Internet of Things for Business

The “Internet of Things”, or “IOT”, is a phrase that’s being used a lot these days. Many bloggers, commentators, and analysts are trying to pin-point what the Internet of Things will mean for specific industries, business in general, and even how it will change our personal lives. The goal of this post is to explain basic principles of the internet of things and provide insight into how it’s changing the way we interact with technology.

Constant Connectivity

The term ‘Internet of Things’ refers to the connectivity of tools, devices, gadgets, and everyday items (aka things) to an intranet (internal network), secured cloud server, or the internet. The IOT isn’t a new concept, there have been hobbyists who have connected various mundane things to the internet for years, but it’s become an emerging trend for businesses. The goal is to embed physical objects with hardware and software that will allow it to collect relevant data and transmit it. This type of tech is being used both in business and personal life by many people. Wearable technologies like the Fitbit series of monitors, the Apple Watch, and the Nike Fuelband are all examples of fairly mundane objects that collect and transmit a range of data. This allows us to collate the data and review it in multiple forms, suddenly personal health is aided by big data and analytics.

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Big Data and Manufacturing

With the advent of cloud computing, businesses are now able to take advantage of the Internet of Things remotely. We can connect monitors and trackers to manufacturing equipment, for example, to collect data and analyse any number of key performance indicators (KPIs) including downtime, efficiency, and throughput. Additionally, by connecting equipment to a network we have the ability to remotely monitor and manage production. This aggregate of data can also be used for predictive purposes; trends can emerge that could highlight potential issues (such as machine malfunction) or could identify opportunities for improvement.

At the end of the day, by connecting things to the internet we can accumulate more data on the business. This provides decision makers with additional transparency and insights that allow them to make more informed decisions about their business. It also allows decision makers to identify areas for improvement, cost reduction, or priorities for investment.

Internet of Things and Business Automation

One of the biggest benefits of the Internet of Things is its ability to automate processes. Manufacturers will clearly see the benefit of being able to automate standardized processes (such as start-up and shut down), but any business can benefit from the ability to automate. Even a service business, such as Mentor Works, can benefit from automated lighting and HVAC systems that would ensure all systems are being efficiently used.

Home automation is also becoming a popular way to save money and automate basic processes. You can purchase a variety of devices that are connected to the Internet that allow the remote monitoring and management of household systems. One of the more popular examples of this is Google’s Nest Thermostat. The Nest connects to the internet via your home network, allows you to remotely turn your HVAC system on/off, set schedules, and check the temperature of your house remotely. What’s really beneficial about this tool is that it has modes that allows the Nest to automatically set your HVAC system for you, it learns your schedule and makes adjustments for you so that your house is always a comfortable temperature when you get home but does not waste energy heating/cooling while you’re away. Similarly, you can connect your lights, door locks, garage door, and even your refrigerator to the internet so you can monitor usage, status (e.g. locked vs. unlocked), and make changes from a distance. Did someone forget their keys? No problem, just unlock the door with your phone.

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Identify Future Investments

If you already have monitoring systems and controls in place then you likely have already identified gaps in your production processes. Alternately, if you do not have any of this technology then you may consider investing in monitoring systems and controls to help identify areas for improvement. Once you start collecting data on your manufacturing plant you will begin to see where adjustments and investments are required. At that point, Mentor Works can partner with you to determine a funding strategy. Our goal is to help you improve your business, and by partnering with you, we can help you achieve your growth goals and optimize your cash flow. If you would like to learn more about how we partner with businesses for growth, attend one of our free government grants and loans webinars or sign up for our Canadian government funding newsletter. For further assistance, you can always contact us directly to start talking with one of our Canadian government funding experts.

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Rob holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from Western University, and has published articles in international journals as well as given presentations throughout Canada and Portugal. His area of expertise lies in advanced manufacturing, international development, export market development, and automotive manufacturing. As a Program Manager at Mentor Works, Rob works with business owners to obtain funding to meet their growth strategies. Prior to joining Mentor Works, Rob worked extensively in various academic roles, software and ICT sales and development roles, and in quality control roles in the automotive industry.

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