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Think all the cool gadgets are just for consumers? Or that business has to be boring?
Think again. A lot is changing in the world of business tools. With the Internet of Things (IoT) bringing connectivity to what were formerly "dumb" pieces of hardware (like locks), and new gadgets that didn't exist a decade ago (like smartwatches), it's a whole new world.
Here are six productivity-enhancing gadgets and apps that will make your business more efficient, productive and nimbler. And they are fun too.
1. Wearable cameras for business video.
Wearable cameras are not just for thrill seekers or YouTube entrepreneurs. Business people are using them as a hands-free and convenient way to shoot training and how-to videos. Wearable cameras can also be used for capturing audits, recording maintenance inspections, and troubleshooting field service problems. Gopro models can be strapped to your head, shoulder, or torso. The Pivothead is worn as glasses; it's also Wi-Fi connected so the wearer can livestream real time inspections and reports.
2. Smart locks to keep premises secure.
Still using a key for the lock on your business's front door? That's so 2010! Electronic keyless locks and smart locks are gaining traction, and the cost is within reach of small business budgets. No more worrying about re-keying locks when employees leave your employ. With keyless locks, you can give entry codes to employees, revoke access, lock doors remotely, and even monitor who entered your business at a certain time--at a fraction of the cost or complexity of magnetic swipe card systems. Options include Wi-Fi-enabled solutions like RemoteLock. Or there's the connected Schlage Smart Deadbolt or the Bluetooth-enabled Kwikset Kivo smart lock, both of which enable doors to be unlocked using a smartphone.
3. Amazon Echo Dot plus Alexa for hands-free productivity.
Amazon has been innovating in amazing ways with Alexa, its digital assistant, and its Echo devices. The Echo Dot, a small standalone device, comes paired up with Alexa, allowing you to use voice commands to control smart devices, send and receive messages, dictate notes, or get reminders. The Echo Dot doubles as a speaker so you can listen to audio and make and receive calls using an associated app. The Echo Dot can also control smart building components including lights, locks, and thermostats. And you can use voice commands to perform tasks like requesting Uber rides or checking your business bank balance.
4. Smart thermostats to manage energy costs.
Maybe you wouldn't think of a thermostat as cool, but today's connected Wi-Fi versions might change your mind. Smart thermostats are IoT connected devices that allow businesses to manage energy consumption remotely. Nest is one maker of smart thermostats. The Emerson Sensi Wi-Fi Thermostats are another solution that allow owners to control settings from a mobile app. These smart systems allow you to keep temperatures at comfortable levels for employees during work hours, and adjust them to use less energy when employees are not in the office, saving energy--and money.
5. Connected devices that detect low supplies and order them.
Auto-fulfillment is a growing concept today as it relates to consumable items. And auto-fulfillment has also arrived in the small business world. For instance, with the Brother Printer Refresh program, a Brother Wi-Fi connected printer can automatically detect when printer ink or toner is getting low. And it automatically places a replacement order--but only when you need it. (It's not a subscription that sends supplies whether you need them or not.) With the growth of connected devices, expect to see more such replenish-as-needed technology for consumables. In the future, you may never again suffer the aggravation of running out of supplies.
6. Fitness and health monitors for a fitter team.
Who hasn't heard about fitness monitors like FitBit for personal use? But have you thought about using these devices as a low-cost perk you give to employees? After all, it is in every business's interest to have a fit and healthy workforce. Some monitors help track diet and eating habits as well as monitoring activity and heart rate. Others are smartwatches with fitness trackers built in. Still others like Moov can monitor exercise routines and claim to help users reduce athletic injuries.
So, there you have six gadgets and connected apps that not only deserve a decent score on the cool-o-meter, but can deliver ROI in measurable dollars and cents to your business.