Patterns from the past show that technology advancements tend to benefit big businesses, often eliminating the need for small businesses. It’s no wonder, then, that small businesses have been historically averse to embracing expensive technology in the way big businesses do. The Internet of Things, or IoT, is the exception to this norm. From everyday operations to tracking inventory, small businesses can take advantage of the versatility that the IoT provides to finally level the playing field with the big guys. In fact, Quickbooks has named technology in small businesses one of the top trends for 2017.
The current economic environment is quite unstable, resulting in many small businesses being pushed under the rug. Even though Trump has promised to boost the American economy, his time in office thus far hasn’t shown significant growth. According to an article on The Balance, he promised to reduce the nation’s $19.5 trillion debt by growing the economy and reducing waste in federal spending. However, analysts claim that his policies will increase the debt by $5.3 trillion. The Five-Part Tax Plan was meant to boost the economy and put more money in people’s pockets, but according to the Tax Policy Center, it would dampen economic growth in the long run.
The proposed annual growth of 4 percent is unhealthy, as too much money doesn’t chase enough worthwhile business projects. It creates a boom-bust cycle that ends in a recession. This is especially disheartening for smaller businesses, which often can’t deal with recession until it’s too late. An article by the WSU Carson School of Business about how the political climate will affect businesses in 2017 states that political stability may decrease, and businesses are bound to face growing risks in the year to come. That’s why it’s important for small businesses to leverage every tool in their toolshed to make sure their bottom lines steadily improve, mitigating potential risks. The IoT is one way to do so.
One of the great things about the IoT is that this new age in connectivity doesn’t propose unnecessarily complex, world-changing ideas. Rather, most of the innovations are arguably simple and possibly even mundane. One example is Valarm, a small business startup that specializes in monitoring systems. Valarm figured out how to add sensors inexpensively to many different areas. One of their clients, a small winery, has utilized these sensors to detect freezes and cold temperatures, (as this ruins the grapes). When temperature drops, the sensors activate sprinklers that encase the grapes in ice, thereby protecting them.
Even though this isn’t a novel idea, the efficiency that comes with this simplicity is what enables the vineyard to compete with bigger vineyards that could potentially afford more sophisticated systems and employ a larger workforce. The IoT can give businesses an edge if implemented correctly. According to Drew Robb, speaking in regards to the success of IoT, “No doubt more than a few firms—big and small—will come out with some ridiculous-sounding applications.” It’s important that small businesses keep their IoT plans practical and affordable.
Another example is RainMachine, a small business on the leading edge of IoT. It targets home irrigation systems, combining sensors, smartphones and up-to-the-minute localized weather data to adjust sprinkler systems and keep a garden healthy. CTO Andrei Bulucea said that this saves homeowners and small farm owners 25 to 50 percent on their water bills, streamlining the irrigation process into something efficient and easy, as opposed to the hated traditional irrigation controllers.
This case isn’t unique. Professor James Karagiannes, Ph.D. for DeVry Bootcamp states that IoT has become almost synonymous with big data. When the two are paired together, small businesses can cut their costs significantly. Twiddy and Company realtors in North Carolina cut their costs by 15 percent, and recouped the cost of implementing data collection and “smart practices” in just one year.
Figuring out how the IoT and data mining can help a particular business or even an aspect of it is key, as the opportunities really are endless. Consider items like package delivery, home improvement, and video rental. Giants like FedEx, UPS, Home Depot and Netflix used technology to wipe out an entire cosmos of small businesses. In today’s dynamic economic environment, it is integral for small businesses to keep up and effectively implement technological improvements like the IoT into their processes. Those that choose not to embrace this technology will be left in the dust, unable to compete with bigger systems and even their small business peers who have decided to digitize.
Ultimately, Gartner vice president Jim Tully makes a very poignant point, “I think most people will be surprised at how invisible the technology is even when it is so pervasive. But the implications of IoT on every aspect of life will be profound.”
Akshata Mehta has a passion for traveling and exploring the world. She in very interested in entrepreneurship and sustainability in everyday life. Being a foodie, she spends a good amount of time cooking up concoctions in her kitchen, recording her recipes and travel adventures on her blog, With Love From Akshata.