Posted: Thu 26th Jun 2014
You may be increasingly hearing the term 'The Internet of Things' and wondering what it means and, critically, what does it mean for your small business. Enterprise Nation poses these very questions to General Manager for Small Business at AVG Technologies, Mike Foreman.
Can you explain what the Internet of Things means?
It's not as complicated as some people would have you believe. The Internet of Things is simply where everyday objects are able to communicate over the net. A simple example would be a medicine bottle that sends you a text alert if you've forgotten to take your medication. It's just a way of describing an environment where everything is connected and communicating online.
What does that have to do with businesses?
It's easy to see how the Internet of Things can change a home environment as we're all so familiar with home appliances and processes. At some point we all have opened empty fridges, forgotten to take bins out or lost our keys. It's therefore easy to imagine a world where technology helps us avoid these domestic annoyances. Smart fridges that reorder food as it runs low, advanced entry systems that allow you to get in without your keys and remind you to empty the bin when you leave in the morning.
But when it comes to businesses, it's not always so clear. What would be so great about a connected coffee machine?
In my opinion the Internet of Things is all about potential and how it can help businesses cut costs, improve efficiency and spot usage patterns that can help increase profitability, productivity and customer satisfaction.
The Internet of Things allows us to examine all the processes that have "always been done that way" and think "how can we do them better"? What can we do now that we couldn't do ten or even five years ago?
Which industries will be affected by the Internet of Things?
All of them. Every company in every industry can do something better. As businesses, we all need to keep moving forward, learning, growing and innovating.
Just think how much the Internet of Things has already revolutionised certain industries, GPS positioning for Uber cabs, automated parcel tracking for courier services, collision avoidance systems for cars and digital supply chain management for warehouses around the globe.
Imagine, for instance, how much a garden-centre could benefit from the Internet of Things. Saving money on overwatering, keeping plants healthy and tracking customer movement through the store to optimise layout are just some of the possibilities that come to mind.
Do you think the UK is ready?
AVG's just done some research on this and our numbers show that the UK is really optimistic about the Internet of Things. 98% of UK small businesses believe it is relevant to their business and with half of them expecting it to be adopted in their industry within the next three years.
Clearly, the UK is optimistic about the potential and AVG's research shows what small businesses are most looking forward to increased access to data, productivity gains and even customer satisfaction.
Do you have any advice for businesses thinking about getting started with the Internet of Things?
Absolutely. The first thing I would urge businesses to do is to read up on the Internet of Things. Try to understand what is and is not possible. Once you know that it's easier to see how it will apply to your business.
Once you have a good understanding of the subject matter, I think there are five considerations:
Processes: Which processes could be automated or optimised?
Behaviour: Is there anything you could learn from how your customers behave or use your product?
Product: What data would help you improve your product?Costs: How could a connected business help you cut costs?
Risks: If you were to get your business connected, what additional precautions would you have to take?
Thanks to Mike for his helpful advice. We're off to consider The Internet of Things as it relates to Enterprise Nation!