The Internet of Things (IoT) has perhaps replaced the cloud as the great business buzzword for progressive IT departments and management teams. Promising intuitive online connectivity between all physical and non-physical elements of a business’ operations; the IoT of things potentially could ease a lot of corporate headaches – helping to streamline an unlimited number of tasks.
However, one of the IoT’s greatest strengths could also prove to be one of its weaknesses as it tries to drive widespread adoption: it’s all-encompassing versatility. With a seemingly endless array of functions and benefits, could the IoT be slightly daunting for businesses to completely adopt? This leads to the question; what business functions should your business trust to the Internet of Things?
Easing into this list, there’s a good chance your business printer will already boast IoT credentials – connected to the office WiFi. Modern multifunction printers, in particular, boast an array of functions and features which rely upon wireless connection to the web.
Cloud connectivity is a relatively common feature of printers developed in the last few years – allowing users to access a central hub of documents and data, printing them anywhere in the world. Furthermore, physical copies can be scanned directly to the central cloud-based hub – immediately allowing all authorised parties access to the data on the scanned copies.
Google Cloud Print has been developed by the search engine giants to simplify the process of printing almost anything from anywhere, on a cloud-connected printer.
Hot desking/parking space availability
Operating hand-in-hand with another growing business practice; the IoT can support the hot desking process. Monitoring the desk units currently in use, and sharing the information with the relevant workforce; team members will know if there will be a space available for them to work should they venture into the office on any given day.
Likewise, intelligently monitoring parking spaces for an office block can help guests and employees identify the spaces available when they arrive at the building.
The creation of a simple hub displaying up-to-the-minute information regarding which desk and parking spaces are available will allows visitors to check via a smart phone, tablet device or computer before making the journey.
Health and safety
A robust health and safety process is an absolute necessity for all businesses across all industries and sectors. So it is unsurprising that cloud-based business-side health and safety operations have been widely implemented – creating a central portal for standardised operations, reporting and actionable tasks.
The increased connectivity provided by the IoT lends the technology perfectly to health and safety operations. Monitoring equipment and machinery used by the business, the IoT can support up-to-date performance indicators, helping H&S managers identify potential dangers as they emerge. Furthermore, a web-connected tool can monitor the whereabouts of on-the-clock employees, ensuring they are removed from potentially hazardous environments.
Manchester-based software development team SoNQ, specialise in developing online architecture helping businesses comply with health and safety regulations. Their head of digital marketing, Simon Hoe, is convinced that more and more firms will move their H&S operations online in the coming years:
“Utilising the cloud and Internet of Things to accommodate health and safety responsibilities can be a hugely helpful management tool. Not only can it help keep all requisite information securely stored in one location, but can also allow inspectors to complete many of their tasks remotely – streamlining their responsibilities.”
Supply chain control
Speeding up the process of ensuring that all shelves (physical and digital) are filled with products, continuous IoT-supported supply chain control can streamline the completion and distribution of sales.
Supply chain control supported by the IoT offers particular benefits for e-commerce businesses. Shoppers and suppliers can both keep in continuous contact with orders from the moment the customer clicks ‘buy’ to the completion of the delivery. By tracking packages, warehouses and delivery trucks; both parties can watch the progress of the order, adding accuracy to delivery estimations.
NFC (near field communication) payments have become quite commonplace over the past two years, with contactless debit cards and Apple Pay widely accepted forms of payment throughout the UK.
According to the UK Card Association, there are more than 85m contactless cards currently in the UK – this equates to more than one per person. The amount spent via this medium is increasing at a rapid rate, with month-by-month growth currently measuring at roughly 15%.
This makes it vitally important for businesses conducting face-to-face transactions to accommodate this payment method. Thanks to its simplicity and efficiency, it’s proving to be hugely popular amongst many consumers – and businesses reluctant to adopt this model may find themselves trailing behind more progressive competitors.
Simplifying and streamlining the ever-irritating task of continuously fiddling with the boiler and thermostat – controlling indoor air quality, temperature and other environmental factors can optimise working conditions, with minimal fuss. Using a central hub controlled by a smartphone, tablet or computer can accommodate environmental optimisation from a central location – ideal for a large office block.
Individual offices and floors can be granted individual control over their environments – with access provided to authorised parties.
This technology is already being rolled out to homeowners, with British Gas providing Hive Active Heating to many homes in the UK. This is just another example of the IoT influencing work and home life without many people realising the technology at play.
And this will perhaps be the most significant factor in the widespread adoption of the IoT, as members of the public slowly grow increasingly reliant on the technology. As utilisation of the IoT becomes the norm, it’s functionality will almost become standard throughout almost innumerate disciplines.