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Taking the first steps: how to benefit from the IoT wave


Khalid Khan, Director of Midmarket and Cloud, MEA & APAC, Avaya, helps demystify one of the key emerging technology trends that is transforming business today.

The Internet of Things. Everyone’s talking about it, everyone has their own definition of it, and yet surprisingly few people understand how best to capitalise upon it for the benefit of their business. Many SMEs consider Internet of Things (IoT) solutions to be beyond their reach, but the truth is that smaller businesses have even more agility when it comes to adopting the technology systems that will propel their business well and truly into today’s connected world.

Savvy business owners today recognise that the power of IoT is something that can’t be overlooked, but knowing how and what to adopt to best suit your business is crucial to not only reap the benefits of connectivity, but to ensure that investment in technology is made wisely to preserve capital. To ensure the right business connectivity solution, having an expert opinion helps in identifying your needs, and to determine which specific technologies you can best benefit from.

This is something that we specialise in at Avaya, and our first step is to ensure that our clients understand what the IoT is, and what it means to their business. In short, IoT offers opportunities for innovation and growth, but it goes far beyond that: it is the potential for everything that can connect to anything to be a source of big data, a communication portal, and so much more, with the ultimate end goal of creating automated or data-driven processes that generate specific business outcomes. These outcomes are only limited by imagination – they could be anything from using face-recognition to greet customers by name, to early detection systems that prevent building fires. The possibilities are endless.

While this presents unlimited opportunities, the vast scope of the IoT can also be intimidating, especially when a Google search will turn up many differing opinions on how best to exploit the connected world. There are some good resources online that can help you to better understand what the IoT is and to give you an idea of how to apply it for your business, but there are some basic circumstances that are unique to your company that you should consider before taking the plunge.

Firstly, ask yourself some simple questions: what do you want to achieve? How can the IoT help you to get where you want to go? What flexibility do you have in terms of upgrading existing connectivity infrastructure? And, possibly most importantly, how much can you afford to invest, and what return on investment do you expect? By working out the foundation of your requirements, you’re better positioned to select the solutions that work for you, or to engage expert help to guide you through the process.

An important consideration in determining how to achieve the best outcome for your business is to realise that the IoT is very vertical-specific, with unique challenges and opportunities related to each industry. In healthcare, for example, fully secure connectivity must be achieved between life-saving medical devices, in addition to seamlessly delivering patient data to medical staff. Amongst the challenges here is the need for always-on connectivity and failsafe measures to ensure it remains so, as well as the ubiquitous needs for security and preserving data privacy. Retailers can benefit from knowing the retail habits of their customers, or can even adopt NFC technology to ensure that promotions are pushed to relevant consumers at the right time – such as when they approach a specific display stand – based on big data analytics. Again, the possibilities are endless, and customised solutions are key for your business to stay ahead of the competition.

Another aspect to consider is unification throughout the business. As an SME, you have an advantage in this aspect – smaller companies have fewer departments or lines of business to convert when adopting an IoT approach. It’s important, however, that every aspect of the business be converted at once to drive a seamless experience, enabling devices throughout the company to communicate intelligently, so that data can be gathered and shared, organisation-wide. This is where the real benefits and return on investment will start to show.

Ultimately, understanding the unique ways in which your company can benefit from the IoT, and determining an informed, intelligent approach to becoming an IoT-connected organisation will enable you to gain the most when you fully enter the digital world. A helping hand from a knowledgeable partner is always an advantage, too.

Rushika Bhatia

Rushika Bhatia is one of the region’s leading commentators on business and current affairs issues. She is the Editor of SME Advisor magazine - the flagship title of CPI Business. She is passionate about infographics – with special emphasis on data, research and statistics. Rushika has a Bachelor’s Degree from Indiana University, USA and is also CIMA qualified.