Imagine your workplace coffee pot refilling itself at specific times because it recognizes your employees’ drinking habits, or cafeteria refrigerators that immediately reorder contents as they begin to empty. If these scenarios seem far-fetched to you, you most likely don’t know about the internet of things (IoT).
For some time, IoT technology has been changing the way humans live their lives. Do you own a wearable fitness tracker, or can you control your home heating and lighting from your smartphone? If the answer to either of those questions was “yes,” then you are an active member of the IoT world. However, this world isn’t only for personal use.
While smart homes are becoming all the rage, smart workplaces are also becoming of high interest to many business owners and professionals. There’s a lot of data your company can glean about its employees (and processes) from machines.
What Is the Internet of Things?
IoT technology enables the connection of devices via the internet, which allows applications to communicate with each other and with us. For example, a connected heating system may communicate between the thermostat, the HVAC system and a computer or smartphone. Even while out of the office, you may be able to lower the internal temperature.
But these devices are often able to do much more than follow a manual command. Some can self-regulate, without any human interaction, adjusting the temperature at certain times of day if it notices that employees seem to raise or lower the thermostat routinely.
Sounds like a dream, right? While intriguing, there are many things to consider before your organization goes from manual-everything to entirely smart-powered.
How Can IoT Help Your Company?
The internet of things can simply aid in the gathering of information, or it can completely revolutionize the way you do business.
However, the way it affects each industry—or even an individual business—is tough to determine. The following scenarios might help you understand how integrating smart technology into your business could completely change the way you work.
Smart badges: Intelligent badge systems are often brought into companies for security reasons, but there are many other uses that could be a big win for businesses. Forget the need for a time-tracking system in Human Resources. Payroll clerks can stop inputting manual time sheets. Smart badges can track when an employee enters and leaves the building throughout the day, successfully crediting them for hours worked or docking them for time away. Similarly, badges can be used to monitor which areas of your building are most utilized. This can help other technologies adjust settings. For example, lights can be turned off in rooms where no smart badges are present. Office layouts can be completely redesigned for better workflow if they aren’t being utilized correctly. Employees who are socializing more than working can be identified, and spoken to by their superiors.
Inventory: A retail company may currently use many tools—such as barcode scanners, computers, machinery, cash registers and manual labor—to keep track of inventory throughout a store. If all of these devices are connected to each other, there may be little-to-no need for human workers to keep track of how much of each item you have in stock. The register system can automatically update the tracking system as an item is purchased.
And it isn’t just retail stores celebrating a more cohesive inventory system, either. Offices who purchase smart devices, like printers, can automatically order new ink and toner once the contents reach a certain level.
Communications: Imagine a phone system that is able to “read” the calendars of your employees. Instead of leaving callers on hold or letting the phone ring off the hook, they can be informed that the employee is currently booked and unable to answer. Then, depending on the settings, the caller can be placed on the schedule with an automatic redial once the employee is available.
The internet of things is smart.
How to Implement IoT While Keeping Your Company Safe
While IoT technology is exciting to implement, there are a few concerns that all businesses should consider.
For example, what happens if someone hacks into your server by means of that smart coffeemaker, which brews a fresh pot of coffee every few hours? Since the IoT landscape is still changing by the moment, it can be difficult to stay current with the best security measures for every smart device you own. However, this doesn’t mean you should avoid smart technology—it does mean that you need to invest in a highly-capable IT department that is hungry to learn and stay up-to-date with all the changes.
Similarly, a data collection and mining program needs to be developed, so the information you’re gathering can be further analyzed to best help your business. The data gleaned from smart technology can be a bit overwhelming, but avoiding these quantitative and qualitative notes may hurt your company. Embrace data and deal with it in an organized fashion.
Finally, be prepared for a change in productivity. Your dedicated employees are likely already completing “extra” tasks manually, such as restocking the supply closet. When these job duties are suddenly completed by your office tech, you may need to adjust your employees’ day-to-day responsibilities.