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Business Opportunities of IoT

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When you look at the definition of IoT, you might be inclined to think about the products and services you interact with on a daily basis – what business people call consumer products. In this step we are going to have a look at how IoT can be used and adapted for different industries.

IoT is being adopted by businesses of all sizes to enable a host of productivity gains, make products safer and less prone to error, and build more efficient machines. Microsoft has highlighted specific use cases to illustrate how the technology is being adopted to enable companies to run their businesses.

The German company Bosch describes IoT in terms of outcome and what connected devices can produce. For example connecting mobility, living and industry. Read more about this IoT #LikeABosch

IOT for manufacturing

Microsoft highlights the following benefits for implementing IoT solutions in a manufacturing scenario:

  • Improved visibility across your manufacturing operations: Make informed decisions with a real-time picture of operational status.
  • Improved utilisation: Maximise asset performance and uptime with the visibility required for central monitoring and management.
  • Reduced waste: Take faster action to reduce or prevent certain forms of waste, thanks to insights on key production metrics.
  • Targeted cost savings: Benchmark resource usage and identify inefficiencies to support operational improvements.
  • Improved quality: Detect and prevent quality problems by finding and addressing equipment issues sooner.

Each of these items can enable a manufacturer to improve efficiency and reduce waste, increase safety (for both workers and customers), help drive profitability by using real-time data to make decisions and, with automation, make real-time adjustments to processes.

Decorative image depicting a city skyline

IoT-enabled Smart City

Telecom company AT&T describes the following benefits of fitting a city with smart devices that provide real-time data on aspects such as parking, traffic, violent activities, and air quality:

  • Enhanced citizen safety
  • Optimised public services
  • Economic growth
  • Improved traffic flow
  • Improved environment
  • Empowered civic engagement.

Businesses can use data from these systems to improve products, innovate new products to meet needs that may have been hidden or unknown without the data, and help cities solve seemingly intractable problems.

For example:

The popular traffic app Waze enables users to report on hazardous road situations in real-time. The data collected could be used by city officials to develop maintenance plans to address these issues in more efficient ways to improve public safety. Whilst this does involve some user interaction, it’s easy to see how cars or street lamps could be fitted with artificial intelligence systems to detect potentially dangerous conditions and report them in an automated way.

IoT-enabled Retail

Analytics company SAS reports that IoT is making its way into the retail experience. Using devices such as RFID tags, mobile devices, and even digital signs, retail is embracing the advantages that IoT can provide. The SAS report highlights five scenarios where retail is using IoT to enhance their business and customer experience:

  1. Predictive equipment maintenance: As we’ve mentioned, equipment such as refrigerators or point-of-sale devices that are instrumented with IoT devices can help manufacturers predict failures and alert service staff when equipment needs to be maintained.
  2. Smart transportation: Internet-connected trucks and even products can help optimise the logistics around getting goods from one place to another.
  3. Data-aware warehouses: Retailers can outfit their warehouses with sensors and inventory tags so product placement in the warehouse can be optimised for easier access and quicker delivery. SAS anticipates that using automation, warehouses will self-organise to be the most optimal at all times.
  4. Connected consumer: Say goodbye to mass marketing. Awareness of who’s in your store can help you optimise sales or promotions to meet the needs of individual shoppers. Shoppers benefit because they can get a sale price on products they need.
  5. Smart store: Imagine a mall that uses IoT to determine how customers shop and then enable mall planners to place stores that optimise around those patterns. SAS predicts that this is on its way.

IoT Adoption

You’ve learned that IoT is already being adopted by many businesses and consumers.

In a 2018 blog post, Microsoft gave an overview of companies that are starting to use IoT solutions (specifically built on Azure IoT) in what they call smart buildings. These companies are using IoT technology to help people navigate buildings, trigger maintenance requests, help engineers design better buildings, and help property managers oversee their properties in a more efficient and effective way. Smart buildings built on Azure loT blog post.

Technology company Intel is working with many companies to enable IoT solutions. Intel describes solutions that range from building smarter trains to smarter roads. They’ve helped a plastics company determine inefficiencies in their control system as well as improve their product cycle and reduce inventory risks. Intel’s wearables solutions improve worker efficiency and safety, including hands-free operation of industrial equipment.

Opportunities Abound

Whether it’s connecting a thermostat in your home or improving the efficiency of a jet engine, IoT solutions are the next big wave in technological advancement. Businesses have already begun to adopt IoT technology, and the need for IoT architects and engineers will be growing over the next decade. Come join the revolution!

We’ve briefly looked at IoT-enabled smart cities and their benefits in this step. The benefits can make a considerable difference in terms of efficiency in many areas. However, the disadvantages should also be considered to gauge overall success.

In the next step, we’ll explore the differences between consumer and business implementation, as well as what classifies a device as an IoT device.

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Microsoft Future Ready: Fundamentals of Internet of Things (IoT)

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