We live in a world that is becoming more and more connected. No longer do we just connect computers, tablets, and phones to the internet. Increasingly it is now possible to connect any powered device to a network. Known as the Internet of Things (IoT), such a concept is set to change the way we do business, but only if it is utilised properly.
There has been much press about how significant the impact of IoT will be. For instance, Cisco’s Internet Business Solutions Group estimates that next year there will be around 25 billion connected devices, which will double to 50 billion by 2020. These predictions have caused enormous excitement within the business community, with analyst firm Gartner recently suggesting that IoT is at the peak of its ‘Hype Cycle’, meaning that expectations are at their highest.
There is one fundamental principle driving expectations for the IoT market: the ability to improve customer experience and relationship management through creating intelligent services informed by insight from collated data. The possibilities for businesses that fully utilise IoT are endless – fault detection, consumable replenishment, servicing, product enhancement, actionable intelligence, cross-selling and up-selling to name a few.
Take the hypothetical example of a company that makes industrial printers. Through IoT-enabling their printers, that organisation can remotely monitor ink levels. This not only allows it to suggest to the customer that they need to buy more ink when running low, but also provides the capability to run diagnostics to see if the printer could be improved or needs repair, or up-sell to the customer a more efficient printer more suited to their task.
It can go beyond this. A company can receive much more accurate and detailed feedback on how a customer is using a device. For instance, many manufacturers sell their products through a channel, so generally do not have a direct contact with those using their devices. Oftentimes, companies receive little information about usage or if they do it is purely anecdotal. Internet-enabling a device can give accurate, real-time information that is far more granular than a customer could ever be able to give.
Yet to achieve such benefits from the IoT, businesses need to keep three key concepts in mind: connect, manage and engage.
Connecting is more than just about linking devices to the internet. To achieve real business value, devices should be interconnected with a range of software and hardware to allow collected data to be collated and managed on key business systems. The connections created need to be adaptable to how the business wants to manage its devices and the information from it. Therefore it is vital to have an agile infrastructure that provides quick, simple and secure connections that are scalable.
The collected data needs to be managed effectively, otherwise it is meaningless. For example, IoT product data management could include the interactions between the device manufacturer and its customer via detailed feature usage statistics. This includes collating the data and integrating it with existing business sources, such as CRM and ERP.
The final piece of the puzzle is engagement with the customer. What if a company was able to remotely access and diagnose a customer’s connected device without needing the customer to ship a faulty device back to the warehouse? With the IoT, business can engage with their customers on a closer, deeper level in order to deliver more reliable and compelling products and services. This greatly improves the customer experience, boosting their satisfaction and brand loyalty.
Focus on the product not the infrastructure
Yet despite these benefits, some businesses are hesitant to jump into the IoT. One of the biggest concerns is figuring out how to build the infrastructure to connect their devices. This is not surprising as the infrastructure is very nuanced. It includes: storage; messaging and routing protocols; security; directories; analysis; automation; and APIs, among other elements.
A recent survey of global technology business leaders by audit firm KPMG found that more than one in five respondents found technology complexity a barrier to implementation.
However, the complexity of creating an IoT infrastructure need not prevent businesses from implementing connected devices. By utilising ready-built networks, offering fast, secure and scalable connections alongside a range of tools provided as a Platform as a Service (PaaS), businesses can concentrate their efforts on creating innovative connected products.
The IoT will revolutionise business, allowing companies to improve their value propositions, engage with customers on a whole new level, and build new revenue streams. With all these benefits and more, it is critical that businesses are not put off by the IoT and its complexity, but are inspired by its capabilities.
Sean Lorenz, technical product manager at LogMeIn