The Internet of Things is a popular topic and is already an important part of how we conduct business in today’s global climate. In the near future, the importance of IoT will continue to grow. Much more than just another digital disruption in business, IoT is critical to future success. Nowhere is this truer than in Singapore, which ranks first globally in the implementation of Smart Cities, a process which is closely tied to the Internet of Things. If you would like to learn more about the IoT, why it’s important to your business, and how you can implement this technology; please read on.
What is the Internet of Things (IoT)?
The Internet of Things is simply the concept of connecting any and all devices, basically anything with an on/off switch, to the Internet. This results in countless products having the ability to communicate with one another. While many devices, such as smartphones and personal computers have been connected for years, new devices such as home lighting, locks, coffee makers, refrigerators, and washing machines are now connected to both the Internet and to each other.
Just as in the home, IoT is being implemented in business and industry sectors. Automated machines in factories are connected and provide data to one another. Devices interconnected along the manufacturing chain provide data and information across the entire manufacturing process—from obtaining raw materials, to the logistics of delivering finished goods.
Why is IoT Important?
The IoT is easiest to understand when looked at from a home standpoint. Let’s say you are leaving home in a rush and are going to be late for your morning meeting. Your car, being connected to your phone’s calendar, knows you have a meeting and you will be late. It could then direct your phone to send a message to everyone in the meeting, informing them of the change—all of this done while your car makes sure you’re on the best possible route to work. Since you left home in a rush, your smartphone allows you to make sure your doors are locked and the thermostat is set to your desired temperature. You might even tell your coffee maker at work to start brewing at a certain time.
If you can see how this innovative technology could streamline your day and make you more productive in your daily life, then it doesn’t take much more of a stretch to see what it can do for the industry. What if the supply department of your business was connected directly to your suppliers? Factory machines could know when they are low on supplies and automatically reorder. Logistics could be connected as well, making sure products get where they are going on time. Machines with smart connections could diagnose themselves and tell you when they require maintenance. And these are just basic benefits of IoT. To the entrepreneurial mind, the possibilities in business and industry are limitless.
Why is IoT Important in Singapore?
The Internet of Things is important to business for two primary reasons: First, companies which don’t adopt the agility offered by IoT will be left behind by those that do. Second, for startups and entrepreneurial minded companies, there is no other area of business and industry which is positioned to provide as much opportunity as the IoT.
In Singapore, building Smart Cities is an important government initiative—one which has been highly successful, as Singapore ranks ahead of the rest of the globe in their implementation.
A Smart City is the implementation of the Internet of Things on a city wide scale. Singapore has implemented IoT technology into both its Smart City and Smart Nation plans. This includes smart meters, lights, and sensors which are connected and provide important data; this allows planners to make both city and national infrastructures run more smoothly.
Singapore is also a leader in using IoT technology in health sectors, with new initiatives to provide better care to the elderly and other citizens in need. In addition, IoT has allowed Singapore to provide many government services and data online, making access easier for all citizens.
There are also initiatives to promote research, innovation, and new ideas in IoT—in both the public and private sectors. This is an exciting time for startups and other entrepreneurial minded businesses in Singapore, as opportunities to produce new and innovative ways of using IoT are everywhere.
Strategies for Implementing IoT in Your Business
While the implementation of IoT in a business is complex, there are effective strategies to make the process easier to understand. One process that applies well to IoT is Design Thinking. While not a new concept, the stages of Design Thinking are an excellent starting point in the process of designing and implementing Internet of Things technology into your business. The five stages of Design Thinking are Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype, and Test.
Stage 1: Empathize
The first step is to understand the problem you are trying to solve by using empathy. Empathize with those who have the problem—whether it be your customers, employees, suppliers, or anyone else involved in your business. What would help them? How could IoT be used to make processes more efficient, convenient, and enjoyable? What could IoT do for your business that would make customers want to do business with you instead of with your competitors? An important part of this stage is gathering as much data as possible.
Stage 2: Define the Problem
This stage involves taking any and all information you gathered during the first stage, analyzing it, and discovering the core issue or problem you are facing. Once you know the problem, state it—not in a business oriented way, but in a service oriented way. For example, instead of saying, “We need to make our supply chain more efficient” (which sounds like you only care about your bottom line), you might instead say, “We want to provide our employees with the most streamlined and effective supply chain in order increase job satisfaction and give our employees the tools needed to achieve success.” This is a strategy everyone can get behind.
Stage 3: Ideate
Put simply, this is the stage where you start generating ideas for possible solutions. This is a great time to think outside the box. While it’s important to examine what others have done to solve similar problems, also make sure to consider new and innovative technology solutions which may be more ideal for your business than previously implemented ideas.
Stage 4: Prototype
In this stage, at least when possible, you build a prototype. This could also include creating a computerized model that can be used for tests. If you are hiring a software firm to implement your idea, you might try a scaled down version which can be tested before making the process more complex. Remember, that the prototype stage is an experimental stage where ideas can be tried and failures corrected. It’s always better to discover problems in this stage than after the full implementation has been conducted.
Stage 5: Test
The test stage is pretty straightforward. In this stage, the full product or idea is fully tested. While this is the final stage, the test stage is usually not the end. Instead, problems are often discovered, feedback from users is considered, and refinements to the product are completed. This often means going back to the prototype stage and then repeating the test stage, sometimes again and again.
While this is a lot of work, the implementation will only be successful if you fully understand the problem you are trying to solve. Only by understanding the needs of the users who will be affected and being willing to rule out problems, modify designs, and work together to achieve the best possible results, will an effective solution become a reality.
The Internet of Things is a reality every business must face; the only difference is in the extent. Just as not embracing digital disruption of earlier years such as computers, email, the Internet, and automation would have spelled doom for any business which did not adapt; those who do not implement IoT into their business plans risk the same fate.
While this may sound dire, it need not be. The Internet of Things provides unprecedented opportunities for growth and innovation. Businesses which form new ideas and innovative technology solutions to problems will benefit greatly. Today is an exciting time to be in business. Don’t fear change; embrace it and use it to your advantage.