What the Internet of Things means for small businesses

The Internet of Things is the next big digital trend and one which represents enormous opportunities for businesses.

So what is the Internet of Things?

It’s the name given to the connection of all sorts of everyday equipment to the internet, a connection that renders them “smart”, just like your smartphone.

Just as the Internet has already helped people connect via social networks, the Internet of Things connects machines – everything from cookers to shipping containers – so that they can send and receive information.

The ability to gather real time data from these devices via the “cloud” offers enormous business benefits. The “cloud” makes software and applications available as services to businesses in a self-service manner over the Internet.

When is it coming?

It’s already here. There are already more connected devices, such as smartphones and tablets, than there are people on the planet. Drones, robots and smart homes – equipped with lighting, heating, and electronic devices that can be controlled remotely – are already a reality too.

What impact is it having on businesses?

Heavy equipment manufacturers globally are already discovering new applications using the Internet of Things in industries such as construction, mining and agriculture.

In Ireland, Kilkenny-based Keenan Systems makes livestock feeding wagons that send information back to the farmer via the Internet, allowing them optimise nutrition programmes remotely. In Cork, med tech company PMD Solutions has designed a smart monitoring system to alert medical staff about problems with a patient’s heart.

Increased connectivity between machines will aid supply chain efficiencies too. Google’s driverless cars are being piloted and driverless trucks have the capacity to revolutionise supply chain logistics.

What does all this mean to traditional businesses, particularly smaller ones?

Opportunity. The race is on to find new ways of delivering traditional products and services through the use of smart devices, from oil tanks that send for top-ups to sensors that enable insurance companies to monitor how customers actually drive.

Being able to connect more devices to the internet will allow businesses gather greater amounts of intelligence about their customers, driving efficiency and effectiveness and enhancing customer relationship management too.

Gathering more information increases a business’s need for good data protection processes, to deal with issues such as hacking and data loss. With the Internet of Things comes the need for additional security measures.

Find out more about your business’s responsibilities for data protection by reading the ThinkBusiness.ie guide to data protection.

June 2015