OK, marketers and technology enthusiasts have been talking about the coming of the Internet of Things (IoT) for years. But with products like Google Home and Amazon Echo emerging and gaining popularity, it’s reasonable to suspect that 2017 is the year that IoT finally starts taking off.
Even though original estimates held that we’d see 50 billion “connected” devices by 2020, revised estimates are still targeting nearly 30 billion, representing an industry worth hundreds of billions of dollars in the near future.
So here’s the question – is your business ready for the IoT? Even if you don’t deal directly with technology, IoT devices are going to have a massive impact on how you do business.
1. Data, Data, Data
Marketers and entrepreneurs love data, and with IoT devices connecting consumers in new ways with more interactions, they’ll have greater access to that data than ever before. Smart devices will be able to track and record patterns of consumer behavior, and possibly even learn from them, making intelligent product recommendations and customizing searches in new, innovative ways.
Companies can start taking advantage of this by using these data-based insights to come up with more effective advertising, and get to know their target demographics on a more specific, qualitative level. Chances are, you’ll have more data at every stage of the consumer buying cycle, from research to purchase and implementation.
2. Inventory Tracking and Management
Next up, IoT will likely revolutionize how companies track and manage their inventory. If you’re a business that relies on warehousing, manufacturing, or storage, you probably use remote scanners and similarly high-tech devices to help your workers keep track of inventory item by item. In the near future, smart devices should be able to keep tabs on inventory changes completely automatically, freeing up your workers for more important, cognitively demanding tasks. It’s not just about the “smart home” anymore – it’s also about the “smart office” and “smart warehouse.”
3. Remote Work
On the other hand, if your business doesn’t directly deal with any physical inventory, the IoT could open up a world of new possibilities for remote work. With multiple devices all wired into the same network, your remote working employees will be more connected than ever before, and may be able to accomplish new types of tasks from remote locations by tapping into devices in your office or factory floor. Remote workers tend to be happier and more productive, so the arrangement could also help improve your bottom line.
4. Speed and Accessibility
Since consumers will have access to new forms of research and purchasing, the buying cycle will likely diminish in length. Consumers will, with a handful of spoken phrases, be able to find and order exactly the product they’re looking for, and they’ll demand delivery of the product sooner (since all our technological advances tend to emphasize instant gratification). Fortunately, your partners, suppliers, and logistics providers will all have similarly advanced technology at their disposal, meaning you’ll be able to serve your customers faster.
5. Efficiency and Productivity
It’s not all about speed – you’ll also be able to get more done in less time. In addition to instant gratification, technological evolution also tends to favor productivity and efficiency. The latest and greatest IoT developments will likely allow you and your workers to accomplish large-scale tasks faster and with greater precision, including data analysis and management. You may find that you need fewer staff members, or else you’ll be able to scale operations in new areas that allow you to expand your business.
6. New Consumer Needs
Speaking of expanding your business, don’t forget that consumers who gain access to and familiarity with these new types of devices are going to have new needs. They’ll want things they didn’t know they wanted before, and they’ll expect more out of every new purchase they make. “Smart” devices will become the new standard for appliances, gadgets, and maybe even items like furniture. Consumers will also demand more integration, more efficient tools, and accessories that make their new smart home-enabled lives smoother and more efficient. It will be your job to dream up the ideas that can make that a reality.
7. New Staffing Needs
I already mentioned the fact that you may have to cut some staff members or reassign them to new areas, but in addition to that, you may find yourself in need of some new team members. You’ll need experts in IoT technology if you’re going to be successful in integrating these devices into your current procedures, and data analysts if you want to make the best use of the data. These are highly skilled positions, but will serve to ensure you get the most out of your new investments.
Charting a Timeline
So how quickly is IoT technology going to take off? As I mentioned earlier, the initial estimates (from a few years ago) were somewhat ambitious; they overestimated how quickly consumers would be ready to adopt these devices, and assumed that there would be more consistency tying these devices together. Instead, we’ve had a bit of a clunky start, but with two major “home base” devices on the market and dozens more to come, I suspect that 2017 will be the year that IoT devices explode in popularity, with at least a third of all homeowners owning at least one smart device.
Beyond that, it’s too hard to predict a timeline accurately, but the changes are coming. The question is, will you be ahead of or behind your competition when they come?
This article was written by Jayson DeMers from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.