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The term Internet of Things (IoT) is gaining momentum in the business world. The crux of IoT is that by being connected to the internet, devices and equipment of all kinds, from smartphones to printers, to vending machines that report they are out of soda pop, can automate processes and drive efficiency.

Instead of manually passing data, these "always on" devices in the plugged-in world of the Internet of Things do it automatically without human intervention. 

The benefits of the IoT are many. Take a look at the following ways connected devices, equipment, machines and other items can benefit your business. 

1. Improve Supply Chain Management

IoT can improve supply chain management. By applying asset tracking to supply chain operations, managers get the tools to make more informed decisions of logistical and supply chain operations, businesses will be able to save time and money.

Supply chain management can be as simple as being alerted by your printer that your ink is almost out and it's time to reorder, so you don't run out in the middle of printing an important client presentation. But of course, it gets much more sophisticated for manufacturers that rely on raw materials or retailers that rely on inventory, and can't sell anything without an uninterrupted supply chain. 

2.  Analyze Data Better

The IoT will generate massive amounts of data. By 2020, Gartner estimates that over 20 billion devices will be connected to the internet, each collecting data. In turn that data will need to be analyzed with efficiency, clarity and speed.

Small business owners will need to adapt to this new form of data intelligence and those who do can take advantage of the flood of data these connected devices will produce. Such data will prove invaluable in allowing companies to analyze and understand customer behavior and trends.

For instance, knowing the day and time of buying patterns of customers, can help your business staff better and even help you pick the right hours of operation. Armed with the right data, you can make smarter business decisions.

3. Increase Profitability

Automation is the friend of small businesses, because so many of us are stretched for staff. We never have enough people to go around. Aside from that, labor is often one of our biggest expense items.

Growth can stall if we have to add people in order to accommodate more sales. We get into a vicious cycle. We need more sales, but in order to get more sales we need to hire, and in order to hire we need more money.

At the heart of automation are intelligent devices and equipment we use. They can deploy data and process improvements to cut out the costly middleman and cut down on costly manual processes. Imagine the profitability if you could deliver 100 percent more, but not have to bring on 100 percent more labor!

For example, what if your business could collect and analyze usage data from customers, and send out automated alerts suggesting upgrade opportunities when the customer's needs exceed the current solution?   That way you could use your existing sales team more efficiently.  You'd deploy them to follow up on situations where you know the customer has a need, and automation has already initiated the cross-selling or upselling solution.

So think of IoT as freeing up your business to scale and grow, without being hindered by adding more cost.

4. Get from A to B Faster

Spending a proportion of the working day cooped inside a car and possibly stuck in traffic is not conducive to a productive and efficient day's work! IoT is hailed as being the "next big thing" in the daily commute.

Interconnectivity between mobile devices and cars is set to reduce travel time, enabling business owners and their employees to get to work faster and complete business errands without delay.

Think beyond commuting, to businesses with a field service force. Knowing traffic tie ups, routing appointments in the most efficient directions, and being automatically alerted to changes in schedule, can save tremendous wasted time among staff who are out serving customers. This can save money and improve customer satisfaction to a great degree.

IoT provides myriad opportunities for small businesses. The savviest owners are looking for easy ways to get smart devices in our businesses so we can do automatically and embrace the benefits our increasingly plugged in world provides.