What is the IoT? 10 Examples for SME owners

Understanding the Internet of Things: 10 Practical Examples for SME Owners

The Internet of Things (IoT) allows us to manage our daily lives more efficiently and have more control. But how has it managed to do it without us realising? In the last few years, the term ‘Internet of Things’ or IoT has become a buzzword across various industries. But on the back end, businesses are starting to use it more to make themselves more efficient. It’s in our hands, on our wrists and in our homes. The Internet of Things is even helping farmers know when a calf is about to be born!

So, it's useful to understand what IoT is and how it could possibly revolutionise the way your business operates. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the basics, the benefits, and challenges of IoT, exploring how businesses like yours might make use of this transformative tech. We’ve also showcased the ways the Internet of Things has improved and shaped our day-to-day lives.

What is IoT?

In simple terms, the Internet of Things (IoT) refers to the network of interconnected devices and objects that can communicate and share data with each other over the internet. These devices, equipped with sensors and connectivity features, collect and exchange information, meaning they can do useful tasks by themselves. From smart thermostats and wearable fitness trackers to industrial machinery and self-driving cars, IoT is a vast ecosystem that covers so many uses in our lives.

Examples of IoT devices include:

  • Smart home devices : Thermostats, lights, security cameras and smart assistants.

  • Wearables: Smartwatches, fitness trackers and health monitoring devices.

  • Industrial IoT (IIoT): Sensors and monitoring devices in manufacturing and supply chain processes.

  • Connected cars: Vehicles with built-in sensors for navigation, maintenance and safety features.

Has this got you thinking? Once you understand the diversity of IoT applications as a business owner or director, you can start to see the potential for how this technology might be integrated into your own business processes. We’ve also delved further into the many day-to-day examples of IoT later in this article.

Put simply, how does IoT actually work?

IoT operates through a network of interconnected devices that communicate and share data over the internet. The process involves three main components:

Devices: These are the physical objects embedded with sensors and connectivity features.

Connectivity: Devices use various communication protocols (Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Zigbee, etc.) to transmit data to the cloud or other devices.

Cloud: The cloud serves as the central hub where data is collected, processed, and analysed. It can also store historical data for future reference.

For example, in a smart home scenario, a temperature sensor in the thermostat collects data, sends it to the cloud via Wi-Fi, and the user can access and control the thermostat remotely through a smartphone app.

The benefits of IoT applications

Monitor business processes

IoT provides real-time insights into business operations, allowing owners and directors to monitor and optimise processes. From inventory management to production workflows, IoT enhances visibility, leading to more informed decision-making.

Improve customer experience

By making the most of IoT, businesses can create personalised and responsive customer experiences. For instance, retailers can use beacons to send targeted promotions to customers' smartphones based on their location within a store.

Save time and money

Automation and predictive maintenance enabled by IoT reduce downtime and operational costs. In manufacturing, for instance, IoT sensors can predict equipment failures, allowing for proactive maintenance and preventing costly disruptions.

Enhance employee productivity

IoT applications streamline workflows and automate repetitive tasks, freeing up employees to focus on more strategic and creative aspects of their roles. From smart offices to connected machinery, IoT enhances overall workplace efficiency.

The Internet of Things is not just another tech trend

IoT has the potential to reshape the way businesses operate from the ground up. As we’ve seen, you can use IoT to drive efficiency, enhance customer experiences, and stay competitive. By understanding the basics, benefits, and challenges of IoT, you can make informed decisions about adopting this ground-breaking tech.

10 Ways You're Using IoT Without Even Realising It

If you’re still thinking that IoT is something from a futuristic film, think again. The Internet of Things is likely already helping your business and home life run more smoothly, and we’ve listed 10 examples of IoT that it’s likely you have already come across in your day-to-day life. One of the many sources of IoT’s power is convenience and the ever-growing Internet of Things is working its magic, one smart device at a time. Think how these examples have changed and no doubt improved your every day. It then becomes clear how incorporating the Internet of Things into your business could have huge benefits.

1. Smart thermostats

Smart thermostats adapt to your habits, weather forecasts, and personal preferences so you can heat your home without lifting a finger. It’s all done via an app with smart thermostats like HIVE and even makes each room smart with smart radiator valves. Never heat an empty home or room again!

2. Fitness trackers

Fitness trackers are like having a tech-savvy personal trainer on your wrist. Smartwatches can monitor oxygen levels, track menstrual cycles, count your steps and of course help you get the most from your exercise routine. It’s the Internet of Things technology at its most personal - and they tell the time too!

3. Connected cars

Although the first production car with a built-in navigation system hit the roads in 1990, it’s come a long way since then. If your car has Bluetooth connectivity, collision detection or built-in WiFi, it’s thanks in part to IoT. Your virtual co-pilot can help you keep a safe distance from the car in front, give you a lane departure warning, and play your favourite playlist as loud as you want.

4. Smart fridge

Did your fridge just wink at you? Maybe. Smart fridges have revolutionised grocery shopping. If you’re out at the store and want to check if you’re out of anything, simply check the in-fridge camera and you’ll never forget anything again. You can add items to your virtual shopping list, control temperature and even connect to your smart speaker. We’re all dancing in the kitchen, right?

5. Video doorbells

In December of 2020 alone, Amazon sold over 400,000 Ring smart doorbells. You don’t even have to be home to answer your door thanks to IoT. You can keep an eye on your property and never miss a parcel again thanks to innovative video doorbells that also act as home security. You can set up smart responses and the Google Nest device comes with facial recognition too.

6. Pet cameras

Pet cameras are a game-changer for fur parents. It's like having a virtual pet sitter without the fear your pet will love them more than you. You can keep an eye on your four-legged friends no matter where you are. Some pet cameras have added features like treat dispensers and timers to make sure your pet never misses dinner, even when you’re not home.

7. Smart lighting

Smart bulbs and lighting systems are taking charge, setting the ambience based on your activities or preferences to create that perfect cosy or party vibe. Turn lights on when you’re out so it looks like someone's home, or make sure lights have been turned off before a vacation to keep electricity bills down.

8. Virtual assistants

Virtual assistants like Alexa, Siri, or Google Assistant are some of the most popular IoT devices we’re adding to our homes. They’re always there to answer your questions, play your favourite tunes and set reminders to name a few. They're not just assistants; they're practically part of the family, except they don't get mad if you forget their birthday.

9. Smart coffee makers

If you want to wake up to the smell of freshly brewed coffee, add a smart coffee maker to your wish list. Simply select your favourite coffee and set the timer and it will do the rest. It's like having a personal barista on standby.

10. Smart home security

Indoor and outdoor cameras are a great way to increase your home security and check in on your home from anywhere in the world. They notify you of any suspicious activity, act as a deterrent, and let you know your kids got home safely.

If you need help with IoT, knowing which new tech to adopt, or any other aspect of your business, get 1-2-1 support by speaking to one of our V-Hub Digital Advisers.

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