Imagine this: Your wristwatch detects you’ve reached the optimum moment after your REM cycle and begins vibrating to wake you up. As you begin rising, it detects your motion and communicates with your thermostat, which adjusts to your preferred temperature. Before you even climb out of bed, your watch wirelessly switches on your coffee pot to ensure your favorite brew will be fresh and waiting at precisely the right moment. Later, your smartphone’s geolocation function detects you’ve arrived at work and communicates with your workplace management software to reserve a conference room for your first meeting.
This isn’t the intro to a new sci-fi movie or an overly ambitious prediction for the future. This scenario describes technology currently available thanks to the Internet of Things (IoT).
You’ve probably heard the term “the Internet of Things” tossed around in casual conversation, sprinkled through articles on business technology and throughout the IT department. But what does it really mean? More importantly, as this trend grows and evolves, how will it affect your business and the way you and your employees work?
Today, we’re delving into this topic and exploring what executives need to know.
What is the Internet of Things?
First and foremost, let’s talk about the basics. IoT is a term used to describe the development of connected electronic devices designed to send and receive data across a shared network. Most notably, IoT requires no human-to-computer interaction to function; objects exchange and collect data automatically. Current and widely used examples of IoT items include smart TVs, Fitbit and the Apple Watch.
There will be 6.4 billion Internet-connected things in use worldwide in 2016, according to predictions by Gartner. The same report anticipates 20.8 billion connected devices by 2020. Given the size of this trend, it’s evident IoT will eventually impact almost every part of life. Let’s take a look at five ways it can affect your company, your workspace and the way your employees conduct business every day.
With so much information being transmitted back and forth, it would be silly not to leverage this data in useful ways. By collecting data through reporting tools, you can review historical behaviors and identify ways to increase efficiency and drive profit.
For example, a brick-and-mortar retailer can use Bluetooth technology that connects with a shopper’s smartphone. In addition to providing the shopper with a personalized experience, like product recommendations and personal coupons, the app can track the user’s path around the store in the same way cookies track online behavior. You can set up real-life A/B testing and learn how to increase the likelihood of a sale while simultaneously offering an improved experience to your customers.
Locate Anything (or Anyone) at Any Time
Remember that laptop one of your former employees was using once upon a time? Did it end up buried deep in a supply closet? Was it passed along to another employee? Thrown in a dumpster? Sold on the black market? As your business grows, keeping track of equipment can be challenging. But failing to implement a tracking system can lead to financial losses and security risks. IoT solutions allow you the opportunity to track anything at virtually any time.
Knowing the location of employees also can help you enhance safety and efficiency—particularly in the manufacturing industry, such as in assembly plants. Just be sure not to take it too far and only use geolocation tracking when absolutely necessary. After all, playing Big Brother to your employees doesn’t exactly lend itself to a positive work culture.
In addition to locating equipment investments, there are a few other ways IoT will help executives cut down on waste. From leaky pipes to overactive HVAC systems, many offices waste resources without ever knowing. Over time, these little concerns can add up and cost your company big. IoT is hoping to help companies better use resources without expecting employees to change their routine.
For example, a smart thermostat system can track which zones of the office are using the most energy and at what times during the day. This will help you make necessary changes to reduce usage without affecting experience.
Is a critical piece of equipment nearing the end of its life? Is your data center rising to dangerously high temperatures? Having data on your technology assets can help you prepare for changes and stop problems before they become major catastrophes.
When you know a piece of hardware is reaching the average age in which the same types of hardware cease to work reliably, you can replace it before it affects business continuity. Similarly, if you receive a report that the cooling system in your data center is malfunctioning, you can ensure the problem is resolved before it impacts your network.
Healthier Work Life
Be honest: How many times have you spent the entire workday seated in front of your computer? If your business is like most modern offices, you and your team rarely spend more than a short lunch break away from your collection of devices. Even after business hours, many of us are still glued to our screens. While you may feel more productive, this sort of workstyle is the primary culprit behind burnout and an unhealthy work-life balance.
Given technology is the catalyst to this problem, it seems unlikely it would also offer a solution—but it does. For example, wearable fitness trackers can monitor your activity and let you know when it’s time to step away for a break, take a refreshing walk or unplug for the day. This will help keep you productive and, more importantly, improve your health.
The Internet of Things has grown astronomically throughout 2015, and we’re about to see another explosion of growth. The more you understand the benefits and implications of IoT, the better you can prepare your workspace for the future. Undoubtedly, becoming an early adopter will position your business for its best year yet.
One of the most important ways businesses can leverage IoT is in facilities management. Discover the tools that can help prepare your business for the future in our free eBook, The Essential Guide to Space Management Software.