We live at a time in which entrepreneurial opportunities are many and varied. Compared to just a few decades ago, today’s budding business leaders have much greater access to information and resources to help make their endeavors successful. The swift rise of the digital age has been a boon to entrepreneurs across the planet.
Millennials are the first generation of business owners who have a native understanding of these contemporary technological advances. Our deep connection to digital literacy has imbued them with a natural propensity to innovate using the tools of our tech landscape. This provides the potential for huge advantages as each business sector makes shifts toward greater adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) and data analytics devices.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is quickly becoming an essential element of business. This vast ecosystem of devices which collect, analyze, and share data has the potential to shake up industries, and create new opportunities. We’re going to take a look at a few ways in which young entrepreneurs can take advantage of the IoT in order to gain and maintain a competitive advantage.
One of the most popular aspects of the IoT over the last few years has been the introduction of digital assistants into the market. Items — such as smart speakers, watches, even home security systems — have become enhanced by AI applications such as Alexa and Siri. These denizens of digital convenience also have a place in business.
From a task handling perspective, smart assistants are an excellent tool for productivity. Amazon’s Alexa for Business skills range in particular has been designed to help workplaces connect all devices, and improve efficiency. Developers are continually producing applications which enhance the potential for virtual assistants to make businesses of all sizes work smarter. From managing schedules, to automatically replying to emails, even simplifying presentations in meetings.
Virtual assistants have also become a prime advantage in marketing. It is predicted that by 2020, 50% of all online queries will be done by voice search, using one of a growing number of virtual assistant-compatible IoT devices. Customers don’t tend to search by voice using the same terms they use in text. As a result, intelligent entrepreneurs are starting to place greater emphasis on optimizing for voice searches. The rise of devices in the IoT is opening up new opportunities for businesses to raise their position in search engine rankings.
Each industry faces its own unique set of challenges. As the marketplace evolves, whether through technological or societal demands, these challenges can include legislation and regulation that affect the way businesses operate. Those companies who are slow to respond can find themselves penalized, or even unable to continue operation entirely. Thankfully, digitally literate entrepreneurs can use the IoT to address these challenges swiftly.
As an example, the commercial driving industry has seen regulatory changes over the last few years, aimed at improving safety. This includes limiting the time drivers can be on the road. There are heavy penalties for non-compliance, and fleets are required to use IoT compatible Electronic Logging Devices (ELD) to record drive distances and times. Some of the more tech savvy fleet owners adopted ELDs early, in order to insure their businesses and drivers were using them correctly before their use became mandatory. This prevented unnecessary disruption.
Some fleets have gone further, utilizing additional sensors throughout the vehicles collect data such as tire pressure data, route choices, downtime, and environmental impact on perishable goods. Though embracing the IoT for more than the legislative requirements, fleet owners have been able to improve efficiency and streamline business processes. Not to mention that providing accurate, real-time information about activities can help improve business insurance premiums.
Aside from connectivity of essential operating devices, the IoT has the potential to improve a company’s brand presence in their industry. One of the primary ways to do this is through technologically enhanced customer services. Consumers who are already using the IoT are usually doing so to make their lives more convenient, and businesses should aim to tap into these conveniences to provide a more streamlined experience. Partner with apps they love to use, collect data, provide opportunities for engagement.
The IoT is also a prime ground for personalized marketing. The devices used in this connected ecosystem can provide businesses with data on behavior which can then be used to trigger actions. For example, using infotainment systems in a vehicle could result in alerts being sent for concerts in that geographical area. Using a smartphone to visit certain pages on a company’s website can prompt a marketing email offering deals on products related to their browsing.
The rising popularity of the IoT has meant significant advantages for how companies can utilize social media for marketing and brand awareness. A popular trend over the last few years has been the use of fitness tracking devices. Not only do users monitor their own activities, but they also use connected devices to post the results to social media. For the manufacturer or app developer, this results in greater brand visibility and consumer engagement. Devices paired with apps which include a social media component can make a huge impact on a company’s standing in the market.
It is more important than ever before for businesses to place emphasis on energy efficiency and sustainable behaviors. The potential consequences of climate change are front and center in the public consciousness, and consumers are paying attention to how companies act. The IoT can be used to make sure businesses maintain a responsible approach to the environment, and improve their public image accordingly.
One of the simple, yet effective methods of IoT sustainability is the use of smart lighting. Connected lighting systems (CLS) use data gathered throughout the day to adjust the lighting requirements of the workplace accordingly. They can also provide reports on usage, so that management can make efficient and green decisions about energy consumption in specific areas of their business, and where improvements can be made.
Waste management can also be improved by implementing IoT devices. Connected trash cans and dumpsters track their capacity in real-time, and send warnings when they are about to overflow. This helps make sure that trash is only collected when needed, reducing fuel consumption. More importantly, they provide administrators with useful data in order to aid ongoing decision making regarding company-wide waste production behavior.
The Internet of Things is quickly becoming a ubiquitous presence, in homes, businesses, even entire cities. The world is embracing greater connectivity, and industries are finding new and imaginative ways to take advantage of this. Young entrepreneurs should blend their digital literacy with their business savvy in order to gain competitive advantages using the IoT.
About the author
Mathew B. Sims is the Editor-in-Chief for Expert Insurance Reviews. He manages a team of 50+ freelance writers and editors and manages a portfolio of high quality, high consumer intent insurance/financial services websites with close to 1 million monthly visitors.