What does the Internet of Things mean for small business?

Joel Svensson

The Internet of Things – the merging of the physical and digital worlds that some are heralding as “the fourth industrial revolution” – is just over the horizon. And Australia is shaping up to play a key role in its dawning.

As reported by Fairfax this morning, Sydney and Perth will join seven other cities around the world as innovation hubs for IoT technology. Sydney will be focused on agriculture and smart cities, while Perth will focus on resources and astronomy. Both hubs will be backed in part by technology firm Cisco.

But what does all this mean for you? We look at four ways the IoT could change the face of small business.

More efficient operations

The IoT means that soon, key pieces of equipment or machinery could tell you when they will break down before it happens. Shelves could inventory stock automatically, send the data off for analytics processing, and have the results routed to your phone.

Climate control systems could use a combination of heat sensors, body tracking technology, and electronic weather reports to keep buildings at the optimum and most cost-effective temperature.

The IoT means that soon, key pieces of equipment or machinery could tell you when they will break down before it happens.

Massive shift to service-based business models

A wealth of new services is predicted to spring up around the IoT. Car companies, for example, are expected to offer real-time traffic monitoring services, fuel usage analytics, and instant-response vehicle repairs. Vending machine companies might offer inventory services to the companies whose food they stock. In a world where everything has a metric, charging for providing and/or acting on those metrics will become the new norm.

Sensor technology will be key

Many of these fantastic metrics have only been made possible with the advent of small, low-cost sensors. Understanding this technology may prove vital to innovation in the new world of the IoT. Knowing what metrics can be obtained, how, and for how much might affect what services you can offer or how much insight you will have into your own plant or product.

In a world where everything has a metric, charging for providing and/or acting on those metrics will become the new norm.

More cybersecurity issues

More connectivity necessarily means more risk of compromise. The more sophisticated a system is, the greater the number of potential weak-points. Indeed, cybersecurity researchers just recently switched off a Jeep mid-drive by hacking into its entertainment system via the car’s radio.

So will you have to get security software for your fridge in the near future? Very possibly – but then again, there’s money to be made in that, as well.

Joel Svensson

Joel Svensson is a Melbourne-based freelance writer specialising in politics and business.

Image: Hernan Pinera, Flickr Creative Commons license

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