The Internet of Things is the “quiet revolution…whose time has finally come” according to recent research from the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), which shows that nearly 100 percent of business leaders expect their businesses to be using IoT in one form or another by 2016.
In addition, 60 percent of the 779 global business leaders surveyed agree that companies that are slow to integrate IoT will fall behind their competition.
However, IoT isn’t only for large businesses; it actually provides a lot of opportunities for SMEs as well. In fact, by relying on applications and technology instead of headcount, SMEs and start-ups can be equally if not more competitive by remaining small.
The possibilities to leverage IoT capabilities are endless, extending from every stage of the product lifecycle to use cases in specific vertical industries.
Here are 10 examples of how SMEs can utilize IoT to keep and maintain a competitive advantage:
1. Product Marketing and Design – Sensors can report exactly where, when and how a product is used to provide input to the design and marketing process. The process of collecting real-time data can be less costly, quicker and more accurate than customer surveys and market research. 2. Product Maintenance – Information on component wear and tear can help cut maintenance and operating costs, and identify potential equipment failure before downtime occurs. For example, if a machine breaks down during a print run, the financial damage is quite high including the cost of sending out of technicians for emergency repairs, the loss of customer trust, and possible penalties for delayed delivery. By sensing vibrations or heat indications that could indicate potential equipment problems, technicians can be proactively dispatched, thereby preventing equipment failure. 3. Product Sales – By monitoring the condition and usage of connected components, SMEs can predict when customers will need replacement parts and ensure that they have the right products available in inventory. Proactive sales of replacement parts can also prevent revenue loss to third-party vendors. 4. Product Engineering – Monitoring machine condition, settings, and usage can resulting in adjustments that can improve the choice of product materials and design. 5. Logistics – Sensors in large shipping containers can receive real-time data on where a package is, how often it is handled and its condition. By connect this information to warehouse management system, companies can increase efficiencies, speed delivery times, and improve customer service. 6. Manufacturing Processes – By monitoring the condition, settings, and usage of production equipment, issues that impact output levels can be identified to trigger corrective actions to increase up-time and efficiency. 7. Fleet Maintenance– Sensors can be used to monitor speed, miles per gallon, mileage, number of stops, and engine health for field service fleets. By monitoring vehicle condition and usage issues, corrective repairs can be scheduled avoiding unexpected downtime, behaviors that lower fuel efficiency can be identified, and and customized driving tips can be distributed. In addition to lowering fuel costs, more efficient maintenance and driving can lower CO² emissions and increase the life expectancy of vehicles. 8. Transportation – SMEs can offer services based on IoT applications to further the smart city trend. For example, Barcelona offers smart parking meters that operate on city-wide wi-fi, giving residents real-time updates on available parking and allowing them to pay with their phone. Smart bus stops display up-to-the minute arrival times and enable passengers to get additional real-time updates via touch-screen panels. 9. Agriculture – Sensors can be used to monitor air and soil temperature, wind speed, humidity, solar radiation, rainfall, leaf wetness, and fruit color. Farmers can improve yields by using this data to adjust factors such as watering times and amounts, and picking schedules. 10. Medical – Using IoT, doctors and hospitals can collect and organize data from connected medical devices including wearable devices and home health monitors. By collecting data in real-time medical professionals have a more complete set of patient data and can run correlations, improving patient care through better diagnosis and treatments. Whether using IoT applications to streamline supply chains, enhance customer insight, or manage energy consumption, one thing that all IoT applications have in common is the need for connectivity. Data from remote sensors and devices needs to be combined with one or more of an SME’s back-end systems including their CRM, ERP, warehouse management, payment, customer support or other applications to automatically trigger notifications or full business processes, or to provide a comprehensive dashboard of all important information.
Stephan Romeder is General Manager of Magic Software Europe