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The business utility of the Internet of Things

by Julia Stuhltrager
As exciting as the Internet of Things (IoT) is for consumers, I see even more exciting potential for IoT in the workplace.

An Economist Intelligence Unit survey of C-suite business leaders1 found that 96% of executives expect their businesses to be using Internet of Things (IoT) in some respect by 2016. In addition, 29% believe that IoT will inspire new working practices among their employees, and 23% say IoT will eventually change the model of how their businesses operate.

In the not-too-distant future, iWorkers will be operating within an almost limitless continuum of data that is produced, communicated, aggregated and analyzed continuously, helping them make the right choices at the right times. By increasing the number of interconnected endpoints, the IoT can increase that access exponentially, and they can significantly improve processes across the enterprise.

This promises an immense boost to the effectiveness of your workforce — if you provide them with the right tools.

The primary way I’ve seen the IoT improving productivity in the workplace — in the here and now — is by helping employees easily move information from physical to digital, and vice versa.

On the horizon

Based on the predictions I’ve read, the IoT is poised to deliver greater mobility of information to workers in the enterprise — revolutionizing everything from shipping to the day-to-day contingencies of office life. Companies that deliver goods and dispatch vehicles will improve logistics through in-vehicle technology that monitors information about traffic patterns and automatically updates routes, enabling drivers to deliver products and services faster and more frequently. Inside the workplace itself, IoT devices can boost productivity by keeping staff informed of everyone’s whereabouts. An employee’s phone or wearable device will be aware of where they are (at home, in transit, in a meeting) and, based on the digital calendar monitored by those same devices, can automatically update colleagues about whether that employee is running on time, is indisposed, etc.

Businesses can also benefit from greater efficiency and reduced costs by using sensor-equipped, Internet-connected devices at every step of a process to collect and send real-time data to the cloud. There, the data can be subjected to sophisticated analytics that locates points where excessive time and effort is being spent.

That kind of sensor-based intelligence and connectivity will take employee awareness and performance to a radically new level — when they become a reality. The IoT has not yet evolved to that point.

But that doesn’t mean the IoT exists only on the horizon. Some next-generation technologies are already having an impact on the workplace.

Here and now

The primary way I’ve seen the IoT improving productivity in the workplace — in the here and now — is by helping employees easily move information from physical to digital, and vice versa.

Of course, an influx of new connected devices means a greater burden on both the IT infrastructure supporting them and the business processes into which these new information streams need to integrate. The productivity gains from using intelligent IoT devices which can serve as endpoints on the Internet will only be realized if the information they send doesn’t inhibit or compete with other information streams already running through the enterprise.

IoT could be an immense boost to the effectiveness of your workforce

Be sure to provide them with the right tools.
Security is also a concern: having that many devices continuously sending and receiving data creates multiple points of entry for security breaches — whether they target the device alone, or the company network. Companies need to take this vulnerability seriously, and can’t afford to get caught up in IoT trends without training an eye on the new risks that come about as a result.

A wide variety of solutions are available to restrict unauthorized device access, control device output and secure network devices. By combining technology-based protection with rigorous security policies that take into account the specific risks posed by IoT, you can help ensure your data remains safe.
Julia Stuhltrager
Julia Stuhltrager, Senior Manager, Channel Marketing, Ricoh USA, Inc., has more than 10 years in the information and document management industry. She supports the global and national sales organization with the development and implementation of marketing strategies, campaigns, programs and sales tools that target Global 500 and Fortune 1000 organizations across industries and verticals.
1 "The cyber-chasm: How the disconnect between the C-suite and security endangers the enterprise." Economist Intelligence Unit, 2016. http://www.vmware.com/radius/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/EIU-VMware-Data-Security-Briefing.pdf