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By now, you have likely heard the phrase “Internet of things,” or IoT. It has become a hot topic of discussion both inside and outside of the workplace. But what exactly is the “Internet of things?”

IoT is the concept of connecting everyday objects (so long as they have an on/off switch) to the Internet and then to other connected devices. This can include a number of devices from cellphones, coffee makers, washing machines, wearable technology and almost anything else you can think of.

This network of devices with built in sensors are connected to an IoT platform, which collects and shares data about their environment and how they are used. These platforms can then determine what information is useful and what can be disregarded. The gathered information can be used to identify patterns, provide recommendations, and expose possible problems before they arise.

How Can the Internet of Things Help my Business?

The IoT represents a tremendous opportunity for businesses of all sizes. It’s not only large companies that can utilize these devices—small businesses can, and should, use the devices to improve their operations. So, where do you start? Here are some ideas to get you started.

Automation. For small businesses, leaving the lights on overnight or forgetting to lock the doors can have severe consequences. Automating your office routine with IoT devices can help take some of the pressure off.

  1. Using smart lighting and thermostats eliminates the need to constantly set and rest your thermostat or worry about turning the lights off when you leave the office. Not only does this eliminate stress, but these devices can also offer significant cost savings.
  2. Smart locks increase security by giving users access to a building instead of using a physical key. Businesses can monitor and control a smart lock from anywhere and can also tell if a door is open.
  3. Smart Cameras are great for security. Many of the top connected cameras come with large amounts of cloud storage so that you can go back and review your security footage if needed. A reliable internet connection is necessary to achieve good quality footage.

Improve Space Efficiency. Wasted resources can be a huge burden on a small business budget. IoT can help to maximize your office space by using sensors to pick up activity and heat to monitor which area or areas of your office are used the most.

This information can then be used to figure out when conference rooms go unused or if your office needs to be restructured. For example, perhaps certain departments need to work closer together, or additional workspaces are necessary for meetings. Sensors can tell all of this information and help organizations, large and small, maximize their space. Combined with smart lighting and smart thermostats, offices can use IoT to maximize productivity and savings.

Virtual Assistants. Virtual assistants such as Google Assistant, Alexa or Siri can be connected to task management systems and calendars. These devices can communicate with other smart devices and eliminate tedious tasks like scheduling and research. Taking advantage of these free assistants can simplify your day and boost productivity.

Automatic Inventory Tracking. Maintain an accurate inventory while maximizing efficiency by using RFID tags for merchandise. Small retail businesses can benefit from the use of smart RFID tags on their merchandise. These tags can automatically update inventory as items are sold. You can also set up the sold items to be reordered automatically.

Mobile Card Readers aren’t just for mobile operations. Many small businesses use them in place of cash registers. Similar to credit card processing companies, you are charged a processing fee for each transaction, however the card readers are typically much less expensive to purchase and maintain than a traditional POS system.

The Internet of Things can greatly improve the way we work, helping to make more efficient use of our resources and space. For small businesses trying to grow and compete with larger enterprises, this efficiency is critical. As the IoT continues to automate office tasks, organizations should take advantage of these offerings to help their business stay competitive in the market.

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