Much of the chatter around the phenomenon that is the Internet of Things (IoT) focuses on how these connected devices can improve the lives of consumers. And while it's true that connected devices will change the way most of us interact with the objects in our homes over the next few years, it's also true that the IoT has major implications for the business world as well. Estimates of the number of connected device shipments demonstrate that the IoT is a force to be reckoned with. Gartner estimates that 8.4 billion connected "things" will be in use in 2017 and that by 2020 this number will be over 20 billion. These connected things include everything from thermostats, refrigerators, and toasters, to plane engines, streetlights, and cars. There's no denying that the connected device boom will change the way we live, but it will change the way we work as well. The IoT has implications for businesses across all industries, and when the power of the technology is properly harnessed and deployed it can benefit business operations in meaningful ways. Below are a few ways businesses can use the IoT now and in the future to worker smarter and more efficiently.

Quicker data analysis

The Internet of Things has major implications for the ways companies do data analysis. For one thing, the IoT actually contributes to the amount of data that's being collected. The more devices users have that are connected to the internet, the more data companies will have access to about behavior during different activities or with different devices. More data is great in theory, but in practice, it can be difficult to parse, and data that can't be easily understood or analyzed is effectively meaningless. This is where connected devices can be useful to businesses. Not only do consumer devices create data on consumer behavior, but in the future connected devices can also be used to allow businesses to access and interpret the data that's meaningful to them. Advancements in AI will also mean that over time devices can learn what data and reports are important and automatically provide updates.

Improving customer experience

More data and a better understanding of its implications will result in the ability to offer better experiences to customers. Connected devices give companies a wealth of information about how certain products are being used, meaning that more opportunities exist than ever before to make strategic improvements based on observable, measurable user data. Connected devices can also help companies identify problems as they arise in real-time, presenting opportunities to enhance customer service. Offering more personalized experiences to consumers is a major marketing goal for many businesses, but it has also proven to be a difficult one to meet. Connected devices can help companies meet the challenge of providing more personalized messaging and brand experiences to consumers because the sheer wealth of data collected will give them better insight into each individual user and his or her specific needs.

Managing operations

Another area where the IoT has the potential to have major implications for business is in managing operations. Connected devices will change the way warehouses and factories are run, leading businesses to rely less on data that is gathered and managed manually by warehouse and factory employees. Instead, data can be automatically collected and accessed and managed from a distance. Connected devices put to work in warehouse and factory settings can help speed up processes, give real-time insight into inventory, and reduce labor costs for businesses.

Connected machinery

Smart machines, equipped with sensors that give managers visibility into what's happening with equipment and machinery even when they aren't physically present on a factory floor, can help businesses work faster and smarter, reducing delays and keeping costs in check. Sensors attached to machinery can alert managers to a mechanical issue before it causes a catastrophic malfunction which results in lost time and profits. Connected machines can give businesses useful insights into where processes are breaking down, and which tasks or jobs cause holdups. This information can be used to improve operations and streamline manufacturing processes, helping get products to market faster with fewer issues.

Smart offices

Just as the IoT has the potential to make our homes far smarter than they've ever been before, by regulating temperatures automatically based on our preferences, managing groceries by inventorying the contents of our refrigerators, and making it possible to order virtually anything we need with a simple voice command, connected devices will also allow us to manage offices and workplaces more efficiently. The IoT will enable businesses to streamline the operations of their offices, improving efficiency and reducing costs. For example, office climate and electricity use could be managed from a single location. Smart lights and blinds can be deployed to reduce waste and capitalize on natural light.

Our Future With The IoT

It's clear that the Internet of Things is going to have implications for the way we live, both at home and at work. Connected devices have the power to improve more than just the efficiency of our homes, though. The IoT will change the ways cities are run, improve the safety of our planes, trains, and automobiles, and even optimize our health and medical care. The IoT is positioned to act as a revolutionary force in business as well, giving companies greater visibility into product performance, consumer behavior, and relevant company data.