Covid-19 drove an explosion in the uptake of the internet of things (IoT) among South African businesses. However, many businesses (and especially non-tech companies) use IoT for rudimentary applications, like turning lights and air conditioners on and off, or connecting movement sensors to cameras to reduce their energy bill.
Applications like these are novel, but they only scratch the surface of what’s possible when companies apply IoT to specific problems or use it to achieve measurable digital business outcomes.
Not sure where to start? Contact three6five
Although many businesses in South Africa remain sceptical of IoT’s value and return on investment, they need to start to understand how they can use it in meaningful ways to accelerate their business.
Means to an end vs starting with the end in mind
Businesses often think of technology as a means to an end. They put sensors on a bunch of devices, create guest hotspots to improve the customer experience, and consider it done. For many though, it’s a sunk cost. What else are they doing with that information? What could they do?
When you implement IoT strategically, you’re not just buying sensors. You’re buying information about your business and customers in the form of a sales strategy, a new marketing approach or an optimised machine maintenance schedule. You’re buying a measurable outcome.
The real magic happens when you tie your data strategy to a specific business outcome, like shortening contact centre call volumes by 15%, speeding up hotel check-ins by 30%, or reducing manufacturing scrap by 25%.
Rather than seeing technology as a means to an end, start with the end in mind. Identify a business goal or challenge and find the best technology to fit your strategy. Don’t start with the tech. With a goal established, you’ll have a better idea of what information to gather and how to interpret and enforce the insights in a meaningful way.
In a retail store, for example, sensors tell you how long customers spend in each section of your shop, how they move through the store, and where there might be dead spots. You can use this information to change your product placement, do promotional advertising and map the shopper’s path to maximise floor space.
What if you don’t have a goal?
Maybe gathering more data is the goal – for now.
Your data is the best resource you have to accelerate your business. It’s the most important “thing” – in sales, marketing, manufacturing, logistics, inventory, asset management – everything. But where to start?
With a solid understanding of your business strategy, three6five can help you to identify a data-driven outcome. We then enable digital touchpoints throughout your business, collecting data from sources you normally wouldn’t focus on, and making the insights work to your advantage.
The applications of IoT are limitless, and you can make it as innovative as you want.
- In agriculture, small-scale farmers use IoT to monitor and correct soil moisture and nutrients to improve the quality and output of their crops.
- In construction, IoT alerts site managers when concrete is set – it’s pointless to send 10 labourers to a job site if the concrete is still wet.
- In hospitality, hotel managers use IoT to improve efficiencies, ensure Covid-19 cleanliness standards and track chemicals used in the cleaning process.
IoT is rarely implemented and left alone – and it’s unlikely that you’ll collect data you can’t use.
In our experience, implementations stack on top of each other. That’s because once you’ve seen a return from your initial investment in IoT, it’s natural to start becoming curious about what else is possible. To ask questions you never thought to ask and explore insights you’ve never pursued before.
The benefits accrue massively in a snowball effect – the more data you gather and analyse, the more visibility you get into the business. Decision making becomes targeted, focused and intelligent as you add more and more digital touchpoints and analyse the data in a feedback loop to improve the customer experience or make the business more operationally efficient.
The key to success with IoT is to never stop measuring, checking and experimenting with your data. Who knows what you’ll find?
Get on the bandwagon
Adoption is happening fast. Businesses are looking for competitive edges and they’re realising that IoT is an easy way to gain them.
Previously, South African businesses could wait for new tech trends to be adopted by the rest of the world. Not any longer. Today every business must be an early adopter. The world has become more competitive, and businesses must seize opportunities to accelerate and digitally transform their operations.
Not sure where to start? Contact three6five to get the IoT snowball rolling.
- The author, Adam White, is chief technology officer at three6five
- This promoted content was paid for by the party concerned