Connected devices represent the near future of technology, and they’re already having a significant impact on businesses in all kinds of different industries. Referred to in broad terms as the “Internet of Things,” connected devices have the ability to share information and link people together in ways that simply weren’t possible just a few short years ago. And this has led to a lot of specific shifts in business practices. Here’s how you can use some of them to improve operations in your own small business.

Beacon Integration

There’s actually been quite a bit written in the last year or so about how beacons are affecting retail companies. In case this is an unfamiliar topic, here are the basics. Beacons are small Bluetooth devices that can be placed throughout a store to interact with customers through the customers’ mobile devices. For the most part, companies are using these little IoT devices to help direct customers to the inventory they’re looking for but there are other beacon applications that might be more useful to a small business or growing start-up.

Right now, we think of beacons primarily as tools for superstores. But even in a smaller store, beacons can engage with customers to improve the experiment. They can send welcome messages, bring up customers’ purchase history to suggest new products, and even make customers aware of special offerings and deliver coupons. The idea in a broad sense is to help in-person shopping catch up to online retail, and that’s something that can be strived for in any kind of store or business.

Connected Vehicles

Another aspect of the IoT that’s gotten a lot of attention in larger businesses is the idea of connecting vehicles through fleet tracking. The idea is that advanced GPS can link vehicles up to WiFi to give company owners and managers a full picture of vehicle performance and diagnostics. For larger companies the idea is to keep drivers safe and happy and to keep supply chains running as smoothly as possible, all while reducing costs on excess fuel used on inefficient routes, vehicle breakdowns, and more.

Most small businesses and start-ups have no need for that kind of comprehensive fleet management. However, if you’re working with a supplier, it may be in your best interests to look into whether or not that supplier uses similar technology. But if you do use a vehicle or two for any sort of practice relating to your business, it can’t hurt to install WiFi devices to connect those vehicles to office systems.

Accounting Made Simple

This is a fairly straightforward idea for new and growing businesses, and one that nearly every business owner ought to be considering. Keeping track of inventory, sales, profit margins, transaction trends, and so on can be a headache for a lot of business owners, no matter how well those owners know their own industries. Fortunately, the IoT has made it easier for all of these functions to be performed automatically. Point-of-sale devices and apps can immediately transfer data about transactions to computer programs that organize and analyze data, effectively making for an accounting service.

Employee Communications

Finally, we should also point out that the IoT has enabled far more efficient communications in business environments. We may think of programs that integrate chatting and messaging applications across different devices as part of the cloud, rather than the IoT, but that’s just terminology. It’s all the same and the ability to start a message on your computer and finish it up from your smartphone when you get home is absolutely a subtle way of taking advantage of the IoT.

Where businesses are concerned, there are now several different options for group chat and messaging services. Slack has gained notoriety as a sort of industry leader in this regard, but additional services like HipChat, Jabber, and even Skype can also be very useful. The bottom line is that any growing business ought to incorporate one of these programs or apps as a means of connecting employees at all times, through multiple devices.

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