How Entrepreneurs Can Harness the Power of Home Automation Technology

The Internet of Things – or IoT – is a short term to describe the ever-expanding network of objects capable of sharing and transferring data with one another. Today advances in machine-to-machine connectivity are not only impacting the consumer home automation market, but are bringing big changes to the world of business as well.

Entrepreneurs and small business owners are uniquely poised to take advantage of this innovative technology. At the helm of your own company, it’s possible to experiment with automated tools and varying workflow efficiencies to see what fits. This can mean considering IoT-enabled solutions – while still in relatively early stages of development, its predicted that by 20.4 billion “things” will be connected and communicating by 2020. To begin to understand what connected tech can offer your business, let’s first review a few key areas of functionality.

Multitasking with a Voice Assistant 

“In the past five years, voice control and voice-based technologies have experienced massive growth in the consumer market, igniting the competitive landscape among current and emerging smart home players,” according to Dina Abdelrazik, Research Analyst, Parks Associates. “Voice interfaces are advancing due to continued improvements in machine learning and natural language processing, paired with the prevalence of portable devices. Apple increased consumer familiarity of voice control with its introduction of Siri in 2011, but the later-to-market Amazon Alexa has taken a clear lead in this category.”

Voice-activated digital assistants can greatly improve efficiencies at a small-to-midsize business. By setting up a device like Amazon’s Echo or the Google Home speaker in the office, it’s easier to complete certain mundane tasks automatically (re-ordering office supplies, for example) and accomplish even more tasks when the device is synced to calendars, notes, and social media. With the list of Alexa skills growing everyday, new integrations are always arriving that might be perfect for your company’s specific needs.

Communicate with Remote Workers

For a business, any tool that facilitates improved communication is a valuable investment. With the IoT, workers can use their smartphone to access files at home, or even communicate via video chat with an employee working across time zones.  In a recent survey, 50% of remote workers reported they have connected at least one home IoT device to their corporate network, with 75% confirming they have accessed company data from home. This type of flexibility is increasingly valued by younger employees and anyone trying to juggle both work and family responsibilities.

Automate Office Maintenance 

In a small business there can be major consequences to accidentally leaving the lights on overnight or forgetting to lock the front door. Using different home automation tools, however, allows small business owners to automate Internet-enabled devices like smart locks and smart cameras, alarm systems, or a Wifi thermostat. Once you’re connected, you’ll not only have a clearer read on office energy use, you’ll also have the peace of mind knowing everything’s locked up safe at night.

Predict Consumer Behaviors

With automated devices gathering data on an unprecedented number of human behaviors, entrepreneurs have greater access than ever before to layers of meaningful real-time insights. These data-based observations can greatly benefit small businesses by helping entrepreneurs to develop customize advertising and make mindful product recommendations that are more suited to consumer’s needs.

More than likely the Internet of Things connection will have data that is available in every stage of the consumer buying cycle. The stages are research, purchase, and implantation. As a result, these data-based insights will also enable business owners to more thoroughly understand their target demographics and enact more personalized marketing efforts.

Track Shipments and Inventory 

The rise in sophisticated technology means improvements in multiple areas of productivity. For companies that send merchandise to clients, IoT-enabled sensors can help maintain a good record of shipments and inventory. In a few years, devices connected to the Internet of Things should be able to keep track of shipments and inventory completely automatically, which ultimately enables workers to focus their energy on tasks that require more critical thinking.

Expand and Launch New Services

The data from the Internet of Things may indicate that the company needs fewer employees to complete big projects with accuracy and efficiency. On the other hand, the data-based insights may encourage entrepreneurs to expand their business in new areas. This expansion may require a reorganization of current staff assignments or the need to hire new employees.

The ability to track and record consumer behavior will ultimately help businesses launch new products and services that will be in demand. Smart devices are eventually going to become the standard appliance and gadgets in the office; as a result, consumers will want more tools and integration that will make the use of these devices smoother and easier.

Since most small businesses are not as established as major corporations, they are presented with a unique opportunity to streamline and automate the operations from the start. Contrary to business owners who are leading major corporations that are still using traditional operation methods, small business entrepreneurs have the freedom to explore fresh ideas with new technology. As connected tech continues to evolve, there’s no time like the present to see how your business could benefit from it.

Beth Kotz is a freelance finance and tech writer with a strong interest in artificial intelligence and its vast potential for society. A graduate of DePaul University, she is currently based out of Chicago, Ill.

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