For small-to-midsize businesses (SMBs), IoT applications bring first and foremost a new range of process monitoring capabilities, which will benefit productivity and efficiency of their operations in many ways.

Distribution chain integrations

Beyond that, IoT will also enable linkages between the supply and demand sides of small businesses in unprecedented ways. Product and part inventories can be more precisely matched to data aggregated from customer relationship management (CRM) systems. Real-time product usage and service experience data can be more robust than ever before, thanks to IoT.

How much better? A recent Boston Consulting Group study revealed that SMBs adopting IoT increased annual revenue 15 percent faster than those not doing so.

Data handling requirement

Because each of these areas of potential improvement is predicated upon handling massively larger amounts of new information, adopting IoT to obtain these benefits requires SMBs to add capabilities in big data and analytics, either through internal development or by acquiring services from third parties.

"Small businesses should make sure IoT will work to improve their bottom lines—just like cloud computing and other IT innovations being used today."

As it turns out, processing large amounts of data is an excellent use of cloud computing, which provides a fast and affordable way for SMBs to become IoT proficient. A common attribute among the many advantages IoT promises SMBs is faster and better decision-making.

Data security

Capturing and learning to understand more business-critical data sooner, and with greater accuracy, means that business decisions will be better than before, when that information was unavailable.

Securing IoT for SMBs is an important consideration. Given the number of such devices that use Linux, requiring encryption and authentication be added is one measure of protecting the data.

New CRM channels

In the next two years it is expected that the plug-and-play characteristics of IoT and related Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) and Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) offerings will improve for SMBs, making them better integrated and even more accessible.

Already, third party platforms are leveling the playing field for SMBs to monetize data streams just as expertly as much larger enterprises. In essence, the IoT enables businesses to reach people in new ways, leveraging the IoT data analytical systems for newly identified market microsegments.

Advantages for SMB B2Cs

For business-to-consumer (B2C) SMBs, IoT-based micro-location proximity-awareness enables retailers to more precisely understand, segment and target their customers with personalized, contextual advertising, special offers and promotions.

The ability to reach customers both in and out of stores leads in turn to deeper, stronger customer relationships and retention. 

Focusing on business goals

But before considering IoT, it’s essential to clearly understand an SMB’s business objectives. From there, it’s a matter of designing a better customer experience around those goals, determining which IoT devices (e.g., beacons for retail) will deliver that experience, and finally developing the solution and apps to make it happen.

Essentially, SMBs should make sure IoT will work to improve their bottom lines—just like cloud computing and other IT innovations being used today.