IoT, with its web of connected devices, is spearheading a revolution in our analog world that is fundamentally shifting the way we engage with technology. From wearable devices and autonomous vehicles to industrial supply chains and connected machines, IoT devices is leaving an impact everywhere – on people, governments, and organizations of all sizes.
But not everyone is able to mine IoT to its full potential. There is a misconception that IoT is only for large companies with big teams and bigger budgets. However, IoT can also be extremely effective in helping SMEs turn their businesses into powerhouses of productivity.
By automating and streamlining tedious, repetitive tasks, IoT channels resources into activities with higher ROI. Tasks that don’t add much value but are integral for smooth functioning of the organization, like delegation, scheduling, and reporting, can be automated, with IoT enabled devices. Additionally, by reducing jobs low on stimulation, SMEs can reduce the risk of employee churn, human error, and loss of productivity.
Business continuity and minimal downtime is critical for any business; but more so for SMEs operating in competitive landscapes. Through sensors and machine data, IoT makes predictive maintenance possible, helping maintain machinery and vehicle health, proactively identifying problems before they occur and sending notifications to resolve them. By building a connected universe, IoT can allow SMEs to boost asset performance, remotely monitor critical operations, do quick damage control if needed, and take informed business-critical decisions in real-time. Predictive maintenance allows supervisors to know what’s going to go wrong before it does so that corrective actions are taken proactively instead of reactively, preventing machine downtimes, accidents, and other damages.
For many SMEs, getting relevant customer insights means engaging in expensive research or relying on inconsistent third-party information. But with consumers adopting connected devices and wearables, SMEs now have direct access to unprecedented customer data. With the right integration of IoT and analytics, SMEs can now use this data to understand customers better, gain deeper insight into where they are in the buying journey and finally create real-time, bespoke marketing communication to help close the sale. The customer data, when used correctly, can drive innovation and help SMEs become agile and respond to market demands faster.
IoT technology can offer a portfolio of practical approaches to elevate logistics and supply chain management. IoT-enabled fleet management solutions can provide precise data of vehicles in real-time such as location, productivity and technical condition of every connected vehicle. By tracking and optimizing traffic, parking, workloads and delivery schedule, SMEs can get complete visibility into the timelines and cost of delivery. It can also strengthen a driver’s safety with fatigue detection systems and wearable applications.
With SMEs, small savings go a long way. Smart metering and lighting solutions is one such step that helps save on utilities by streamlining energy consumption and allowing for remote monitoring. Sensors track space occupancy and automatically trigger a switch off or dimming of the lights and temperature controls to reduce energy consumption. Through IoT, an SME can also manage the idle time for office equipment and machines, automatically turning them off when not in use
IoT holds the power to bring together all the digital technologies for SMEs and transform their businesses. However, they must not treat it as a panacea for all their problems. This is so because IoT inherently has no value. The value of IoT, much like software, lies in the gains a business can make from it. Therefore, Step 1 of an SME’s transformation journey is to identify the areas of improvement and bring into focus a goal the business is trying to achieve – customer retention, enhanced process efficiency, or general organization-wide automation. Step 2 is to manage the overwhelming amount of data that is generated in huge variety, volumes, and at great speed. Storing and managing this data can prove to be a considerable challenge for an SME. Step 3 is to recognize the right IoT technologies to support the business and detail how they fit into the SME’s overall IoT and business strategy.
IoT projects are complex and slow to get off the ground. While large multinationals can afford big consulting companies to help create a strategy, it is not feasible for many SMEs as they tend to operate on much leaner models. It is hence imperative for an SME to find the right technology partner that understands its business, pain-points, areas of improvement, goals, and most importantly, its budget, to help design a strategy bespoke to its unique strengths and weaknesses.
By adopting IoT for its digital transformation, an SME can open doors to huge opportunities and turn its vision into reality.