According to Gartner research, 8.4 billion IoT devices were in use in 2017 – up 31 per cent from 2016. That’s forecast to balloon to 20.4 billion devices by 2020.

Jan Vojnovski Jan Vojnovski Solution Architect at Dicker Data
Jan Vojnovski

How IoT is transforming SMBs

In recent years, internet of things (IoT) technology has transitioned out of sci-fi flicks and into mainstream use. And it’s not just about consumer trends like Apple Watches and smart fitness trackers. SMBs around the world are using IoT technology to optimise their operations in the age of automation.

So what exactly is the IoT? The term essentially refers to networks of internet-connected devices that are able to share information without human intervention. In a commercial sense, it’s the smart hardware that’s driving the automation revolution.


According to Gartner research, 8.4 billion IoT devices were in use in 2017 – up 31 per cent from 2016. That’s forecast to balloon to 20.4 billion devices by 2020.


And it’s not only consumers driving the IoT uptake. The 2019 Business IT Trends Annual Report reveals that IT automation is a top-three priority for SMBs. It reports that 13 per cent of businesses are already using IoT technology, and 14 per cent more are planning to use IoT technology within the next 12 months.

Why bother with the IoT?

The IoT offers real benefits for SMBs. Greater efficiency across your business operations is the big-ticket benefit. With IoT devices looking after your supply chain and many back-end processes with minimal need for human intervention, you can redeploy employees to higher-value tasks and customer-facing roles.


IoT technology also offers new ways to monitor customer buying habits and employee productivity through networks of IoT visual sensors that capture sophisticated behavioural data. These insights will help you better predict customer reactions and identify internal workflow bottlenecks.


The IoT also has an important role to play in product development. Equipping your existing product line with IoT sensors provides an unprecedented view into how they are used in the real world. These insights can be fed back into your product development to significantly improve and speed up product improvement cycles.

How do I get started? 

As with all things in business, if you want to fully realise the ROI potential of an IoT rollout, you need to start with a well-defined strategy that is closely aligned to your business goals.


The first step is to identify the value you want to draw from the IoT and how this will fulfil a specific business need. Then consider whether your first IoT rollout will be customer facing, focused on optimising back-end processes or used to gather product development data.


With that determined, you can begin to design an IoT infrastructure. This will include a network of internet-connected devices that will work together to complete the task or process you’ve set out in your IoT strategy.

What does an IoT rollout actually look like? 

That all sounds great, but getting your head around what an IoT rollout actually looks like in practice can be challenging.


Consider this example of IoT technology in use in a 700-year-old German vineyard. IoT sensors placed throughout the vineyard report on a series of growing metrics such as sun intensity, soil humidity and rainfall. The winemakers simply log into a cloud portal that instructs them what needs to be done when conditions are best.


Or we can look at the IoT in operation in a retail space. Supermarkets must manually inspect refrigeration units and log temperatures to ensure food is being stored appropriately. Now, IoT sensors are being used to automate this temperature logging, with automatic alerts sent to store managers when temperatures move outside predetermined ranges.


This is only the very beginning for the IoT, and businesses are constantly finding innovative ways to apply IoT devices to optimise an enormous range of operational processes. Watch this space.


For more information about how to get your digital transformation started, check out Digital transformation: What it is and why you should care.


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