities to safer and more efficient automobiles, IoT is beginning to make a noticeable difference in consumers’ lives. But IoT is bigger than just providing a few modern day conveniences to consumers, it is also capable of enhancing business operations on a massive scale. From reduced operating costs to improved energy efficiency, productivity, and security; custom IoT software can improve many facets of how a company operates.
Although IoT has been around for years, it is becoming an increasingly important investment for businesses across all industries. According to notable consultancy Bain & Company, the IoT market (including hardware, software, system integration, data, and telecom support services) is expected to eclipse $520 billion by the end of this year. That is more than a 100% increase on the $235 billion spent in 2017. Most businesses making investments into IoT technologies and softwares are seeing very positive results. In a survey published by KPMG, one of the ‘big four’ consulting firms, IoT is the leading technology for unlocking massive opportunities. Nearly 17% of businesses surveyed answered that IoT is driving the greatest business transformation.
So, how exactly can IoT help businesses and manufacturers of all kinds? Some of the benefits are more generic and applicable across multiple industries, while others are more niche and specialized. Generally speaking, larger companies or any business with a sizable office space will benefit from things like smart thermostats, lights, printers, coffee pots, vacuums, cleaners, and more. These may seem small and insignificant, but when scaled up for larger businesses the savings can be colossal.
It is estimated that smart thermostats alone cut home energy bills by as much as 25%, and they have an immediate ROI. Similar savings can be expected for large businesses and commercial properties as well. Smart lighting systems help in much the same way; automatically shutting off lights in unused areas and adjusting brightness levels appropriately. These systems also tend to use highly efficient bulbs which last many thousands of hours, saving considerable money in the long run. Buying a few small robotic vacuum cleaners and mops to help clean up the office means custodians will need to deep clean less often, saving another chunk of your monthly expenses. There are even smart coffee pots that automatically brew fresh coffee and order more when the stock is low, keeping your employees happy and productive.
Having all of these different smart-features accessible through a central control panel means that it is easier than ever to monitor and adjust your IoT systems to ensure the maximum benefits for your business. These are but a few examples of low-effort, low-investment solutions that can quickly show tangible benefits for virtually any business in any industry.
Moving past the more generic applications of IoT, let’s talk about some of the industry specific IoT solutions. Working alongside software design experts, businesses can develop highly specific IoT systems which result in massive boosts to efficiency, productivity, and security, while minimizing any downtime. Custom solutions can be tailored to virtually any industry, so regardless of whether your business operates in the healthcare, automotive, manufacturing, retail, agriculture, or industrial spheres, there are options available to streamline and enhance your operations.
Asset Tracking, Inventory Management, and Waste Reduction
Is your business having trouble with asset tracking or inventory management? Are you having to invest significant amounts of money into replacing lost assets? Or maybe employees are spending excessive time and resources solving inventory-related issues? Custom IoT applications can automatically track and control all of your inventory and assets as they move throughout the supply chain. This allows you to keep an eye on end-to-end operations while pinpointing and shoring up any weaknesses. Using IoT in your warehouses and storage units can automatically track and keep you up to date on any shifts in inventory. Not only do these systems help prevent theft, they can also result in locating and recovering lost assets.
In an interview with Internet of Business, CEO Werner Reuss of Orange Business Services described a situation in which a custom IoT approach helped reduce waste and recover millions in lost inventory:
“We did some work with a European car manufacturer, because they had a problem they needed us to help solve. The company had a complex supply chain that included tens of thousands of boxes, which contained materials for production. Each of these boxes had a value of 400 euros and, all in all, the company was hemorrhaging tens of millions of euros due to boxes getting lost in the supply chain.
“We came up with a solution to track each one of the boxes with a device that updated the location twice a day. Yes, it helped catch the odd stray box that went missing along the way, but more importantly, they were also able to triangulate the precise location of one box and, by doing so, they found an entire stash of boxes that had been misdirected. As a result, they were able to reduce the number of boxes that went missing and also address the huge costs associated with it.”
Real-time Business Insights & Improved Customer Experience
Integrating custom IoT systems into multiple aspects of your business operations creates several new data streams. Having access to more data means better analytics potential, which in turn means companies can gain better insights into how to improve their operations. It also means being better informed as to how consumers are using your products and services. When a company fully understands exactly how consumers use its products, they can better fulfill the consumers’ needs while improving the customer experience.
This is particularly relevant for the retail industry, as retail businesses can leverage custom IoT solutions in order to reduce friction in the buying experience. Oftentimes this happens pre-purchase in an augmented or virtual reality environment, such as visualizing what an outfit or pair of shoes would look like or how a piece of furniture would look in their living room.
Other companies such as Amazon and UK-based grocer Sainsbury’s have opted for a ‘shop, scan, and go’ approach in order to eliminate lines and reduce buyer friction. Simply grab the items you want, scan them using a smartphone app, and leave the store whenever you’re finished. The apps can tell when you’ve left the premises and bill you accordingly. Not only does this eliminate waiting in lines, but also gives the business better insight into customers’ shopping patterns and how they move around the retail space.
Boosts to Efficiency and Productivity
By connecting a businesses’ key processes through IoT, savvy companies can identify ways to enhance efficiency and productivity. Thanks to these kinds of advantages, businesses are expecting to see Industrial IoT boost their revenues by $154 million by the end of 2023, according to an Inmarsat report.
In Valencia, Spain, the Ford Motor Company is using special bodysuits for employees at their engine assembly plant. Equipped with the same advanced body tracking technology used by athletes and movie stars, these bodysuits provide a constant stream of data on the employees’ physiological condition while they work. Ford uses this technology to design workspaces that are less physically straining on the body. By tracking their employees’ body motion while they work, Ford is utilizing data-driven enhancements to improve their production process. This makes the workspace not only safer, but more efficient. Employees feel happier, healthier, and their bodies experience less wear and tear over the years.
Perhaps one of IoT’s greatest qualities is its flexibility and ability to adapt to all industries. All it takes is a bit of creativity and a custom IoT system to see measurable benefits to your business operations. There are IoT solutions for virtually any budget that can be scaled to the size of your company accordingly. Data and studies are showing just how fast the IoT sphere is expanding, and the kinds of positive impacts it can have on a growing business.
At Lithios we value outside opinions. This blog was written by one of our guest bloggers, Jonathan Baker, with feedback from the Lithios team.