How Internet of Things (IoT) Technology is Used in Business
The Internet of Things is big business. Tech giant Cisco estimates that the burgeoning market sector will bring up to $19 trillion in value to global businesses over the next decade. Organizations of all sizes, from the smallest mom and pop business to the largest enterprise, are leveraging the opportunities provided by the new technologies. The ability to monitor, control, and gather data from practically any physical object given the right sensors means that IoT has something to offer in every industry and every market.
To the entrepreneur or established business operator, the lesson to learn here is that it pays to keep both eyes open. There are innumerable business applications for the Internet of Things (or the Internet of Everything, as Cisco calls it), and staying sharp is the only way to avoid a missed opportunity. Here are some of the ways large enterprise is benefitting from the IoT, ranging from customer-facing sizzle to revamped internal business processes.
UPS, as one of the leading package carriers in the world, is by necessity a tech leader. Business runs on logistics, and without the ability to safely, economically, and reliably move product, there could be no business. UPS has therefore been quick to embrace new technologies, and the Internet of Things has been one of their most successful experiments.
Modern UPS trucks are nexuses of IoT sensors. They’re wired from the tires to the roof, capturing information on approximately 200 data points. The UPS fleet totals over 80,000 vehicles these days, and the sheer amount of processing is staggering.
The nature of the data UPS analyzes includes obvious measurements like speed, location, and fuel consumption, but also such esoteric details as when each of the doors open and close and even when the seatbelt is buckled or unbuckled. The business minds at the firm use the data to optimize driver routes, driving techniques, how packages are loaded into trucks, down to the type of key drivers use. All is done in service of wasting as little time as possible on a driver’s route.
These may sound like trivial details, but the cost savings add up when applied to a large enterprise like UPS. Shaving just one minute off each drivers’ day is estimated to save the company $14.5 million per year when considered across the entire company.
Enterprise Supply Chain and IoT
Even before UPS takes a package the final mile, the IoT has countless applications. Zebra and other supply chain tech leaders have devoted a great deal of resources and thought to the so-called “smart warehouse”, a new kind of logistics hub that leverages IoT technology to optimize the entire enterprise.
The specific IoT tech used in this type of warehouse runs the whole gamut. UPS is piloting a wearables program in which packers and other warehouse workers use smart glasses to quickly navigate to packages. Amazon takes the concept even further with their near fully-automated warehouses. Small robots, resembling Roomba vacuum cleaners, zip across the floor fetching books, DVDs, and the multitudes of other products carried by the eCommerce king.
In a way, the UPS and Amazon approaches to IoT integration are quite similar. UPS leverages technology to guide their employees every move. Drivers are monitored to an almost Orwellian degree. Warehouse employees are directed by computer to take the optimal path in performing their duties.
Amazon takes the idea to its logical conclusion, eliminating human workers almost entirely. When the “things” of the Internet of Things can perform the task without human intervention, faster and with less error, then the cost savings and efficiency gains are enormous.
The Internet of Pizza
On a lighter note: Pizza! The ever popular cheesy treat is a favorite of engineers and scientists, along with pretty much everyone else, and so it makes a fine platform to develop and test new concepts in tech. Following on from such delicious, if slightly tragic, endeavors like the online computer game EverQuest’s /pizza command, IoT thought leaders are doing their best to incorporate tasty pies into their work.
At the hobbyist end of the spectrum the Artefact PizzaTime. Cooked up at an Intel-hosted “Hackathon” built around the company’s new Edison microprocessor, the team from Artefact developed a clock that can order Domino’s with the twist of a dial.
The clock is made possible by the Domino’s PizzaTracker API, which the pizza maker developed specifically to make ordering possible from an incredible range of devices. It’s a delicious, hilarious, and oddly inspiring example of a non-tech enterprise jumping in with both feet to let the enthusiast market do its thing. With the API, it is possible for anyone with a little programming experience to add pizza ordering to all manner of products, from the Amazon Echo, to cars, and yes, to clocks.
Of course, for the Internet of Things to really take hold at this level, it needs a certain amount of infrastructure. Cellular transmitters and self-contained wireless networks are powerful tools, but expensive and specialized. For large applications, especially ones with a consumer-facing component, readily available Wi-Fi is a crucial component.
Tech leaders are well aware of this, and the movement to make Internet a public utility is picking up steam. Google pioneered the idea with its Google Fiber program, which famously offers free Internet in select cities. Cities themselves have come on board with the idea, and today over 100 cities are part of the Next Century Cities initiative, pledging to provide free municipal Wi-Fi or other Internet access to their residents.
It’s a watershed moment for the Internet of Things. With Internet access fast and readily available, it means IoT devices need not rely on expensive cellular or satellite transmitters for their connectivity. It means that the barrier to entry for business gains in IoT has been drastically lowered. Most of all, it means that the Internet of Things is accessible to everyone.