It’s hard to imagine that just over 20 years ago, people were actually confused by the internet and had no idea how to explain it. Nowadays it’s hard to imagine life without it. In another 20 years, we may look back and marvel at just how little we knew to expect of future-technology that is still in its nascent stages–but two things are certain: the Internet of Things is already taking off in ways that make it hard to predict its trajectory, and automation is beginning to follow suit.
Small businesses that learn to maximize these trends early on will hold a considerable advantage over those that do not. Of course, effective integration with and implementation of IoT- and automation-based strategies will defy willy-nilly deployments and will require strategic execution to wield properly. Investing in the wrong strategy could be as damaging as being left behind for not adopting new strategies at all.
The Future is in Automation and IoT
When discussing how the IoT is already changing urban areas, look no further than smart traffic lights, parking space sensors, LED street lights, and smart trash cans for the win. When it comes to rural areas, agriculture is slowly undergoing a change too, and to top it all off, Elon Musk and Travis Kalanick, CEOs of SpaceX and Uber respectively, were recently added to Donald Trump’s cadre of CEO-advisors on private sector growth.
Add this news to the multiple reports that Trump’s promises to “bring jobs back” will be thwarted by automation, as well as the news that Uber’s self-driving cars are now hitting the road in San Francisco, and it’s easy to see the trajectory of American Industry. Even our preferred payment types have changed because of the IoT. So how to small businesses capitalize on this brief window into the future? Especially when so many traditional jobs are threatened by this wave of automation?
Wielding New Technology to Better Achieve Old Goals
USA Today recently ran a story titled “Small Businesses Will Be Big Winners From IoT” where they point out that much of the attention in the IoT is given to smart city projects and advanced manufacturing sectors. However, the author, Bob O’Donnell goes on to mention that industries such as fishing, winemaking, plant nurseries, and more are ripe for innovation and augmentation via the IoT.
“The more I’ve thought about these kinds of applications,” says O’Donnell, “the more I’ve come to realize that the biggest potential impact for IoT is, in fact, going to be in small businesses, not big ones. To be clear, these aren’t eye-popping, world-changing ideas or innovations. In fact, most of them are pretty simple and, arguably, pretty boring, especially if you’re not familiar with the day-to-day needs of these kinds of vertical industries. However, for the millions of small businessmen and businesswomen running these types of organizations, the simple, but potentially very useful, information that these kinds of applications generate can make a difference.”
O’Donnell visited to old whaling town of New Bedford, MA, to see some of these industries utilizing connectivity in new ways, and noted that it’s not just the businesses providing IoT solutions in a B2B fashion that are making money. Rather, he sees that even end users are benefitting from efficiency begat by the IoT. This efficiency can end up saving small businesses hundreds of dollars a day, which can really add up.
“Even better,” says O’Donnell, “in an era when many are concerned with technology replacing jobs, many of these simple types of IoT applications could potentially help small businesses create new jobs with increased working capital through better efficiency. It’s a classic case of working smarter and not harder.”
The IoT Wave is Already Creating New Problems to Be Solved
For those who aren’t looking to augment their business with the IoT, but who would rather augment the IoT itself, there’s a place for you too. This is because when something changes the world as quickly as the IoT, it’s easy to see focus on the benefits before the pitfalls make themselves apparent. Uber and Lyft are perfect examples–ridesharing applications that have reinforced and proven correct the assumption that a gig economy can work. Unfortunately, both companies have been mired in lawsuits and legislation almost since inception, and questions of integrity, safety, and even privacy, among other controversies, have also followed. The latest comes from Uber’s new self-driving vehicles, which have expanded to California in lieu of permit restrictions.
Even though Uber is extremely successful, there is still room for companies to innovate and disrupt in the same ways that they Uber has, but more importantly, it shows that it’s still possible to create solutions for the Ubers of the world, or, more importantly, to create new products void of those problems in the first place. The race over the driverless car is one example of a product that hasn’t worked out all the kinks yet, and the Dyn DDoS Cyberattack is proof that most IoT products don’t have sufficient security.
Overall, the Internet of Things and Automation present massive opportunities to those in small business, be they from wielding such technology or from innovating on that technology. Of course, only those in-the-know will have a leg up on their industries. Don’t get left behind and start researching the future, today!
Images used with permission via Flickr