As the Internet of Things (IoT) continues to gain momentum in the manufacturing industry, small businesses can no longer afford to ignore it. Richard Newberry, CEO of KMC Controls Inc. shares his thoughts on how small business manufacturers can leverage IoT to make facilities smarter, safer, and more efficient.
In what areas (HVAC, lighting, energy management, etc.) are IoT solutions most widely available to small and medium-sized businesses?
Smart thermostats, smart meters, and smart lighting are widely available. Also, smart sensors are becoming more prevalent and less expensive. Many of these products are not seeing broad adoption because they do not represent an end-to-end solution.
Which areas are seeing the greatest rate of adoption? Why do you think that is?
A large number of use cases show significant cost savings across all Industries. All businesses and vertical markets have at least one thing in common. They use buildings for employees and or customers. That is why I see Smart Buildings as the low hanging fruit of IoT. Energy Management is clearly the area with the greatest momentum because buildings (in the U.S.) represent the largest consumer of energy. There are over 5 million small buildings (under 25K square feet) that do not have any smarts in them and they are wasting over $60 billion annually. Smart lighting is also seeing some growth. All businesses are focused on the bottom line and IoT will help reduce costs and improve operational efficiencies. At the same time, it can help with customer satisfaction and employee comfort and security. By connecting to devices like smart meters and sensors you can reduce energy usage and eliminate the need to physically go check temperatures or conditions in a facility. You’re able to view that data on your smartphone and command and control those conditions. That saves time.
How expensive and difficult is it for most SMBs to get started with IoT technology? Can this be a DIY project for smaller businesses? What options for third-party help are available?
The cost of IoT technology is definitely decreasing. Sensors and other devices are less expensive and the ability to get the data to the cloud makes the options very affordable. Some solutions can be implemented as an operating expense, not a capital item. It is not at the level of DIY but there are tools that enable these solutions to be installed in hours.
What network considerations come into play, e.g., bandwidth availability, interference with other wireless technologies, network reliability, etc.?
The number one consideration is security. Bandwidth and network reliability are no longer issues given new technologies. The focus needs to be on making sure the Facilities/Operations team works closely with the IT team to ensure the solution is implementing leading security technologies.
What are the most significant potential benefits IoT can provide to SMBs?
Improving the bottom line. IoT technologies implemented wisely will include a platform that will allow you to make your business and facilities smart affordably over time. This is not a quick fix. This is a process that will yield significant ROI over time. Businesses will use connected devices to innovate how they do business and envision new innovative processes and operating models. The day for a subscription model for IoT is here to stay.
What are the biggest stumbling blocks most run up against?
Going too big too fast has resulted in some disappointing experiences. It is important to select a manageable objective and find a platform that will allow you to accomplish your objective affordably, and be powerful enough to solve more challenges that result in improved efficiencies and lower costs over time. Security can also be a stumbling block given the cybersecurity concerns for all SMB’s. We selected an ecosystem for our mobile platform that embraces an open architecture and knows the importance of security.
What should the decision tree look like when SMBs are considering deploying IoT solutions? What questions should they ask themselves and potential vendors, and how much weight should they put on each point of consideration relative to the others?
They should identify a pain point, problem or objective they want to address. Then they seek vendors that have the solution to deal with their objective. They need to ask if the solution is open so they are not locked in to one vendor and they clearly own the data. Next address the question of security; how is the vendor making sure the data is as safe as possible, what technologies are they using and how will they ensure it will remain up to date. Next, they need to understand the cost initially and ongoing costs. Security is number one but open is a very close second. Without open and secure the initial costs is not as important if your data is compromised or you get locked in for years to one vendor. With the right solution, you will be able to build on it with future objectives that make your business smarter over time.
As IoT technologies are adopted we will see an increasing convergence of IT and OT (Operational Technology) to make sure security/network concerns are addressed along with operational objectives. It has been forecasted that by 2020 one half of IT budgets will be for IoT projects. This will change organizational structures with many SMBs.