Businesses are finding countless ways to implement the Internet of Things, and it’s numerous mindblowing functions. From revamping office environments to tracking employee activity, improving shipping logistics, and collecting data, countless benefits can come from embracing the IoT. Along the way, though, there are also important questions for business leaders to consider as they go about this particular aspect of the digitalization process.
1. Do you have a plan for data?
A great deal of IoT usage in modern businesses has to do with collecting data. It (data collection) can happen through any number of means, from employee smartphones that feed information into company systems to retail beacons that interact with customers, and so on. But there’s no sense investing in any of these methods or technologies if the business doesn’t also have a plan in place to make use of the data gathered.
As a write-up on Towards Data Science found, “most businesses don’t use data the right way,” essentially because they tend to lack proactive strategies. What those strategies look like depends on the business and the type of data at hand. But if you’re considering using IoT technologies to ramp up a data operation, make sure the strategy goes beyond the collection.
2. Can you apply the IoT to remote work?
Depending on the nature of a given business, many IoT practices relate mainly to physical locations. Sensors in offices can analyze workplace habits and help optimize floor plans and schedules; IoT devices in shipping vehicles can track driver performance and monitor delivery progress; retail IoT can collect data from shoppers or at the point of sale. In all of these cases, the IoT — despite being a mostly digital concept — relies on physical locations to be effective. And yet, as our article on the ‘Easy Ways Businesses Can Incorporate Sustainability’ points out, businesses today are considering embracing full-time remote work also. It applies to industries and companies of all sizes and is vital to consider when considering IoT upgrades. Ask yourself if IoT investments apply to remote working or if they’re unnecessary without certain in-person operations.
3. Are your IoT devices sustainable?
IoT devices cover a broad spectrum. But when it comes to various sensors and monitors, this category often comes down to small, modern electronic devices that pose significant issues when it comes to waste. While the plastics and metals used in these devices are usually easy enough to recycle, the internal electronic mechanisms — most notably the printed circuit boards (PCBs) — can be hard to break down or dispose of and can be toxic for the environment. Improvements are happening in this area, partially due to the high demand for PCBs that IoT has created.
For one thing, designers are packing more power into smaller circuit boards. An Altium post on enhancing design efficiency in PCBs discusses how to organize hierarchical structures to make more compact yet powerful boards. It can reduce the total amount of material needed. And in other cases, new materials altogether are being used to make PCBs easier to recycle. These advancements can make a significant difference, so a business focused on sustainability would do well to check in on IoT device materials before investing heavily.
4. Will your IoT use make your business more sustainable?
To continue with the subject of sustainability, it’s also worth taking some time to consider if IoT upgrades will make a positive impact on your business’s footprint. There’s a lot of conversation happening broadly about how the IoT can assist with big-picture environment sustainability. Just going by Fast Company’s look at the IoT and environmental good, for instance, there are potential benefits in irrigation, food and energy supplies, lowering emissions, and so on. Even within a single business, though, IoT devices can have sustainability perks. Whether that means cutting down on shipping emissions, managing energy within an office more effectively, or any number of other functions, this is worth considering for any business emphasizing environmental responsibility.
In the end, there are countless reasons to embrace IoT today and numerous different ways to do so. But no matter what type of business you’re in or what use you might make of the IoT, the above questions and considerations are worth giving some thought.