We are used to the idea that computers and smartphones are ‘always connected’.

That, is of course what they are designed to do! However, the Internet of Things is a world in which even something as trivial as a manhole cover or lamp-post can be connected to the internet and this opens up a number of interesting automation possibilities.

McKinsey & Co estimate that 50bn devices will be connected by 2020, and they expect that this new sector to be worth approximately $6tn.

The potential for small businesses to tap into this emerging sector is huge.

We have recently been working with a small business who own seven hundred vending machines across the UK and Ireland and they have recently rolled out an upgrade which has seen a segment of vending machines fitted with an IoT enabler.

This has meant that they have up-to-date stock information, know when a machine is out-of-order, and how much cash is stored at the customers site. Using this
information, they can get various statistics about what products are selling, streamline stock fulfilment and ordering and ensure that engineers are despatched quickly in the event of a machine breaking down.

This has obvious benefits such as improving the customer experience by ensuring new products are delivered ‘just in time’ without the customer having to call to say the machine has run out, and also ensuring any downtime is minimised, which means more opportunity to sell products and improve profitability.

Having the ability to carry out remote diagnostics remotely allow engineers to ensure that they can fault-find before attending site, so they can always send the correct parts to solve the issue first-time.

The cost to maintain each vending machine is forecasted to reduce by approximately 26% and this has given the company a competitive edge in order to win more deals from the competition.

The IoT is also already penetrating the consumer market is in so-called ‘smart-houses’.

Many new properties have always-connected thermostats, security systems, lighting systems and even curtains/ blinds. These are always connected and can be controlled remotely via a Mobile App.

You will have seen the recent news about Driverless cars, connected coffee machines and similar, all of which are based on the IoT concept and we will no doubt see further innovation in this space over the next few years.

A major challenge to the IoT is the impending exhaustion of internet addresses using the legacy IPv4 protocol which has now been superseded by IPv6.

This however has not yet gained the traction needed to avert the internet running out of addresses in the near future and therefore if indeed 50bn devices are added over the next 9 years, let us hope that internet companies across the globe are able to get these new addresses ready for use sooner rather than later!”

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