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It seems that the Internet of Things (IoT) is an even bigger buzz word than cloud was two years ago – and it’s only increasing in popularity. Over the past few years the IoT has been focused on consumer products but according to Gartner’s latest forecast business use of the IoT things is catching up with the consumer market. With more devices and products slowly being released to market some experts are projecting that 2017 will actually see the IoT kick off more than it has in the last few years.
We know that all of us are already a part of the Internet of Things. We all have smart phones and most of us probably have a few connected products in our homes like Apple TV, wireless speakers or lights controlled with a few swipes of a tablet. However, the focus on the Internet of Business Things (IoBT) has mainly centered around the consumer market too. But how will it change the workplace?
Data has exploded in recent years and businesses are starting to embrace what’s out there now by getting a clearer picture of the entire consumer cycle right from research to purchase and implementation. This data will streamline business advertising and marketing plans as well as affect product development and releases. For example retail stores, while already changing to satisfy online demand, have a huge potential to use this data to completely revolutionise the in-store consumer experience. Businesses could choose to kill off or launch new products off the back of data received from their current offerings.
We’ve all heard of the smart fridge which will order more milk as you run out, but how do these types of items translate into the workplace? One of the big areas is predictive maintenance of devices which is a win-win situation for business and consumers alike. Currently devices and machines are taken for preventative maintenance before anything can go wrong but this brings a significant cost and inconvenience. The IoT, and more specifically the sensors deployed on devices are helping us switch to predictive maintenance which increases efficiency, reduces costs and increases brand faith by automating this manual process.
Another example of workplace automation could be the advent of smart warehouses, whilst many already use remote scanners and computer systems to track and store inventory, they could soon be fully automated with ordering, selecting, packing and delivering all done without a human ever having touched a product.
Voice-user interface (VUI) which is still primarily used for internet searches or automated personal assistants like Siri will take-off in the workplace. Internet-connected devices will be controlled by VUI. Some examples include voice dialing, controlling lights and other amenities; and even ordering supplies.
Fitness trackers have been a hot topic for a while with reminders for us to get up and move or stop and engage in a minute or more of mindful breathing, these ideas will cross over to workplace automation. This will involve smart desks, lamps, chairs and computers that will adjust around us to avoid the afternoon slump or change according to our environment – for example, sun position, temperature fluctuations or our posture changes.
Although not for the consumer market, Web Real-Time Communication (WebRTC) is a solution that experts predict as the next big thing for businesses. WebRTC enables applications such as video conferencing, file transfer, chat, or desktop sharing without the need of internal or external plugins.
As the use of bots increases roles will change and some may disappear forever, although there will be new gaps to fill. Bots will more likely augment a workforce rather than completely take it over, dependent of course on the industry and business structure.
Mobility is a big deal for businesses these days. Whether you choose a bring-your-own-device scheme or use Device-as-a-Service IoBT will allow mobility to occur on a whole new level. It won’t simply be about logging in to the cloud to access business apps and files the future can see employees logging in to devices and controlling them remotely. Entire businesses could operate with no-one stepping foot into a workplace, a truly remote and global workforce could dominate.
Although still in it’s relative infancy, businesses who want to be early adopters of the IoBT should start by asking themselves some basic questions:
What data could we benefit from?
What insights could be gained with access to better data?
What manual processes could be automated? (start small)
What products, solutions and sensors are needed to collect this new data?
It will still take many years for the IoBT to be fully adopted and even more for the way we work to change due to it’s adoption. Businesses should start analysing what data would be most beneficial to them and how they can receive and translate that data into real business insights.
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