How to Increase Efficiency with Less Stress
Interconnectivity to many means having access to e-mails and being able to do their banking or shopping from their smart phone.
23:33 23 October 2019
The Internet of Things (IoT)
However, it goes much deeper, and for businesses there is a huge potential for increased efficiency without the corresponding stress which comes with new technology or roll-outs.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is both a literal description and a slightly mystifying term. Taken at its most literal, imagine everything you own being connected to the internet; not just things like the laptop, but the television, garden lights, air-conditioning, thermostat, garage opener, and so on. This is a reality today; these things can be controlled in the home by Smart Home Hubs or controllers. In a workplace, however, this can be taken to a more business-focused level. If in the UK, you can easily find an IT company in London to plan an in-house IoT upgrade.
It’s been suggested that anything with an on/off switch can be connected to the internet via the IoT; in fact, anything with built-in sensors can: programmable deep fat fryers, car parts, smart phones, photocopiers, telephones, aeroplane parts, combine harvester parts, navigation systems, refrigerators, digital voice recorders, and so the list goes on.
What IoT does is take a traditional view of the human to machine relationship and updates that to machine to machine; with the Internet of Things, thing-to-thing is and will increasingly be the norm. Currently, you walk through a shopping arcade and upon getting home, there’s a message on your smartphone – ‘Review the market, your review counts’. Intrusive perhaps, but that’s an example of IoT working for shopping centres. Think of how useful this is at work; an employee walks from room to room and the lights turn on or off, her computer starts as she approaches, her colleagues are alerted to where she is when they need her; the possibilities are endless.
IoT for SMEs
The Internet of Things isn’t just about opening the garage from the comfort of your car, nor using smart house hubs through laziness; it’s much more and can significantly improve employee efficiency at work. Through careful planning, a SME is able to create increased efficiency and, unlike the introduction of much new technology, this need not be a stressful exercise for staff. It is recommended that an external IT consultancy should be engaged to assist in the planning and development of in-house, and external IoT.
Business Uses of IoT
As IoT is still in its infancy, only current or possible uses can be discussed, but the potential is endless. Conceivable uses of IoT could include:
- as a photocopier uses paper, it can transmit if the stock is running low and automatically order new reams of copy paper
- recycle bins are enabled to send alerts when they are nearly full and require emptying
- alert people to the nearest free meeting room
- manage heating and lighting based on occupancy
- stock can be stored on sensor enabled shelving which allows the shelves themselves to indicate when stock is running low
It was suggested in one study that in many companies with hot desks, staff can waste about 15 minutes per day searching for a free hot desk; this time can be eliminated with IoT in the workplace.
It takes advanced IT skills to plan and integrate all the various ‘things’ into the IoT. In order to increase efficiency and save expenditures, SMEs are advised to seek professional IT support for IoT planning.
Danger and management
By 2020, a few months away, there will be in excess of 26 billion objects which can be connected to the IoT; others put the figure at 100 billion. On one level, that suggests a huge untapped potential but, on another, it also means increased IT security is required. The more connectivity there is, the greater the possibility of criminal activity. The risks are appreciably greater.
When sourcing a good IT support company, it’s sensible to have them do two tasks at the same time: (a) plan for and initiate IoT in the workplace and (b) develop a comprehensive plan for pre-empting and managing IoT related cyber-attacks. It is contingent upon any business, small or large, to re-establish systems as quickly as possible once a cyber-attack has been successfully neutralised.
Interestingly, ‘90% of Internet of Things devices are manufactured by less than 100 companies’. In reality, this means those manufacturers need to ensure the devices in equipment used by SMEs are as robust as possible by current standards.
IoT for domestic use may be said to be less security focused than that for SMEs. Business, regardless of size, would purchase and implement technology of a higher grade than in homes. Generally speaking, there is always need for caution.
Jacob Morgan from Forbes says, ‘If it can be connected, it will be connected”. This is not an optional extr,a but the reality of AI as it changes every aspect of work life. Therefore, it is incumbent on decisionmakers in the company to be pro-active in managing the implementation of IoT in the workplace. Done well, this could increase efficiency, save money, reduce waste and increase staff welfare.
It’s been suggested that the global IoT market is expected to be worth US$457 billion by 2020 - again, just around the corner. This is a market which is growing at a phenomenal rate. The original equipment manufacturer (OEM) is one whose parts are used in others’ products, like sensors made by one company but used in security systems worldwide. There are few OEMs for IoT. It is likely that competition in the production of devices for the IoT market will increase soon.
In the short-term, companies need to understand IoT will proliferate at an incredible rate; of that there is no question. What SMEs need to do is pro-actively manage the IoT within their company, plan its integration, and use an external IT company to do so. At the same time, that IT company should plan extra security. In so doing, most SMEs should be able to realise increased efficiencies through the use of advanced technologies in unobtrusive adoption.