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How the Internet of Everything could reshape your business

How the Internet of Everything could reshape your business

One of the most talked-about concepts at the recent CES 2015 – the world’s biggest consumer electronics show in Las Vegas – was the Internet of Everything.

We are already familiar with the internet of computers, smartphones and tablets. You may have heard of the emerging Internet of Things (IoT), which describes a vast range of internet-connected devices – cars, fitness bands, health monitors, alarms, household appliances and more. The Internet of Everything (IoE) refers to the underlying network fabric that makes these connected devices useful, resulting in ‘smart’ homes, offices, factories and cities.

BI Intelligence predicts that, by 2017, there will be more active IoT devices than PCs, tablets and phones combined. They also predict that 82 per cent of large businesses will have deployed IoT technologies by then. So, how is this new wave of technology likely to affect your business?

Higher operational efficiency

At least 15 per cent of large businesses surveyed by Business Insider already use an IoT solution. The biggest draw is its potential impact on operational efficiency, with another 25 per cent planning to deploy an IoT solution by early 2016. An example of an IoT solution is connected devices within a coffee shop, where the refrigerator identifies that it’s low on milk and automatically sends a message to order more stock.

An example of IoE is where connected sensors on a production line can gather data from the factory floor in real time, sending it to cloud-based software that scans it for potential efficiency improvements. IoE could be used to automate stock inventories and stock re-ordering or to automatically diagnose and upgrade connected devices. Incorporating IoE into your workflow can provide greater insight and control over business operations, while significantly reducing the need for manual reports and inspections.

Improved customer service

Faster, more efficient service is a cornerstone of enhanced customer satisfaction. For example, in-store employees equipped with handheld devices can now connect to an inventory system, giving customers instant feedback on stock availability. Another example is the Tesla electric car, which receives ongoing software updates that help to squeeze greater performance and efficiency from the vehicle.

Some retailers are already using Bluetooth ‘beacons’ to send highly targeted special offers to their customers’ smartphones. As well as giving your customers the information they need within seconds, IoE devices can be used to gather data that sheds light on what customers want in real time, based on their shopping patterns and preferences.

Better collaboration and business agility

The free flow of information across an IoE network can improve collaboration immeasurably. To exchange information with colleagues, employees no longer need to log into a central computer system or rely on manual paper-based reporting.

Data gathered by IoE devices can also serve as valuable business intelligence. It can provide a 360-degree view of competitor activity, supply chain disruptions, customer demand, and changes in market conditions. This enhanced view of events and trends can help to create a more agile and resilient business, where you spend less time gathering data and more time taking action on it.

Privacy and security challenges

What are the downsides of IoE? For one, integrating it into your customer service processes may cause privacy concerns. In addition, every IoE device is a data access point that hackers might exploit to steal confidential data or hijack the device. Not surprisingly, BI found that the potential threat to data and personal security is the biggest perceived drawback of IoE.

For this reason, strong data security, backup and disaster recovery plans should be in place before you make significant investments in IoE technology. You should also ensure that critical business data is fenced off from low-security IoE networks.

IoE is expected to become an everyday part of our personal and working lives over the next decade. There are risks and benefits to using it in a commercial environment, but it will almost certainly become an essential driver of future business growth.

Technology is changing fast, and it can be hard to keep up when you’re busy running a business. Find out whether you need someone who is dedicated to innovation.

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