As the Internet of Things (IoT) continues its slow but steady rise to ubiquity, a trend colloquially called the Internet of Everything, many SMBs are still wondering how to respond and adapt. Although wearables like the Apple Watch are the most obvious arm of IoT, they’re really just the tip of the iceberg for business applications.
Sensors and automation platforms these days are inexpensive and accessible enough that they can be applied to an incredibly broad range of products and industries. Machinery out in the field, ranging from sophisticated electronics to the simplest of mechanical devices, can be remotely monitored, diagnosed, and controlled over the Internet. Depending on the individual scenario, this can serve as an early warning of a potentially devastating malfunction, or optimize efficiency and productivity far beyond what was possible before.
For the uninitiated, here are a few common types of sensors and devices that are available today to tie into any number of automation APIs and integrate into an existing or new cloud-based infrastructure.
Magnetic Contact Switches –
A mainstay of the old style burglar alarm system, magnetic contact switches today can be used to report the opening of any sort of door or hatch. From an unauthorized entry into a server rack to the lid of a container popping open, it’s easy to see creative applications for this device.
Temperature Sensors –
By combining with weather data, addressable climate control systems, and physical actuators, temperature sensors can be used to do everything from lowering a building’s air conditioning bill to maintaining optimal conditions for growing crops.
Remote Controlled Power Switching –
It’s amazingly easy these days to outfit any electrical device with a remote on/off switch. It doesn’t matter if the device in question is a tiny, modern microprocessor-based device or a legacy machine from decades ago. It doesn’t matter If it’s fresh off the factory floor, or has been sitting in operation for years. Tie this to the right sensors, and you could have an automatic emergency shutoff to protect just about any machine from any predicament.
All of these devices and more like them have been commoditized to the extent that with the right knowhow, it can be almost trivial to integrate them into an entire product line, or add them to individual installations on a need-by-need basis. It opens up a whole new world of possibilities to improve existing solutions or solve years-old nuisances. That’s to say nothing of the obvious advantages remote reporting offers to customer service and technical support.
Want a simple example of IoT that we use RIGHT NOW? I’d argue that our line of Cisco Meraki cloud switches and access-points qualify as IoT. Think about it. IT network devices that are intelligently managed from the cloud…
Also, ever hear of the Cisco IoT System?
Connect, manage, and control previously unconnected devices with the Cisco IoT System. Our broad portfolio of IoT infrastructure technologies and products gives you deeper insights with analytics on IoT data. Better secure your physical and digital assets and data. And innovate by creating and deploying IoT applications from fog to cloud.
In a sense, exploiting the Internet of Everything makes it possible to keep an intelligent employee on hand at every single installation. The level of automation and remote reporting that is available means your IT staff and employees are far better equipped to handle problems in the office and in the field without rolling a truck or making a site visit—many problems can now solve themselves.
Like any new paradigm, the technology sometimes sounds like nothing but pie in the sky novelty applications and unfulfilled promises. The technology is real, though, and it offers a great deal of opportunity to those with a more pragmatic mindset. Approaching the Internet of Everything with a creative eye towards practical, achievable applications, rather than trying to create a world-changing new gizmo, can be very rewarding. SMBs looking to optimize and refine their products and operations should explore this space for new inspiration and ideas.