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Five unexpected ways to use the Internet of Things

Key takeaways

  • The Internet of Things presents once unimaginable possibilities for business, but many companies focus on the big picture and miss the practical solutions it offers.
  • Connected IoT solutions can help reduce operating costs through increased energy efficiency, smarter inventory management and improved safety, as well as meet customers’ changing expectations.
  • Laying the foundation of a successful IoT ecosystem begins with bringing together pieces of the puzzle that fit a company’s unique needs.

What we find remarkable about the Internet of Things (IoT) is that it introduces possibilities that were once unimaginable. Organisations that assemble all the pieces of the IoT puzzle the right way can significantly improve efficiency, lower costs, increase customer satisfaction, and even leap over the competition.

But we’ve also noticed that many companies focus on massive IoT ecosystems, overlooking the not-so-obvious ways that they can benefit from smart connected solutions. They include these five modest but indispensable uses of the IoT, which can lay the foundation for larger ecosystems in the future.

1. Optimise energy and support sustainability

The IoT has ushered in opportunities to manage buildings and spaces in ways that were inconceivable only a decade ago. We increasingly use occupancy sensors to determine when people are physically present in a room. This makes it possible to adjust lighting and temperature to optimal levels, thereby saving money and helping the environment. Remote climate and lighting controls also help manage homes and offices when people are away or on vacation.

Yet the benefits don’t stop there. Smart buildings can determine when meeting spaces are available. This can improve occupancy at large businesses and universities by 40% or more, while trimming infrastructure and maintenance costs — sometimes amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars.1

Sensors can also detect water and gas leaks and aid in predictive maintenance for HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning) systems, which can be used to manage landscaping and numerous other machines and systems. We’ve found that many organisations save 25% or more by using occupancy sensors and other smart devices.

2. Track assets and take charge of inventory

Connected solutions are particularly appealing for businesses that must track assets, which can range from trucks to hotel luggage carts to medical devices. It can even assist with monitoring trash.

Knowing where a piece of equipment is at any given moment saves employees the time they would otherwise spend hunting down devices and machines. In fact, during an average hospital shift, more than one-third of nurses spend at least an hour looking for equipment.2

Asset trackers also can help reduce theft and increase staff productivity. With connected sensors, dashboards, and notifications in place, it’s possible to have complete visibility into the location of your assets.

For a hotel, these assets could include luggage and housekeeping carts and room service food trays. For a healthcare provider, it could encompass blood pressure monitors, insulin pumps and other medical devices. In a restaurant chain, it might revolve around sourcing food and other items across a supply chain. And asset location tracking typically results in improved asset optimisation, reduced inventory needs, and improved customer experiences.

3. Build secure and compliant environments

Safety is obviously a concern for companies. What’s more, violations and fines can be costly, and downtime due to inoperable equipment or injuries can be expensive. But connected solutions can create better working environments.

In a hotel, for example, these smart devices can ensure that air and water quality is up to standards, provide automated pest traps, monitor dumpsters and recycling bins, detect trespassers, determine when someone needs assistance, or discover activity in an unauthorised area. Monitoring the water quality of hotel swimming pools can lower chemical and filtering costs.

4. Provide a first-class customer experience

Delivering value to customers is at the centre of any business. Loyalty translates directly into increased revenue opportunities. But consumer habits are changing, and businesses need to change with them. Sensors, facial recognition, analytics, dashboards and notifications can elevate and even transform the customer experience.

With these technologies, a loyalty app can deliver a relevant and appropriate experience. Using connected solutions, you can identify and reward your best customers by offering perks, reduced wait times, and/or shorter lines. You can also use analytics to determine how to deliver the right products and services at the right time and in the right context, in a highly personalised way. No less important: a connected framework often leads to more efficient deployment of staff and increased revenues through better customer retention.

5. Identify behaviour and pinpoint opportunities

One of the more important applications for big data and analytics is identifying customer behavioural fingerprints and delivering more focused, targeted notifications and promotions. Connected solutions can identify opportunities for upselling, upgrading, cross-selling and more. It also can increase patronage and sales.

For example, a logic-based system may identify when a customer is visiting a particular spot and send that individual’s mobile device relevant discounts or promotions for a nearby product, restaurant, spa or show. This translates into increased sales, revenue and loyalty. This type of “customer fingerprinting” can be used virtually anywhere, from airports to coffee shops, hotels and retail stores.

The number of uses keeps growing, but these five guidelines can help you successfully assemble the pieces of your company’s IoT puzzle — including not-so-obvious but indispensable connected solutions.

For more information on how your business can harness the power of connectivity and data, visit PwC’s Connected Solutions website.