In recent years, the Internet of Things advantages, innovations, improvements, and all sorts of applications have been a regular topic in the mass media. The whole concept involving the automatic cooperation of millions of various appliances within a global network is about three decades old; however, its rapid development started relatively recently. Though some inventors take this idea to the extreme by suggesting to connect every toaster, toothbrush, or trash can to the Internet, the network of “smart” devices (sometimes referred to as IoT devices) offers many undeniable benefits that are reviewed further in this article.
- Advantages of IoT
- Improved productivity of staff and reduced human labor
- Efficient operation management
- Better use of resources and assets
- Cost-effective operation
- Improved work safety
- Thorough marketing and business development
- Improved customer service and retention
- Better business opportunities
- More trustworthy image of the company
- Drawbacks of IoT
Advantages of IoT
The concept of IoT is characterized by two defining features:
- Automation. The general idea of IoT involves direct communication between separate devices, apparatuses, and other hardware without human interference.
- Connectivity. Enhanced connections within one network on a worldwide scale provide easy access to various information.
In view of these features, the Internet of Things must employ numerous technologies to ensure automatic data transfer, analysis, and response between multiple devices. For example, automation is impossible without Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, and Machine Learning, while connectivity is greatly facilitated by cloud computing and wireless communication technologies.
Let’s see how these features result in numerous advantages of Internet of Things technologies and services. However, it is worth noting that this brief review is focused primarily on the IoT benefits for business and barely mentions the applicability for individuals and houses. Moreover, these advantages are mostly interconnected, to the point when one leads to another, causing a chain reaction of positive effects.
1. Improved productivity of staff and reduced human labor
Thanks to IoT solutions, mundane tasks can be done automatically, so human resources may be transferred to more complex tasks that require personal skills, especially out-of-the-box thinking. This way, the number of workers can be minimized, which results in reduced costs of business operation.
2. Efficient operation management
Another significant benefit offered by the interconnection of smart devices is automated control over multiple operation areas, including, among others, inventory management, shipping tracking, fuel and spare parts management. For example, this approach involves using RFID tags and a corresponding network of sensors to track the location of equipment and goods.
3. Better use of resources and assets
The automated scheduling and monitoring implemented with the help of interconnected sensors enable higher efficiency of resource use, such as improved power management and water consumption. For example, simple motion detectors may save significant sums of money in electricity and water bills, thus making both small and large businesses more productive and eco-friendly.
4. Cost-effective operation
Due to the reduced downtime periods, ensured by automatically scheduled and controlled maintenance, supply of raw materials, and other manufacturing requirements, the equipment may have a higher production rate resulting in bigger profits. Again, IoT devices greatly facilitate management within individual departments and across the whole enterprise structure.
5. Improved work safety
In addition to the abovementioned benefit, the scheduled maintenance is also highly advantageous for ensuring operational safety and compliance with the required regulations. In their turn, safe working conditions make the enterprise more attractive for investors, partners, and personnel, increasing the brand reputation and trust. Smart devices also reduce the probability of a human error during various stages of business operation, which also contributes to a higher level of safety. In addition, a network of IoT devices such as surveillance cameras, motion sensors, and other monitoring devices can be utilized to ensure the security of an enterprise and prevent thefts and even corporate espionage.
6. Thorough marketing and business development
Smart devices that are situated at homes, especially voice assistants and other appliances that can directly communicate with end-users on a regular basis, provide invaluable source information for business analysis. IoT helps enterprises by gathering large volumes of user-specific data employed for developing business strategies, targeted advertising, fine-tuning price policy, and other marketing and management activities.
7. Improved customer service and retention
The abovementioned collection of user-specific data achieved by using smart devices also helps businesses to understand the expectations and behavior of customers better. IoT also improves customer service by facilitating follow-ups after sales such as automatic tracking and reminding the customers about required maintenance of purchased equipment after its predefined period of use, the ending of warranty periods, etc.
8. Better business opportunities
Due to the increased effectiveness, the company that uses IoT solutions is able to offer a wider range of services or products, or increase their quality in comparison with its competitors, but at the same price. As an alternative, such a company may perform more challenging tasks in terms of production difficulty, time, or quantity. Altogether, the use of smart solutions makes an enterprise more competitive and attractive as a potential business partner.
9. More trustworthy image of the company
A company that employs high-tech solutions, and IoT in particular, generally makes a positive impression on customers, investors, and other business partners who are aware of numerous advantages offered by the Internet of Things. Moreover, it is easier to attract highly-sought experienced staff if a company provides a safe and secure working environment ensured by a network of smart devices.
Drawbacks of IoT
Though the pros of the Internet of Things are especially desired in terms of increasing business profitability, this technology also involves certain threats. For the sake of fairness, let us take a brief look at the disadvantages of IoT.
1. Security flaws
Insufficient security measures are the most widespread drawback that hinders the development of IoT as a whole. The fear of data leaks is always present because smart devices collect and transmit confidential information that can lead to drastic consequences if revealed. Yet, IoT solutions rarely contain adequate anti-tampering means or comply with all applicable data protection standards, encryption protocols, and other regulations and technologies designed to prevent unauthorized access to sensitive data. Failure to ensure sufficient data protection may lead to costly, disastrous, and even tragic consequences: identity thefts, loss of corporate secrets, equipment or products, sabotage, etc. That’s why the development and implementation of IoT solutions in business must be performed by professionals who can ensure that the installed hardware and software systems have no weak spots and are well-protected from any hacking attempts.
2. Associated costs
Implementation of IoT infrastructure in a business enterprise implies building an extensive network comprising multiple smart devices and the associated technical infrastructure, including the power supply grid and the communication network. That’s why such an initiative requires significant investments to install, maintain, and gradually expand the created network according to future needs. Though IoT solutions provide multiple benefits, it takes a lot of time before they become profitable, and their financial benefits exceed the initial costs of their implementation.
3. Power supply dependence
While IoT implies the autonomous operation of multiple devices, such a network remains highly dependent on external factors that must be considered in order to implement it successfully in business. First and foremost, smart devices are dependent on a stable and sufficient supply of electricity, so a well-planned additional infrastructure must be provided. It should include a suitable amount of UPS devices, surge protectors, and other equipment with relevant ingress protection (IP) ratings.
4. Network dependence
The core feature of the Internet of Things is the immense amount of interconnections between various devices and access to the global network. For this reason, IoT devices additionally require an infrastructure that ensures the uninterrupted wired and wireless communication with high throughput, low latency, and constant access to the Internet. So, to enjoy the benefits of IoS, a business enterprise first should provide the whole range of the required networking equipment: cables, routers, hubs, local data storage means, and so on.
5. High skill requirements
IoT solutions require responsible, experienced professionals who fully understand the scope and possible consequences of their work. Deploying, setting up, maintaining, and changing the scale of IoT solutions in a business enterprise demand highly skilled administrators who may be hard to find and recruit as they would expect respectively high salaries. All personnel who would have to deal with the implemented network of smart devices should receive proper training and sets of instructions. So, while IoT reduces the need for human resources, the remaining staff must be well-trained in order not to disrupt the operation of smart devices and not to cause the ”snowball effect.”