You’ve probably got some idea of how the Internet of Things (IoT) will revolutionize our homes. Perhaps you’re already monitoring and controlling your home security system remotely. Or planning to splash out on LG Smart ThinQ appliances so you can text your washing machine to start a spin cycle or download recipes from your stove.
IoT is revolutionizing business, too. In a recent survey of 795 companies in Europe and North America, Tata Consultancy Services found that four out of five companies already have some sort of IoT initiative in place. Half the firms use IoT to track their customers through mobile app usage, making it the most popular use of IoT in the survey. The second most popular was tracking products through the production and distribution chain.
If you’re still having trouble envisioning how IoT will change your business, we’ll walk you through some of the ways it could touch your typical workday in the (not-so-distant) future.
Morning coffee: There’s no rockier way to start your day than arriving at the office to discover no one’s made coffee. With Belkin’s Mr. Coffee 10-Cup Smart Optimal Brew machine you can start a pot, schedule it in advance or monitor its progress (all from your smartphone) before you leave home. It also alerts you when it’s time to empty the carafe or change the filter, so you can avoid that horrible pot of office coffee.
Front entrance: Sick of fumbling for your fob or memorizing that constantly changing door code? The Nymi wristband from Toronto’s Bionym authenticates your identity using your heartbeat, making your morning entrance into the office a secure, no-key, low-key affair. And it can do a lot more than just open the front door to your office, as their video demonstrates. Using motion sensors and continuous authentication, Nymi demonstrates how you can unlock your car trunk and doors, make secure payments with the pass of your wristband at retail locations and open hotel room doors instantly.
Lighten up: Philips’s Hue bulbs can use geofencing to automatically turn the lights on as soon as you enter the office (and shut them off when you leave). Use the mobile app to remotely control your office lights, set a timer and dim or brighten them.
These bulbs can also be programmed to visually notify you of email, voicemail and calendar events like meetings. So instead of just getting an alert on smartphones and computers, you can program your office lights to pulse and alert staff that they better jump on that important conference call.
Log in: You’ve been meaning to ditch that 1-2-3-4-5-6 password for your office laptop or PC. Now you can, and without having to remember a complicated new code. The same Nymi wristband that got you in the front door will also give you secure access to your workplace computer. Just sit down at your desk and presto!
The company states, "The Nymi Band is able to confirm your identity using your heart's unique signature." Basically, your heartbeat becomes the unique identifier and acts as your key into all your systems.
If this piqued your curiosity, get the full scoop from Nymi's FAQ page of their website.
The meeting: Instead of stepping into the conference room, just strap on your smart glasses. Connect to any videoconference while wearing Vuzix smart glasses featuring VidyoWorks software. You can also provide a real time, see-what-I-see view for your field workers, customers, technicians or other remote contacts.
Marketing: Your marketing department may one day embed micro NFC tags into objects so they can communicate with customers nearby. Imagine that sponsored beer coasters might tweet promotional messages to one of your customers who is visiting a local bar. This is no Star Trek fantasy. Terepac of Waterloo, Ontario has actually demoed this stuff.
Hot and cold: Monitor and control the temperature in your office (or on-premise data centre) from anywhere using IoT technology from providers like SensorSuite Inc. of Mississauga, Ontario. The company's blog tells how their products can smartly regulate office temperatures and then suggest the most optimal temperatures. This can be very helpful when you have half the office wanting to put on a sweater and the other half wanting to cool down with a cold drink. You can also poll your cubicle mates on the ideal office temperature by crowdsourcing it via the CrowdComfort app.
Inventory and equipment: Besides tracking your company’s own merchandise, you’ll be able to track the supplies your business uses so you never run out. One day, your printer might text you when it’s out of paper and ink (or go ahead and order those for you automatically). It could also send you a self-diagnosis when it breaks down, possibly saving you repair and replacement costs.
HR: Human resources experts predict staff training will be delivered via smart glasses and that other wearables will monitor your workplace health, safety, activity levels, alertness, location and absenteeism. UK insurer Havensrock is now incorporating wearable Fitbug Orb devices into some of its employee benefits programs. Check out CNET's review of the device to learn the pros, cons and how it may fit into your business health program.
Most importantly though, IoT will allow your business to cater to customers in the most relevant, timely and efficient ways ever. The new technology will provide you with real time data that helps you understand your customers better than before, and that can be a huge benefit in a competitive market.
Has your company started using IoT technology? Let us know in the comments below, and tell us how it's helped you connect with your customers.