How IoT can make any business smarter?

One of the most valuable assets any company can have is information.  Whether it be information that better informs you how your business is doing, information that allows you to better compete with your competitors or information that makes your team safer, the right data will help any business.  IoT helps companies gather real-time information like never before, while advanced data systems allow them to take action instantly. Any manner of company from B2B, B2C or B2P (business-to-public company) can benefit by being smarter.

The Benefits of a business being "Smart"

One of the most commonly used phrases among leaders is that the best ones seem to “see around corners” to know what is going to happen.  This is often done simply using pattern recognition or experience.  IoT allows for data to be gathered to increase this ability.  Traffic sensors may show a change in foot/car traffic early to allow leaders to change staffing levels or positions, while temperature sensors in key facilities may show that it is becoming too warm to maintain worker productivity.  Regardless of the business, there is data to be gained in real time. 

The first main benefit is an increase in productivity.  Being able to communicate with key devices often means less on-site visits, a greater level of uptime and often a longer life in the field.  This allows workers to look after more machines per person or to perform other vital tasks at the same time.  As well, using cellular data solutions to back up key Internet connections makes sure that your employees always have access to do their work, something that has become even more vital in a time when many are now working from home. 

An often-overlooked benefit is an increased level of safety for you and your team.  While there are some obvious risks and conditions that your team faces (and is prepared for) on a daily basis, many risks can arise quickly and without notice.  Whether it is an unexpected door opening after hours, the presence of ice on a walkway or a much higher level of heat in a kitchen area, many things can cause injury to members of your team or your customers.  By having live alerts, you can ensure that your team can make the right decisions to keep everyone safe. 

In many markets, there is often very little that differentiates you from your competitors.  In an age when many things can be copied or emulated, it is often difficult to stand out in your appeal to new customers.  IoT solutions allow companies to change many aspects of how they do business including offering new billing options, faster service response times, over-the-air repair capability and quicker time to setup equipment.  This often allows companies to not only stand out from their competitors, but in some cases even sell products and services at a premium. 

The final area is flexibility, and this can mean many things to different people.  For some, it means being able to work remotely easier, which offers allows you to access key information safely and securely from wherever you are.  For others, it may mean they can set up at new locations in a fraction of the time and not have to deploy expensive IT resources.  And, for others, it maybe they can now bill their customers on a per usage or per month plan, which may allow them to expand into new markets or customer bases.  Whatever the example, IoT allows for companies to work in ways they often never thought they were able to. 

From front office and tellers to back office and IT sensors and IoT technology is used in many areas of the banking and financial industry

Improved service at the branch 

Over the past decade, the move first towards ATMs and then towards online banking has reduced the frequency that many of us visit our bank branch.  However, every day, many still use branches for banking and other services.  In a move to reduce costs, financial institutions are looking for ways to streamline the experience and some are doing this using facial recognition for their customers. 


If a customer was willing to sign up for the service, they would be identified immediately upon walking into the branch.  This would speed up the visit at the tellers, as all of the accounts would automatically be brought up.  As a failsafe, the customer would still have to enter in their pins/biometric access to perform any transactions.  However, this would allow for quicker turnarounds for a visit, as well as a more personalized experience for the customer. 

Faster claims (with reduced clerical work) 

Inevitably, accidents do happen, and they often result in an insurance claim.  As the clerical work required for a claim directly affects the company’s bottom line, most are looking for ways to reduce the work involved while still maintaining a high level of customer service.  The use of mobile-based applications is doing that today. 


The client is able to begin a claim on their smartphone using the company’s application.  This includes all of the details (which may be automatically input using the GPS on the phone), pictures, voice recordings and more.  An evaluator often does not have to visit the scene and can quickly make assessments about the damage that was done.  If available, the insurance company may also use other smart technology, such as any readings from the diagnostic port of the vehicle / smart home systems to reduce the work even further. 

More accurate evaluation of collateral items 

Whether it be a customer looking to buy a home or to insure a valuable item, it can often be difficult for an evaluator to get a complete assessment of the item.  Many are starting to use sensor-based applications to both better understand the condition of an item now, as well as to monitor the item on-going.  Sensors are placed in key areas to evaluate items such as the effectiveness of a key mechanical system, the amount of movement/travel a vehicle may go and to access key diagnostic information. 


With this information, evaluators have a better understanding of any potential short- and long-term issues that may affect the item’s value.  This same solution is often used for tracking the location of key valuables during shipment if the items are being insured.  Finally, in many cases, these sensors may be left in place on a permanent basis if the financial institution may need to maintain a better understanding about any change in conditions that may affect an item’s value. 

Digital signage has been used for many years across a wide array of industries. Recently we have been leveraging sensors to make digital signage smarter and to allow for easier maintenance.

Smart signage in retail 

One of the drawbacks to many forms of advertising is that they show the same message, regardless of who may be watching.  This is a trouble spot for TV, Radio and other mediums, and has traditionally been an issue for digital signage.  New emerging technology allows for advertisers to change the video based on a number of factors.  One such change is the time of day.  A mall may wish to run certain ads in the morning for an older demographic and in the afternoon for the teenagers.  However, IoT allows for a much more targeted approach than that. 


On-board cameras, combined with Internet connectivity, allow for ads to be changed based on the demographic of who may be approaching it.  It will use factors such as gender, age and the presence of children to put up an ad that may be most applicable.  To gauge its effectiveness, the smart player can also detect how long someone may have stopped to look at an ad and at what part of the screen they chose to look at.  This information can be fed up in real time to an Internet-based application to make changes in real time. 

With this information, evaluators have a better understanding of any potential short- and long-term issues that may affect the item’s value.  This same solution is often used for tracking the location of key valuables during shipment if the items are being insured.  Finally, in many cases, these sensors may be left in place on a permanent basis if the financial institution may need to maintain a better understanding about any change in conditions that may affect an item’s value. 

Smart signage based on GPS locations 

Every day, millions of people either use public transit or see the buses and trains while out on their routes. In order to increase revenue, transit agencies used printed billboards for marketing. They have shown to have a level of success. However, the combination of Digital signage and GPS-based location is allowing transit companies to charge more than ever to advertise on the side of their vehicles.

Using the vehicle’s GPS, the system is able to know where the vehicle is. When a vehicle gets into a certain zone, it can change the marketing ad to reflect a local business. To increase its effectiveness, some are using time-sensitive codes to get a further discount. It can also factor in other things such as the temperature. So, a local food chain could advertise hot chocolate if the temperature were to hit a certain point in the winter and switch to ice cream on those hot summer months.

Easier communication and sign maintenance 

The last part of digital signage is something that few ever seem to talk about, and that is, how do you maintain the sign itself.  In order for people to continually notice the sign, there needs to be a regular updating of content to maintain public interest.  As well, the machine needs to have maintenance performed, such as changing of screens, repairing any damage caused by vandalism or the elements and updating firmware and software to maintain security standards. 


Thanks to IoT, much of this work is now done over the air remotely.  Cellular gateways can be used both to update content in real-time as well as to perform maintenance updates on the machine.  These updates can be done after-hours, to prevent unwanted downtime.  Finally, some larger displays now incorporate camera that aim at the sign itself, to be able to quickly identify any screen or device damage. 

Companies big and small are using sensors to sell more goods in more places. Read below to see how.

Setup up kiosks faster

One of the biggest issues to overcome with the deployment of self-service kiosks was the installation of the landline to allow for communication to the device.  In most cases, dedicated high-speed landlines were used to set up the device.  These devices often came with a long lead time, making it more difficult to quickly deploy stations.  As well, the cost of a landline was often expensive and there was little flexibility with the placement of the device. 


Cellular communications has changed this industry as much as any.  Manufacturers are now adding cellular connectivity to the device before it leaves the factory, allowing for easy setup.  As the device no longer needed to be in an area close to the landline demarcation points, companies could easily move them to places that maximized their use, as long as there was cellular signal available.  Now, devices are deployed in minutes, not weeks. 

Flexible billing using cellular communications 

In addition to be easier to set up connectivity for self-serve stations, the on-going monthly bill is often much lower when using cellular communications when compared to landline connections.  In most cases, a landline came with a single billing option.  While this billing package was often ideal for very high usage deployments, many kiosks use very little data, making their plans difficult to justify. 


Cellular data plans have an incredibly wide range, often as low as pennies per month.  In addition, many plans allow for the pooling of data, meaning that all devices shared the same pool of available data.  In the event that a device saw a much higher amount of usage than expected, the cost of overage was often minimal. 

Third party displays in retail 

Many items that are purchased in stores require very little assistance, as their usage and selection is easy for the consumer to figure out.  However, in the case of items in places such as a hardware store, the wide selection of options and configurations can make it daunting.  As well, consumers may be scared away by what they deem to be a highly complex install of the product. 


One way that retailers (and 3rd party vendors) are helping is by the use of interactive setups and video displays.  As an example, a display may light up all options when a customer is prompted to use an interactive terminal.  As the customer makes various selections, the display light will turn off if a product is no longer applicable.  Once the customer has chosen their ideal product, they can both watch an installation video and have it sent to their device, hopefully lowering down their inhibitions to choosing the product. 


Enterprise is leveraging sensors to cut costs, maintain uptime and manage operations. See how below.

Turn-key failover solutions for SMB 

For many small businesses, the owner is also the complete IT team.  This means that they are often looking for easy to use solutions to allow them to both meet their requirements for security as well as the ability to expand as their business grows.  Many would love to use solutions that allow them to back up their existing Internet connections, but don’t have either the finances or technology knowledge to implement them.  Ideally, a solution would be easy to install and would look after all of their communication needs. 


Intelligent cellular routers are allowing for businesses to get the best of both worlds.  These solutions accept the landline connection that a business owner may use and use it to provide their team with secure, reliable connectivity to their vital applications.  However, in the event that the main landline was no longer available, the router would switch over the Internet connection to use the cellular network, allowing the company to continue to work uninterrupted.  When the main landline connection became available again, the router would seamlessly switch over to the landline connection. 


Easier Out of Band Management 

IT teams have been using Out of Band solutions for years to manage key devices, such as routers.  In the past, it has been via the use of a dedicated dial-up phone line.  If the IT Administrator wanted to make a change to the router, they would access the device via a the dial-up connection.  This prevented any changes being made locally, in the event that someone were to access the server room.  It also allowed for the administrator to access the server in the event of a major network outage. 


However, there were limitations to this method.  First, there was an on-going, fixed cost for each server, which has become more expensive each year.  As well, many locations may not be installing new landlines, making this option harder to get each year.  Finally, the administrator still had to use a cellular gateway to function as a backup, in the event that their main Internet line was unavailable. 


To fix these issues, many IT administrators are now using the cellular gateway that was being used a backup for the Internet connection also as an access point for Out of Band Management.  In many cases, the cellular data rate plan being used was sufficient already to do both tasks, meaning that there was often a cost savings to use this method. 


Single console for all carriers/countries 

For multi-national organizations, the management of various landline connection is very intensive.  They often had to deal with multiple landline providers in each country and there was no common way to make changes to all devices.  The introduction of cellular data devices has allowed IT teams to be able to overcome these issues, greatly lowering down the cost of device administration. 


Using the same cellular gateway manufacturer, IT teams can see the status of all of their devices in the same application, regardless of the country or carrier they are deployed.  This means being able to view the status of each device, make one-click over the air changes and even remotely upgrade the firmware for each device.  This also makes the deployment of devices much simpler, as many carriers around the world support SIM technology that allows for devices to leave one location working and to find the local network where they are being deployed. 


For a small business customer satisfaction and controlling costs are king. Sensors are helping businesses do just that.

Smart mirrors 

One of the biggest opportunities to upsell at a clothing store happens in a place where your staff is not allowed, the changing room.  When a customer is standing in front of the mirror, they are often trying to imagine their current selection with other items and would be quite open to having an accessory recommended.  This is where the use of smart mirrors are becoming more and more popular. 


The mirror allows first allows for interactions with your team via a touch pad.  Using this pad, your team can be asked to provide a different size or different colour of item with the touch of a button.  However, the real power of the solution comes from its ability to help the customer visualize.  Imagine the customer bought a pair of pants a few weeks ago and was now in for a shirt.  The mirror would allow for the customer to recall their transaction and visually see how these two items may work together.  It could also do the same by making recommendations, such as items that were commonly bought together. 


The result is that many customers will now feel more comfortable with their purchases, resulting in a lower amount of returns, while feeling more comfortable to add on accessories, increasing sales. 

Mobile retail 

The term “mobile retail” has a different meaning for many companies.  Companies such as mobile hardware trucks, where all of their products are sold out of their truck, will see a mobile retail operation as their entire business.  Others, such as a company that delivers items, may see mobile retail as an easy way for their customers to buy products.  Finally, companies that traditionally work within their four walls but decide to move outside (such as a hardware store offering gardening supplies in the parking lot) may look at mobile retail as a temporary event. 


Regardless of how one views mobile retail, cellular connectivity solutions are often an ideal way for the business to communicate.  In a permanently mobile environment, cellular data solutions allow for a secure and reliable method of accepting payments, looking up inventory or interacting with customers.  For a company that has mobile employees, cellular-enabled payment devices allow for customers to pay for their selection using the desired payment method.  Finally, companies that move temporarily out of their normal locations may find that using a cellular connection is quicker/easier than trying to extend their Wi-Fi network for a short time period. 

Improved inventory management 

In a world that is increasingly moving to online retail, brick and mortar retailers need to find way to entice customers to make the trip to their location.  If a customer does venture out to a store and then finds that there is no inventory for their desired item, it reduces some of the incentive to purchase the item at a store.  Smart retailers understand this and are using IoT solutions to ensure that their shelves are stocked whenever possible. 


The first method involves better tracking of inventory while it is on its way to the store.  Sensors and GPS tracking are being used on the trucks to make sure that inventory arrives on time and is in a condition that it can be sold.  Once it is in the warehouse, sensors are used on skids of key items to ensure that they are both where they are supposed to be and are secure.  Finally, once an item is in the store, inventory systems are often linked to smart customer awareness solutions to ensure that shelves are stocked. 


These systems work on the idea of demographics and historical purchases.  As an example, imagine that men over the age of 40 entering into a department store are much more likely to buy certain tools.  If the system detects that a higher amount of people meeting this description have entered the store, it can do a quick check to see how many of a particular tool may be on the shelf.  If it determines that the inventory is low, it can signal a team member to proactively replenish the stock before it runs out.