The Internet of Things (IoT), in which everyday objects are able to communicate over the Internet, is set to revolutionize both the consumer and business landscape over the next few years, and U.S. businesses are cautiously optimistic about the opportunities it will bring.
According to a recent study by AVG Technologies, 97 percent of U.S. small businesses believe the Internet of Things presents an opportunity for their business. But what kind of opportunities are they referring to?
Some 50 billion IoT devices are expected to be in use by 2020. Some of these—such as tablets, WiFi routers, wireless printers and IP cameras (even fridges and TV’s!)—will be deployed routinely by small business. The power of the Internet of Things lies in its potential to help businesses cut costs, improve efficiency and access more data leading to increased profitability, productivity and customer satisfaction. How can a few connected devices do all these things?
Well, there are plenty of examples where the Internet of Things is already in common use today. It has already revolutionized certain industries: GPS positioning for Uber cars, automated parcel tracking for courier services, collision avoidance systems for cars and digital supply chain management for warehouses around the globe.
Now this power is about to be applied for the benefit of small business. Imagine, for instance, how much a garden center could benefit from the Internet of Things? Saving money by not overwatering, keeping plants healthy and tracking customer movement through the store to optimize layout are just some of the possibilities that come to mind.
So when we talk about the Internet of Things for small business, what we really mean is making businesses smarter, more efficient and more dynamic. Every small business will find its own unique way to achieve this. Sometimes the benefits will be quite small, and in other cases they will be invaluable.
Of course, as more and more things become IP-connected there will be a corresponding increase in data traffic. And for a good portion of small businesses this does appear to raise some concerns.
For example, around six in 10 respondents (64 percent) are fearful of increased security risks, and around half (48 percent) are concerned with increased security complexity. The vast majority (93 percent) agree to some extent that the Internet of Things will increase their time spent defending against spies and hackers and 98 percent agree to some extent that the Internet of Things will leave their organization more open to hacking and security breaches.
It should come as no surprise that small business is most concerned about potential security issues arising from the Internet of Things. For many, it’s taken this long to educate people how to surf the Internet safely. Now there’s the prospect of a lot of unmanned devices to contend with. As a small business, the best thing you can do is talk to your local IT provider about having it all managed for you. Let others make sure your Internet of Things devices are secure. This leaves you free to leverage their efficiency and cost-saving benefits to help grow your business.
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