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“Alexa! What’s on my to do list?”, “set the house temperature to 78”, “how's the traffic this morning?”, “set the timer to 30 minutes”,“ turn on the living room lights.” - these are some of the casual and daily interactions I have with Alexa. It helps keep my day and activities on track with minimal effort. For those not familiar, Alexa is a digital personal assistant developed by Amazon, made popular by the Amazon Echo and the Amazon Echo Dot devices.  

There have been nearly 19 million Echo devices sold since it’s modest introduction in late 2014. Amazon has now become the forerunner of home automation and smart devices. Last week, Amazon introduced extended list of Echo devices to further solidify its prominence. BMW also announced it will start offering Alexa in its vehicle starting next year. As we become more dependent on digital intelligence, it’s easy to forget what all the interaction really means other than sheer convenience.

The push by Amazon is headed toward one sure thing - more IoT. You may have heard the term IoT or Internet of Things. But what does Internet of Things really mean? By definition, Internet of Things (IoT) is a system of interrelated computing devices, mechanical and digital machines, objects, animals or people that are provided with unique identifiers and the ability to transfer data over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction such as smart phones or computers. In other words, any devices such as smart light bulbs, thermostat, washing machines, vehicles, to even your coffee machine can be integrated with data communication to enable greater efficiency and automation. IoT isn’t a science fiction concept, it is reality and will become even more prominent within next few years.

The IT Industry is dubbing IoT as the next big things since cloud computing popularity. BI Intelligence (research service) predicts there will be more than 24 billion IoT devices by 2020. And the billions of devices will translate to even more than $6 trillion IoT solutions investment in the next 5 years. So how does all of this IoT mean for your business?  Let’s take a look at few areas of relevance.

 

Customer Service

All businesses wouldn’t exist without its customers obviously. And to keep customers happy and loyal, it takes business effort and customer service. As IoT continue to gather and transmit data from its devices, custom tailoring and even predicting customers’ behaviors and needs are going to be essential to keeping them content. The data driven by IoT will enable data translation that can be used to analyze how a particular customer wants to interact or purchase from your business. For example, if your business sells printer ink, IoT intelligence embedded in the printer machine can alert customer that the ink is running low and automatically submit a refill order upon confirmation (to your business) before ink runs out completely. Or let’s say you’re in the manufacturing industry and require a certain raw material to be in stock at specified amount. IoT device placed on the warehouse lot can detect the inventory count and usage to help determine its availability and production forecast based on current stock levels.

 

Business Efficiency

From a business and marketing perspective, nothing can be more important than data. Data allows marketers and business owners to analyze trends and forecast to help with business decisions to ultimately garner more sales. IoT biggest asset is its data gathering abilities. By translating the data obtained from IoT devices, this can enable greater understanding of customers’ behavior and pattern. Furthermore, this will allow businesses to make product recommendations and better advertisements that is relevant to the customer. For example, a food vending machine business embedded with IoT can gather data indicating which time of day, week, and climate information to better understand how to improve its offering to its consumers. The data can help determine the consumption pattern of which perishable food or snacks are in demand throughout the day .This will drastically decrease the number unsold food and better suit the customers demand while all increasing profit margins.

 

Production Precision

If your business is in the arena of supplying, manufacturing, or even reselling, IoT information can be extremely valuable. The data obtained from IoT can directly impact the precision and production of the product(s). Although there are numerous devices already available to help track shipments and production completion, until recently, the data gathered from manufacturing plants have been mostly proprietary or even misleading. With smarter IoT integration, data can be more effectively used in manufacturing or supply chain logistics. For example, IoT devices integrated in a warehouse that supplies the raw materials to the manufacturing plant and linked to the supplier warehouse can drastically increase and accurately forecast the full production cycle efficiency, production time, inventory level, and delivery expectation. The IoT device will be able to communicate with each other across different phases of the cycle to allow information exchange across different companies all working toward the assembly of a specified items by sharing its data. This will allow greater efficiency in the production workflow, increase unnecessary overstock, and more importantly upturn the bottom line.

 

IoT Platforms

Aforementioned benefits are all driven by data processing servers. Fortunately, there are an abundance of services available for IoT. Many of the large computing companies have an established portfolio of services available for diverse business needs depending on budget and complexity. To name a few of the well-known services there are Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, IBM Watson, Cisco IoT Cloud, Oracle Integrated Cloud, GE Predix and even Salesforce IoT Cloud. Each services will be dependent on how it correlates to your specific business and operations. For more in depth consultation, please seek your IT partner for more information.

 

IoT is here to stay and will rapidly, if not exponentially, explode in growth within next few years as IoT devices fall in price along with increased internet bandwidth capabilities throughout the country. As an early adopter, I have gracefully embraced smart home automation to wearable devices. It has literally enhanced my daily routine and changed my lifestyle for the better. From a business perspective, IoT can be even more resourceful and beneficial. IoT adoption has reached already 43% worldwide among businesses according to Gartner. Furthermore, the top 5 industries to embrace and use IoT are manufacturing, transportation, utilities, healthcare, and consumer electronics respectively. If your business falls in one of the top 5 industries, it may be a smart (no pun intended) investment to pursue.

 

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