Although the term Internet of Things (IoT) was coined in 1999, the transition from pie-in-the-sky concept to an actual thing, pardon the pun, began about 10 years ago when the first smart consumer devices were introduced. According to forecasts from Gartner, the IoT will grow to 6.4 billion things by the end of this year, a 30 percent jump from 2015. In fact, Gartner estimates that the IoT is growing by 5.5 million things each day. By 2020, the IoT will be comprised of 20.8 billion things.

The IoT is a massive network of Internet-connected objects that can automatically collect and share data. These objects include desktop computers, mobile devices, machines, sensors, consumer products, and even animals and people. IoT data can be analyzed in real time to respond to events as they happen, evaluate past trends, predict future trends, and inform business decisions. The IoT has been hyped by some as the next Industrial Revolution because of its potential to influence business and government operations and human behavior.

The IoT has already impacted the enterprise. Large hospitals and healthcare organizations use connected medical devices to monitor patients. Major manufacturers use connected sensor data to streamline processes and avoid equipment failure. Oil and gas companies use connected vehicles and machines to monitor and optimize operations in remote areas. But how can the IoT help small businesses?

Generally speaking, any business can leverage IoT data to improve productivity and efficiency and better understand their customers. The IoT use cases for small businesses in various industries are virtually infinite, but here are a few simple examples.

  • Internet-connected products can not only help companies better understand product usage and condition, but predict customer need for replacement, identify upsell and cross-sell opportunities, and improve the accuracy of sales forecasts. Looking at the bigger picture, companies can use this data to identify new revenue streams and develop new products according to customer demand.
  • Similarly, retailers can use sensors, video, smart product labels, and mobile apps to track inventory and analyze customer behavior. This data can be used to boost sales and reduce markdowns by optimizing store displays and delivering timely, relevant offers to customers.
  • Organizations can use smart heating and cooling, lighting and security technology – accessed and managed through a mobile device – to optimize and reduce the costs of operating offices and facilities.
  • Sensor data can be used to improve customer service, optimize staff levels and reduce wait times by analyzing peak activity and traffic.
  • Connected vehicles and equipment make it possible to proactively schedule maintenance and updates, automatically order parts, reduce the number of repairs, identify and address performance issues, and extend the useful life of company assets.

While IoT potential for small businesses is enormous, security continues to represent a serious challenge. Each IoT device represents a possible entry point into your network, and many of these devices were not built with security in mind. In fact, multiple studies have found that seven in 10 IoT devices lack basic security features and are vulnerable to a breach. The key is to prioritize security in the planning stages instead of addressing it after implementation.

SSD is committed to IT solutions that maximize productivity, streamline operations, and deliver value to the customer. Let us show you how the IoT delivers on all three fronts and help you develop a strategic plan for IoT implementation.