How to Implement IoT for Businesses
Internet of Things (IoT) technologically is absolutely brilliant and we really like technology! IoT is actually quite different from other forms of technology. IoT’s value isn’t in its tech – it is in its ability to generate vast quantities of useful information about the inner workings of a business.
IoT is about connecting ordinary objects to the internet to measure, monitor and track those objects and send data about their usage back to a business. As a result of new technologies we are able to deploy small, inexpensive devices with ultra long life batteries with full autonomous usage.
In the digital age data/information is king and IoT is a master at generating data. Our biggest challenge is that businesses aren’t used to asking questions of ordinary objects because until now they couldn’t get a response.
Let me share a simple story. Imagine a retail shop with customers pushing a trolley around. The Holy Grail for the marketing department is to know what that shopper is thinking. Why? They could target the exact right product instantly and increase revenues. The customer experience will be enhanced too – the customer will spend less time shopping because they will be able to get all the items they desire in double quick time and any suggested products will be very much inline with the customer's preferences. A rare true win-win where the business gets what they want and so does the customer.
The problem is the marketing department can’t read minds. Up until now the best way for them to communicate with the customer was to ask them questions or maybe ask them to fill in a survey. It is a win for the business but a very time-consuming process for the consumer.
A smart trolley is one-way retailers are deploying IoT technology. They are using tech embedded in the shopping trolley handle to look for behavioral changes in the consumer while they are walking around. They’re also able to track the location of the trolley in the store.
This data is fed back to a central server and turned into something useful to the marketing department. The marketing department can use that data for all sorts of positive applications like better targeted advertising or market research by understanding many more aspects of consumer behavior.
The trolley example above is one of many hundreds of different use cases. While the use case may be different the overall objective is always constant – gather valuable information and apply analytics to make that data highly valuable to businesses.
Other industry use cases are; Asset Tracking (indoor and out), Smart Industry, Smart Building, Smart Cities, Smart Agriculture, Smart Living, E-Health, Smart Environment, Smart Insurance.
IoT devices are cheap and as volumes increase will get cheaper. ROI is a major factor when businesses adopt new technologies. IoT offers businesses relatively low barriers to entry as measuring, monitoring and tracking devices have been around for a number of years – adding connectivity enhances value without increasing costs substantially.
Business model shifts - Digitally connected products and digital services linked to physical products will be a massive opportunity for businesses. Eg IoT devices to monitor machinery functionality is a massive benefit when making purchasing decisions. Customers are given an extra incentive because machinery reliability is sold along with the machine components. Customers will begin differentiating suppliers not only based on the quality of the product but the support that follows – machinery downtime could be more costly than the machine cost – customers know this!
New business opportunities – New products and services can be developed ensuring an increase in revenue and profitability. A machinery producer could sell a new maintenance service to do preemptive maintenance on the machine. The supplier could give a service level agreement committing to a 0% unplanned maintenance downtime because their devices will give them an early warning system which will immediately trigger preventative maintenance.
New operating models – lines between a product and service could become blurred. Instead of supplying a security system (which is a product). Security could be sold as a service. Ie instead of selling the security system that triggers when an intruder enters a property a company can sell an intruder “alert” as a service. The value is in the “alert” and not necessarily the hardware of the security system. In that context businesses who once sold hardware could sell a service based on the value the hardware produces.
Operational efficiency - Efficiency is a buzz word. Every business understands it and strives for it. The problem is that it is hard to measure when you don’t have data. IoT is able to supply vast quantities to data which can be analysed and used to improve efficiency. Logistics businesses have hugely complex “moving parts” in their business. Knowing where all those parts are and managing the information is crucial to triggering massive business improvements.
A logging company in South Africa received a massive boost to their operational efficiency by keeping detailed records of all truck movements during the logging season. This allowed them to reduce the number of trucks, ensure trucks were always available to collect logs, ensure no traffic jams en route and deliver more loads during any given period. The resultant savings were massive.
That is a perfect example of how a business could achieve a significant rise in productivity but at a lower cost of delivery. The end conclusion is always greater profitability.
Reduction in wasted resources – The environment and the broader sustainability is also benefiting greatly from IoT. Reducing resource usage will very directly impact sustainability in a tremendously positive way. Businesses are also better able to track resource usage because IoT is quite brilliant at managing stock levels, machinery usage and even how often a waste bin is emptied. This gives businesses an opportunity to benchmark how often they dump wasted resources and can monitor changes over time – if a waste bin is emptied more frequently over a period it could indicate other business problems.
Safety – Injuries onsite are bad for business. Industries like mining or construction are fraught with risks which can be mitigated through the use of technology. Simple mistakes like a minor shift in scaffolding or a mine collapse can all benefit from technology. The scaffolding can be monitored from the moment it is erected to check for shifts or movements. If at any point it reaches a dangerous level operations will be notified and corrective action can be implemented.
Mines are better able to keep track of staff movements which gives them a birds eye view of the status of the mine – safely managing thousands of workers under very dangerous conditions.
IoT can offer safety enhancements to all industries. A fire extinguisher can be monitored and if used could trigger an emergency response resulting in a fire being extinguished sooner saving thousands in damage.
Precise data for monitoring, controlling and predicting Error reduction – Decisions based on incorrect data are bound to be wrong. IoT gives businesses the confidence that the data they receive is correct.
Customer expectations – Businesses are in business to make a profit but without customers no matter how efficient their operations they won’t have a sustainable business. The entire customer experience journey can be improved greatly through IoT by both monitoring customer interaction but also sharing knowledge with customers. The customer who orders a
Understanding IoT’s origins
Defining IoT in it’s purest form - connecting ordinary objects to the internet and getting data (measure, monitor & track) from those objects. However it is very noteworthy to point out that adding an internet connection to devices has been happening for some time – your cell phone is an ideal example. So why then is the term IoT so new? IoT is a modernization of internet enabled devices with a very specific goal of being deployed in remote areas of a business and operated completely autonomously. Autonomous operation is a fairly big change from current internet enabled devices in that a cell phone, for example, requires a great deal of user input to achieve results. IoT requires next to no input for the devices entire lifespan.
Internet enabled devices are very resource intensive – something an IoT device doesn’t have the luxury off. Technological improvements in battery technology and more efficient internet connections has allowed smaller devices powered from a battery to last for months if not years. Improvements in Artificial Intelligence and Big Data processing power is also driving the need for IoT implementation because those technologies thrive on data and IoT is very good at supplying regular, consistent data.
If we think a little differently about IoT… from the perspective of a business IoT is an invisible technology that sits hidden on objects. The technology isn’t that important. Gathering the right data is. Value is created by amalgamating the data from the object into the business process.
How to develop/Implement IoT devices into your business
Data acquisition – the 5w’s and an H (Who, What, When, Where, Why and How)
- Who is driving the forklift or who collected the pallet
- Where did it go
- When was movement detected
- What happened along the way
- Why did my parcel break or my food go off
- How long has my forklift been in operation
- What information do you need?
- What needs to be measured regularly?
- What would alert you to a positive or negative event in your business?
- Where are critical components in your business?
- What is valuable information to your business?
- Long Range
- Sigfox, LoRa, GSM
- Short Range
- Bluetooth, Wifi or Zigbee etc…
- Is analysis required?
- What info do you need?
- Ideal use case for AI, big data and machine learning
- What data do you want to get?
- Do you even want to get data?
- SMS or email alerts
- Who will be responsible?
- How will you respond?
- Website, App etc…
Understanding your goals and developing a thorough project scope.
Goal setting is a natural first step. Understanding what you want o achieve will also help you spec out your project better, align your needs to the hardware supplied and ensure you gain maximum value from your implementation.
Here are some important steps to take while setting your goals and creating your project scope;
Get everything in writing. Writing isn’t only to ensure you have a record but especially with technical topics writing will help you plan your thoughts.
- What do you want to achieve?
- What types of devices?
- Where will they go?
- What data do you require?
- What will you do with that data?
- How often do you want a measurement?
- Who will monitor progress?
- What happens if something stops working?
The more thorough your goal setting and detailed your project scope the more realistic and practical your overall implementation will become.
Be specific. Don’t be vague or broad! Usable data requires specific variables with limited flexibility. Remember, your IoT device will do a limited set of functions so you need to be as specific as possible with what data you want and what you intend doing with it. In some instances it may be easier to work backwards – with the end in mind. End goal orientated can help you structure what you regard as valuable leaving experts like TechThrive to find suitable mechanisms to achieve that result.
Be realistic. Ensure that your goals are technically possible and within your budget. With enough money a computer can do just about anything. This is true of virtually any project. The caveat is that no-one is going to throw unlimited money at any project. It is key to understand what type of budget you have and what in a real world application a device achieving your desired results will cost. The technical specifications are also vital asking a device to remain connected for multiple years will require a battery of a certain size or an electricity supply – are those options available to you. If not adjust your scope.
Ask for help where your expertise is limited. TechThrive has experience. They are able to design your project plan from end to end or just answer a few technical questions. Either way it will save you a great deal of time and effort by engaging with experts. You may even find you will save money – it often happens where businesses require a specific solution based on hardware they already know about. Once we understand their requirements we can suggest purpose built devices which may bring costs down and speed up installation.
Follow your plan!
Business focused solutions for smart devices. Find an existing solution or let us build one for you.
- Public display screen
- Efficiency consulting
- Software installations
- Air comfort monitor
- Chair occupancy and productivity
- Parking occupancy
- Movement for security
- Lack of movement for productivity
- Smoke detector
- Pool condition monitoring
- Food safety by monitoring temperature and humidity
- Package security – gps monitoring and accelerometer to measure impact force.
- Pallet tracking
- Bin tracking
- Bin level monitoring
- Company car logbook
- Soil monitoring
- Weather station
- Livestock tracking
- Crop management
- Endangered Wildlife tracking – GPS, triangulation or movement
- In truck security PIR sensor with arming button
- Car GPS – use button to arm/disarm movement
- Construction site monitoring