Because it is such a gigantic trend, the Internet of Things (IoT) often confounds organizations seeking a practical approach for actually using it in a meaningful way. Although the IoT has an undeniable “cool factor,” it isn’t always clear how to implement it in ways that solve actual business programs.

For smaller businesses in particular, it presents a classic “how do you eat an elephant” challenge. You can only do it one bite at a time.

The hype surrounding the IoT is fully justified — it presents enormous potential for new business opportunities and operational efficiencies. IDC analysts say increased usage across manufacturing, transportation, energy, healthcare and consumer segments will drive IoT spending to $1.2 trillion by 2022.

Most of the hype focuses on massive, industry-wide implementations involving thousands or millions of sensors connecting to IoT-specific platforms with data collection and analytics capabilities, all of which requires specialized security solutions. The scale of it all can be overwhelming for small to midsized businesses (SMBs) that don’t have the luxury of full-time IoT specialists and limitless IT budgets.

Nevertheless, the IoT can have very practical applications for almost any business. The secret is to think big but start small. Low-risk, easy-to-implement solutions that provide clear benefits offer the best points of entry into the IoT world. You can become more ambitious as your experience grows.

Office security is one particularly easy starting point. Smart locks and connected cameras allow you to remotely lock and unlock doors and monitor surveillance systems. From there, it is a short hop to collecting data to understand who is using the office when. That data can ultimately help you rethink or redesign workflow processes for improved efficiency.

Products such as smart lights, blinds and thermostats can automate environment controls for convenience and cost savings. Studies find that these measures can reduce office energy consumption by 10 percent or more. As your expertise grows, you can even use these tools to tailor temperatures, light levels and even light colors to create a more comfortable and productive work environment.

Virtual digital assistants (VDAs) such as Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, Microsoft’s Cortana and Google Assistant can greatly improve personal productivity. When connected to note-taking and calendaring tools, these devices can streamline task management, scheduling and other basic tasks. More advanced users can integrate VDAs into customer service platforms to enhance efficiency, lower costs and improve customer satisfaction.

Shipping, logistics and inventory tracking can also benefit from IoT. Connected sensors can automatically update inventory as items are sold or purchased, and they can allow real-time tracking of packages in transit. Data gathered from such systems can eventually enable more accurate capacity planning, route optimization and supply chain efficiency.

SMBs can realize a host of benefits from IoT adoption, but they should have clear business objectives in mind. The IoT team at IPC helps our customers sift through the hype. We can work with you to develop a proof of concept that demonstrates business value. From there, we can help you design and deploy a complete solution that can be seamlessly integrated with your existing IT infrastructure and business processes. Give us a call to discuss how we can help you get started with IoT projects that deliver concrete results.