Sure, it’s nice to be able to adjust the thermostat from your smartphone. But the real promise of the Internet of Things (IoT) is sensor-embedded devices exchanging information and capturing valuable data.

A new report from Cisco and DHL predicts IoT will generate $8 trillion in business value worldwide over the next decade. This will come primarily from five key drivers:

  • Innovation and revenue
  • Asset utilization
  • Supply chain and logistics
  • Employee productivity improvements
  • Enhanced customer experience

Here’s what owners of small and medium-sized business need to know.

Businesses of any size can increase profits and efficiencies by harnessing the power of IoT

Business owners can partner with manufacturing plants that use IoT to connect to operations, logistics, and suppliers, says Maciej Kranz, an IoT pioneer and author of Building the Internet of Things. This enables you to manage production remotely and more efficiently. IoT can also speed deliveries to customers by connecting all relevant processes, from order taking to truck routing.

Keep up with industry-specific IoT developments

Some markets are moving closer toward their own standards for IoT. Business owners should keep this in mind when investing in the new technology. “Each unique industry will start to mature and settle on protocols, hardware, and more to define its specific standard and put innovation on the fast track,” says Arup Barat, chief commercial officer at infiswift, an enterprise IoT platform provider. While universal standards are the ultimate goal, it may take some time to get there.

Falling sensor costs mean rising revenue opportunities

A fast-growing IoT technology market is driving down hardware costs. Products equipped with increasingly affordable IoT sensors can alert customers when service is needed. “This is creating opportunities for ongoing revenue streams and customer relationships for what were previously one-purchase products,” says Dennis Duckworth, director of product marketing at VoltDB, a transactional database developer.

More data makes smaller businesses competitive

Affordable IoT sensors open up a vast reservoir of data for business owners. “IoT provides a way to build better, smart products,” says Bryan Kester, director of IoT at Autodesk.

These products use sensors to collect data from their environments. Such information may include product performance to customer behavior to employee productivity, depending on the nature of the sensor and purpose of the product. New APIs make it possible to integrate that data into existing IT infrastructures, enabling business owners to create more efficient systems and processes.

IoT faces the same security challenges as other internet activities.

IoT security threats grew in 2016 and continue to be a concern today. Both equipment manufacturers and government regulators paying more attention to such online threats. But it’s also important that business owners adopt the same kinds of cyber security best practices for IoT that they use in their other online activities measures.

However, the potential rewards of IoT for business are so significant, they more than justify the efforts to keep your business and its data secure. It's time to explore how IoT can help your business be more efficient, effective and productive.

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