Smart, connected devices like the Amazon Echo and the Nest Thermostat have improved energy efficiency in the home, lowering operational costs1. However, smart tech isn’t just for the home. Businesses can also benefit from implementing connected devices to optimize processes, reduce busy work, and improve energy efficiency.
Many small to medium sized businesses are already using SaaS technologies as a way to improve processes. Apps and services like Expensify, Xeno, and Square take the grunt work out of reporting, invoicing, and point-of-sales data management. While these platforms are essential to creating an optimized, smart business, connected devices can build upon this base of efficiency and take it a step further.
Here are three key ways that smart tech can transform a regular businesses into a smart business--which also helps businesses save on operational costs and become more sustainable.
1. Closing the Gap Between Remote Teams
At many startups and small businesses, employees wear multiple hats and need to be agile in their collaboration strategies in order to succeed.
With today’s dispersed workforce, a lot of that collaboration is done remotely. A recent Gallop poll showed that of 15,000 working adults surveyed, 43 percent spend at least some time during the week working remotely2.
Webcams and video conferencing were the first technologies to make remote collaboration possible. Now, new technologies like the Microsoft Surface Hub allow for real-time brainstorming across remote teams with digital note taking and video conferencing. All ideas can be instantly added to the digital whiteboard with a stylus. With these types of smart collaboration technologies, bi-coastal or cross-country teams can feel more connected and responsive in meetings and brainstorming sessions.
For teams that do work together in the same office, implementing sensors in conference rooms can allow for better room management3. Tech startup Robin uses iBeacon and Bluetooth Low Energy sensors to detect people and things, automatically booking rooms as people walk through the door4. Other companies like Current are testing heat mapping of chairs so that offices can actually tell if an individual conference room seat is occupied. Using these technologies will help offices use their space as efficiently as possible.
2. Implementing Security That is Easy and Accessible
For businesses that want a robust surveillance system, but don’t have thousands to spend on highly sophisticated CCTV, smart tech can provide an affordable, intuitive solution.
The Kuna Toucan Security Camera and The Ring Video Doorbell are two devices that are affordable and easy to use. The Toucan works with an existing light fixture to offer both security and control of the light switch through its app. The Ring Video Doorbell lets employees know who’s at their front door by sending an alert to their phone that will take them to a live video feed. Users can also talk to visitors before letting them in via two-way communication. Ring also offers a separate device called the Chime, a small speaker, that will also notify users when the doorbell is activated.
“The Chime is a great solution for the large space that I work in,” shared a dance studio small business owner. “There’s always loud music playing, so I don’t always hear my phone or have it on hand while I’m helping to move something upstairs or in the back office. It’s nice that the Chime can give me another heads up that someone is at the door.”
Easy installation and intuitive apps are the hallmarks of these two products, enabling more small businesses to adopt technologies that otherwise would have been out of budget. Tech can improve other aspects of security for companies. For example, employees can use wristbands instead of badges or key cards to get into buildings. In the future, better facial recognition cameras can be used in parking garages to detect license plate numbers on employee cars.
3. Making Processes Automated Through Tech
With so many things to do in the day, the more businesses can integrate “set it and forget it” technologies, the better off they will be.
More devices have machine-learning capabilities built in, making them highly adaptable and personalized. The Amazon Echo has been one of the most successful on the market. It uses voice recognition to execute commands and save specific ones to unique profiles. A business can easily set Echos up in communal areas and sync them with other compatible smart devices to control smart light bulbs, smart TVs, and more. Supplies can be ordered instantly, as the Echo can be set up with a business Amazon Prime account.
It can also be integrated with the Nest Smart Thermostat to check the weather outside and adjust an office’s temperature accordingly. Since Nest is constantly learning behaviors of the space it's in, it can lower or raise the temperature automatically. Less wasted energy means a more sustainably run business that also saves money in the long run.
Machine learning behavior will continue to get even more sophisticated. Devices will be able to anticipate employee needs and act accordingly without requiring a prompt. Ordering supplies, cleaning schedules, and even booking travel arrangements can all become automated. Automation especially helps when implemented around predictable workloads5, freeing up time for employees and providing consistency in the quality of work. The less mundane tasks employees have to handle, the more they can focus on intense, creative work.
What a Smart Business Will Look Like in the Future
These technologies are just the beginning of a new wave of intelligent devices that help us work smarter, not harder. A smart office, like the one seen in this video by Lider Tech, has the potential to transition into an entire smart office building, with automatic lighting, temperature control, irrigation, and facial recognition that grants entry and sends employees up to specific floors.
Autonomous cars may not be ready just yet, but in the future we might see them being used at businesses to drop off clients and employees at meetings, business trips, or conferences. Smart technology is already saving businesses a lot of time, money, and human resources. In the future, that will involve even less friction to implement into daily workflows. The result? A business that’s highly efficient, highly productive, and highly sustainable.