In yesterday’s post we had just started focusing on actionable “Internet of Things” strategies that small business leaders can implement today. The opportunities in this space are simply too profound to ignore. And so we’re going to continue the discussion here by looking at ways to get your business ready for this emerging and disruptive new market.
Assess Your Current Data Environment
Becoming Internet of Things savvy starts with taking a serious walkthrough of your existing environment. Review your devices and sensors, the data they produce, as well as your cloud services and business intelligence tools. The Internet of Things is in essence a rapidly emerging part of the Big Data ecosystem. So you need to start by identifying how your organization is aligned with Big Data and analytics. Does your organization currently have a roadmap for managing structured and unstructured data assets in real-time? If not, then now is the time to activate a Big Data strategy and fold the Internet of Things into this roadmap. More times than not, this exercise will be a serious wake-up call. But don’t get bogged down, especially at the outset. The key is to start small, gather some results, and scale up. There’s no need to boil the ocean of Big Data. Taking an assessment of your existing resources is the first step on the road to leveraging the Internet of Things.
Start with Small and Incremental Changes
If the activity in this area is underdeveloped then set up an initiative to add a few new devices, connect them to the cloud, and enable them to talk to your employees and your customers. This process could be as simple as having a contest for the best innovative ideas and giving away Fitbits as prizes. Then have another contest to see who has the most steps in a day. Another way to get your employees excited about the Internet of Things is to install a Nest thermostat in your building within a highly visible area. Seeing is believing and once you start to model this technology as an organization, employees will start to get inspired to think out of the box at the possibilities.
One interesting way to experiment with IoT is to visit a site called IFTTT (pronunciation: “ift” as in “gift”). IFTTT is a service that lets users connect to different web applications (e.g., Facebook, Evernote, Weather, Dropbox, ect.) with one simple conditional statement: “If This Then That”. The service uses “This” as the trigger and “That” as the action to create powerful services called Recipes. The IFTTT service really performs as a mashup of different social media channels that can leverage the internet to create powerful services.
Improve and Increase Business Efficiency Before you become comfortable with connecting devices, it’s important to get familiar with connecting web services. IFTTT provides numerous ways to optimize your business through web services. Suggestions have ranged from managing social media campaigns, to events scheduler, to a virtual assistant. Once you begin to experiment with web application services like IFTTT, you’ll soon begin to look for new opportunities to use the Internet of Things to manage your digital business. IFTTT has huge potential in this space and has recently partnered with SmartThings, a provider of home automation sensors, to bridge the gap between the physical and digital worlds.
Now with the IFTTT + SmartThings combination, the sky is the limit of what’s possible both at home and in the office. Maybe you want to put into a Google spreadsheet the number of times a light is switched on or off, or to send a Tweet or email whenever the kitchen appliances are used. Collecting this kind data can easily translate into some use cases for how to monitor and save on energy costs. Please join us again in Part 4 as we continue the discussion.