The Internet of Things, or IoT, is starting to pop up in homes and businesses around the globe. This network of interconnected devices automates operations and reduces costs in several different sectors. How can business owners adopt this new technology and take advantage of the benefits?
According to CoreSight Research, poor inventory management costs businesses more than $300 billion a year. Companies that manage inventory, either for themselves or for other clients, can benefit from improvements, and that’s where IoT comes in. Smart management utilizes RFID or GPS tags on each piece of inventory. Once scanned by automated systems or human employees, these tags provide a real-time map of where each item is stored, when it moves and when it is shipped out.
This real-time tracking makes it easier to prevent inventory loss, saving the company money and reducing costs in the long run.
We’re entering the smart shipping era, and IoT devices will be at the forefront of that trend. This push won’t just focus on tracking, either. It will allow shipping companies to protect the items in their charge, providing the tools for climate control and monitoring items in motion.
According to Forbes, the pharmaceutical industry currently loses $15 billion a year when products are stored outside of their safe temperature range. IoT sensors can alert shippers and companies in real-time if the temperature or humidity is unsafe. That way, the problem can be rectified before it costs companies millions or billions of dollars in product losses.
IoT could also prevent losses in the food supply industry due to climate control and bacterial or viral contamination. Some IoT sensors in development may be able to determine if a perishable product has come into contact with E. coli, salmonella, listeria or other food-borne illnesses. Preventing the recalls that accompany these events can save food supply companies millions.
Every business wants to reduce utility costs and shrink their carbon footprint to become more environmentally friendly. IoT can help companies reduce their utility costs by letting them know where they’re wasting money. Take a look at a building’s HVAC system, for example. According to Orange Business Services, most of them run best at about 75% of their capacity, but most commercial systems end up running at about 110% because no one cares how hard they work, as long as they do.
IoT can help to reduce utility costs by controlling the building’s power usage according to CNBC. Networked motion sensors can let the system’s hub shut off lights, power and even heat/air conditioning to rooms that aren’t currently being used. It can open smart blinds to let in natural light instead of using artificial options. If the system is connected to the internet, it can even adjust the internal temperature and humidity based on the day’s weather report.
Smart Wi-Fi Gateway
It’s rare to walk into a commercial building today without finding at least one public Wi-Fi signal visitors can access. Traditional routers aren’t always as efficient for large buildings. Although they send out their signal in every direction, they’re easily obstructed by walls, appliances and other electronics. That’s why your signal drops if your router is in the living room and your office is on the other side of the house. That’s where beamforming and IoT smart gateways come in.
Wi-Fi beamforming allows the router to transmit the signal directly to any connected devices instead of sending out waves and hoping a device catches them. The goal of beamforming is to create Wi-Fi that provides a stronger signal at greater distances.
Currently, IoT networks are limited by the strength of the local router. Using Wi-Fi beaming to create smart gateways could allow the systems to reach throughout a facility without the need for signal boosters or separate routers, reducing overall costs
Employee training can take a lot of time and cost a lot of money, but the Internet of Things, when paired with virtual reality, may be able to change that. Instead of putting new employees at risk by training them in person for dangerous jobs, they can learn everything they need to know in an entirely safe and completely immersive virtual environment. Virtual reality doesn’t just work for gamers anymore. Surgeons can practice delicate operations, mechanics can learn how to assemble and repair complicated machines, and KFC employees can learn how to make the brand’s trademark fried chicken.
IoT is integral to these devices. Although they do represent a significant initial investment, they can reduce overall training costs and improve every company’s bottom line.
AR on the Floor
Traditionally, when NASA engineers assemble a new rocket or spacecraft, they utilized a massive assembly manual that contained thousands of pages. While it was effective, it was anything but efficient. It left engineers flipping through pages if they had a leftover screw or two once the craft was fully assembled. Thanks to IoT, NASA has abandoned the assembly manual in favor of an augmented reality program according to Technology Review. It uses the Microsoft HoloLens to project the next steps directly onto the spacecraft as it’s being built.
You might not be building spacecraft, but that doesn’t mean your business can’t benefit from IoT and augmented reality. According to Business.com, some brands are already creating an AR experience consumers can interact with via their smartphone or tablet. AR can be used for everything from inventory management to training and safety inspections — and everything in between. Amazon lets customers use AR on their smartphones to see what a piece of furniture will look like in their home before they order it, which saves them money. The same sort of trends can be applied to nearly any business.
Reducing Costs With IoT
Adopting IoT might represent a substantial initial investment, but the return on that investment is high. The expense is worth it. Whether you’re using the Internet of Things to assemble a spacecraft or just turn the lights out when the office closes for the night, it can provide substantial savings. That’s something most every business can get behind.