The internet of things is transforming the business landscape, but some business owners remain in the dark about its potential.
As Industry 4.0 – or the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) – thrives, the Internet of Things (IoT) continues to revolutionise the world as we know it by strengthening the connection of the physical and digital worlds.
This is reflected in the business world too, with a recent report by CSG International finding that 94 per cent of all organisations introducing IoT into their strategies are already seeing a significant return on investment.
From cloud solutions enabling the integration of cheaper IT systems, to smart sensors allowing SMEs to retrieve and analyse increasing amounts of data for analysis, IoT is well and truly driving technological transformation in all walks of life.
Advantages and challenges of IoT
IoT is reinventing all sectors, from healthcare to manufacturing and even sports. The volume of data we have access to is growing at an exponential rate, meaning SMEs can use it to increase efficiency, streamline processes and identify trends that will subsequently accelerate business growth.
SMEs can analyse the data that connected devices generate and draw valuable conclusions that will foster more informed decisions and predictions that will, in turn, reduce costs and fast-track time-to-market.
That said, business management consultant Analysys Mason recently revealed that 51 per cent of UK SMEs were either unsure or unaware of IoT, while 23 per cent were not interested in it at all.
This begs the question that if the benefits are so clear, why are so many SMEs holding back from adopting technology that could dramatically improve their business’s bottom line?
Lack of resources, funding and education are just some of the reasons why SMEs aren’t embracing IoT, as is the perception that it is only for large established businesses. Many are apprehensive to deploy a technology that they have never witnessed tangible benefits from first hand.
However, with the sheer volume of data that can be accessed and examined amplifying every day, SMEs need to be introducing future technologies into their processes if they are to keep up with their competitors and stay ahead of the game.
While it’s easy to discuss IoT in relation to the benefits it offers SMEs, where do they start if they want to explore it for themselves?
Sensor City – a collaboration between Liverpool John Moores University and the University of Liverpool – offers businesses, from start-ups to established companies, the technical equipment and expertise to rapidly turn their ideas and concepts into prototypes.
Bridging the gap between industry and academia, the global innovation hub facilitates links with larger corporates to work with SMEs, and provides specialist sensor and IoT related equipment, software, hot-desks and lab space.
Sensor City recently worked with CNC Robotics to develop their cloud-based software, CNCR-Live by integrating real-time diagnostic technology – only possible through IoT. The software remotely monitors robotic data to predict when maintenance is needed. This prevents failures in the production process that can cause a slowdown or shutdown and as a result, boosts productivity.
Not only has the work with Sensor City led to success internally, but they have created a software that could enhance productivity for manufacturers across the board.
Chanua, based at Sensor City, is an organisation which aims to solve some of the biggest challenges in healthcare, mental health and wellbeing. The company designs and manages projects that support individual wellbeing, two of which are ‘Neuro Champions’ and ‘Hacking Health’.
Using Sensor City’s technology and expertise to build commercial elements into these projects, the team created the company’s first physical product – a 3D printed brain which is used by students to learn about the different parts of the brain in an interactive and engaging way.
Collaborating with Sensor has enabled Chanua to develop into other areas and opened them up to exciting new market opportunities, illustrating perfectly how IoT is changing the way SMEs work and how the implementation of new technologies can accelerate business growth.
IoT will continue to transform the world as we know it, and no matter what sector or stage of a business, SMEs are undeniably going to feel the change, if they aren’t already. If we look back ten years ago for example, what was once a state-of-the-art computer would today be deemed obsolete. If we fast-forward a decade, there will indisputably be new skills and jobs that don’t exist today.
IoT is a way of ensuring your business keeps up with the exceptional rate that technology continues to grow, and if embraced to its full potential, SMEs can reap the ground-breaking benefits that it has to offer.
Dr Joanne Phoenix, Business Development Manager, Sensor City