Category: , ,  /  April 23rd 2014

What’s next for technology? As innovations come thick and fast, we pick out the trends that might affect small businesses. Do they present an opportunity for you to get involved, and expand your offering?

In the first of our occasional series on trends in technology, we take a look at a concept that could transform all our lives: the Internet of Things. Imagine getting a message from your fridge that you need more milk. Switching your heating on from the car, so that you arrive to a nice, warm home. Or the alarm going off early so you can avoid train delays.

By sharing data, everyday objects will soon be thinking for us – saving time, energy, money… And it won’t be long before these ideas are a reality.  All sorts of devices will be connected to each other via the internet: up to 30 billion by 2020, according to some estimates.

An exciting opportunity for small businesses

Understandably, stories about fridges, cars and heating systems are hitting the news. But what about the Internet of Things for small business owners? In some ways, their needs are not dissimilar to those of the individual consumer. They need technology that’s easy to understand and get started, and not too expensive. After all, they’re often running their business single-handedly and are juggling all sorts of roles and responsibilities.

Up until recently, most business applications have been designed for medium to large corporations. It’s been impractical to adapt them for the SME market. Now, with cloud services and cheaper technology, new worlds are opening up for the under-served small business owner.

So what might they be able to look forward to, as devices are connected and start communicating with each other? Here are just a few ideas I’ve come across in researching the topic.

  • Wearable technology – a plumber could check and update the service history of a boiler from a device attached to his arm. No need to consult a printed service manual or prop up an iPad, the information’s right there, in the space with him.
  • Shelves that do their own stock control – they count the stock you’ve got, and automatically reorder if you’re running low.
  • Doors that count people in and out – this technology is already available to bigger businesses. But as prices become more affordable, and systems easier to install and run, we might soon see it in cafes and corner shops.
  • Location-based promotions – again, this is already available. But it’s likely to be more widely adopted as consumers come to expect more tailored experiences.

Who’s going to fill this gap in the market?

The big question for me is: who’s developing the Internet of Things for small businesses? And how could big brands integrate it into their products and services for this market?

It’s clearly an extraordinary moment in the history of technical innovation. And no one’s really sure what the extent of its possibilities might be. The next five to ten years are going to see huge changes, so it’s certainly worth following the Internet of Things closely.  Perhaps you have some insights into this trend you’d like to share.


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sabbir ahmed

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