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A Guide to IoT Applications: Transforming Business Operations for SMEs

04 Jun 2024

The Internet of Things (IoT) has emerged as a technological breakthrough on many levels, connecting devices and objects to enable seamless communication and data exchange. For SME owners and directors, understanding the applications of IoT is important to know how it can transform your business. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore various IoT applications, from smart agriculture and retail to wearables and security systems, providing insights that might help you get the edge on your competitors.

Types of IoT applications

Where is IoT mostly used?

At the moment, IoT is mostly used in various business sectors to enhance operational efficiency, improve decision-making processes, and offer innovative solutions. Some of the primary areas where IoT is extensively employed include:

  • Manufacturing: IoT-enabled sensors and devices optimise production processes, monitor equipment health, and ensure quality control.

  • Logistics and supply chain: Tracking and monitoring products in real time, from manufacturing to delivery, streamline logistics operations, and reduce inefficiencies.

  • Energy management: IoT applications in energy help monitor and control consumption, leading to improved sustainability and cost savings.

  • Smart cities: Cities including Zurich, Oslo, Canberra, Copenhagen, Lausanne and London are leveraging IoT to enhance public services, manage traffic flow, and improve overall urban living.

What is the most common IoT application?

One of the most common and widely adopted IoT applications is in the realm of smart homes. IoT-enabled devices such as thermostats, lights, security cameras, and smart assistants have become integral parts of modern households. These devices communicate with each other, offering homeowners unprecedented control over their living spaces. For instance, smart thermostats can adjust temperatures based on occupancy, and security cameras can send alerts to homeowners' smartphones in case of unusual activities.

IoT applications in Agriculture

In the agricultural sector, IoT plays a pivotal role in optimising processes and improving crop yields. For indoor planting, IoT has improved how micro-climate conditions are monitored and managed, enabling precise control over factors like temperature, humidity, and light. This level of control enhances production efficiency. In outdoor planting, IoT devices can sense soil moisture and nutrients. When this data is combined with real-time weather data, smart irrigation and fertiliser systems can be precisely regulated. This not only increases crop yields but also conserves vital resources by ensuring that water and nutrients are used only when needed.

IoT applications in Retail

The retail industry has witnessed a revolutionary shift with the integration of IoT applications. Smart shelves equipped with RFID (radio frequency identification) tags make it possible for retailers to monitor inventory in real time, minimising ‘stock-outs’ - empty shelves, and ‘overstocks’ - a surplus. IoT-powered beacons can also communicate with customers' smartphones, alerting them to a personalised offer whenever they’re geographically close to the store, for example. This personalisation has been proven to improve customers’ overall shopping experience, their sentiment about the brand, and increase profit. Additionally, smart payment systems and checkout processes are streamlining transactions, reducing waiting times and improving customer satisfaction.

IoT applications in Healthcare

In the healthcare sector, IoT applications have the potential to revolutionise patient care and treatment. Wearable devices equipped with health monitoring sensors enable continuous tracking of vital signs and health metrics. This real-time data allows healthcare professionals to monitor patients remotely, providing timely interventions and personalised care plans. IoT applications also extend to smart medical devices, such as insulin pumps and pacemakers, which can be remotely monitored and adjusted as needed.

IoT applications in Security

Security is of paramount importance for businesses, and IoT applications offer innovative solutions. Smart surveillance systems equipped with IoT sensors can detect unusual activities and send real-time alerts to security personnel. Access control systems using IoT technology provide enhanced authentication measures, ensuring only authorised individuals gain entry to secure areas. In addition, IoT-powered smart locks and alarms offer businesses advanced tools to safeguard their premises.

The future of IoT

The future of IoT holds immense promise, with continuous advancements in technology and its integration into various aspects of business and daily life. SMEs can expect the following trends to shape the future of IoT applications:

  • Edge computing: Edge computing will become more common, where data processing happens on local devices or nearby servers to reduce time lag and bandwidth, and speed responses - helping to enhance real-time decision-making.

  • 5G connectivity: The rollout of 5G networks will provide faster and more reliable connectivity, enabling a broader range of IoT applications and services.

  • AI integration: The sheer amount of info and data IoT devices produce can be overwhelming. Artificial Intelligence acts as a powerful interpreter, linking to IoT and transforming raw information into easy-to-understand, actionable insights.

  • Expansion in healthcare: IoT applications in healthcare will expand, with the development of more sophisticated wearable devices and remote patient monitoring solutions.

How could you use IoT?

As IoT applications continue to evolve and proliferate, SME owners and directors have a golden opportunity to use this technology to streamline operations, enhance customer experiences, and stay ahead of the competition. From smart agriculture to healthcare, the huge variety in how this technology can be used means that there is probably something out there for you and your business. By embracing the current trends and preparing for the future developments in IoT, SMEs can position themselves at the forefront of innovation and secure long-term success in an increasingly connected world.

If you need help with applying IoT to your own operations, or any other aspect of your business, get 1-2-1 support by speaking to one of our V-Hub Digital Advisors.

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