The Internet of Things (IoT) has become a part of everyday life and it ensures that in some form the internet is around us at all times. When managed correctly, this technology can be hugely beneficial to both the producer and the consumer. In the world of business, IoT can be used to increase efficiency, gain new insights and help leaders to make better, and more informed decisions.
More businesses are recognising these benefits, and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) market is predicted to grow at a CAGR of 7.4 percent, from $77.3 billion in 2020 to $110.6 billion in 2025.
For many businesses, the first question will be how to leverage these new technologies, and implement non-disruptive solutions that can be introduced to the network without posing considerable risks. The answer can be provided by a top IT company that can help to develop strategies and put them into action. After this, businesses can begin to enjoy some of the wide-ranging benefits of IoT.
Increased efficiency and productivity
In a Forbes survey, 37 percent of executives are deploying IoT in order to improve productivity and efficiency. In all industries, IoT can be used to collect data on processes that enables them to be improved more quickly.
In the manufacturing sectors, IoT devices can help to evaluate demand and manage accordingly the different stages of production through real-time tracking of parts and materials. Businesses in white-collar sectors gather employee data in order to schedule tasks and meetings at the most productive time. In many cases, data is continually streamed and the changes are made even without human intervention.
At a Ford plant in Spain, employees use uniforms with body tracking technology, which has helped to inform changes to the production process, making it safer and more efficient. In other applications, IoT is used to calculate the fastest route for freight transport, and to inspect oil pipelines and equipment with the use of drones.
Improved customer experience
With more connected devices and equipment in various fields, a larger amount of data is streamed with a potential for improved analytics. This means businesses can gain greater insights into their operations and how their products and services are being used. This can be enabled by cloud services, but a move towards edge computing can also be noticed in some fields.
IoT technologies like mobile card readers that connect to mobile phones can allow payments to be processed more quickly and easily, while on-floor cameras can help retailers understand customer reactions to promotions. The rise of online retailers like Amazon has perhaps only been possible through data analysis and data-driven strategies.
In the future, businesses will need to engage with the customer and reduce any potential difficulties, as brand loyalty is becoming less important than convenience. The increasing importance of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) services in the business world shows that now we live in a world where the customer comes as a first priority.
There are various ways in which IoT devices can save on the tasks that would otherwise be manually performed by humans. This could include the monitoring of different processes or equipment, such as heating and cooling systems. As the data can be logged by a central system in real time, an unnecessary journey by a technician can be avoided.
Compliance with safety measures, such as air quality or temperature, can be measured with IoT-enabled sensors. Inventory management can be made easier with smart tracking devices, and security system needs can be completed with cameras and smart locks. The natural consequence to employing such measures is the inevitable staff redundancies. While this is unfortunate, in the bigger picture a workforce that is IoT enabled will adapt to create new opportunities for everyone.
New business strategies
With a larger number of products that are connected to the internet, data collected from those products is able to feed back into those products or related services. This adds value to the original design and creates a continual system of feedback based on actual usage. It can potentially be hugely beneficial to the internal processes of businesses and the customer.
The new system can transform traditional business models and businesses can offer subscription-based services that make the most of the connected nature of the products. As data is often at the centre of businesses, products that provide them with valuable data may be able to offer related products and services at a reduced cost. In the new and emerging markets this will mean revenues from customer capital expenditure (capex) will be replaced by operational expenditure (opex).
In addition to all of the above, IoT technologies are an excellent way of allowing employees to work remotely. Given the current coronavirus restrictions, this is proving to be absolutely essential for a range of industries all over the world. But even though employees, clients, partners and suppliers can all be connected through IoT systems, these remote devices represent a weak link in the network. As many as 90 percent of IoT transactions are unencrypted and attacks on IoT devices increased by 300 percent in 2019.
Applying IoT security
Given the increased security concerns, It is important that IoT devices and systems are adequately safeguarded. Businesses should always practice the highest levels of security, and this is no different where IoT is concerned. Here are some of the best IoT security measures that can be followed:
- Use IoT devices that are built for security. Some devices are only designed to protect the gateway, but they should also protect all connected devices. It is better if nodes and sensors are also equipped with onboard security.
- Evaluate the security of every device before they are installed. IoT devices often display security certificates, such as from the security framework created by the Industrial Internet Consortium.
- Keep your IoT software up to date. Software that is out of date is a common cause of security breaches, in IoT and other areas of IT systems. If necessary, replace the hardware, but don’t allow updates to be overlooked.
- Manage and update your third-party access database. Access needs to be carefully managed, such that only those individuals who require access in the current time should be granted access. Past vendors should be removed and permissions should also be controlled.
- Review your network traffic. It has been found that business networks are frequently used for IoT device communication. If this is the case then then an IT security solution should be created to prevent IoT attacks and integrate with the network.
- Carry out regular risk assessment and security checks. IoT should not be overlooked in assessments and audits, as these devices are an important aspect of security.
- Encrypt all of your data. It is recommended that all data is encrypted, but this should certainly be the case for sensitive data. Though device providers usually use encryption in design, not all tools on the market come with built-in encryption.
- Deploy mobile monitoring. This offers the possibility of tracking the status of each device in real time, and it can help to know that they are secure.
IoT devices are a technology that can bring many advantages to a business which can lead to growth and scalability. All implementations should be considered carefully and integrated into cohesive business strategies. Security is a key issue, but if it is taken into account and managed through a strict policy and set of procedures, then the various benefits of IoT can be realised.