Technology advances at breakneck speed in this day and age – sometimes it can be difficult for companies and individuals to keep up. But for the small businesses that do follow the constant flow of updates, the payoff can be significant.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is only in its fledgling stages, but already has the potential to become a ubiquitous technology. People dream of households enabled with Internet-enabled and interconnected refrigerators, televisions and laundry machines. While those devices have a whole set of possibilities for the home, their office-based equivalents have an equal if not higher ceiling for the small business.

IoT growth to increase exponentially
The girth of the IoT has already reached epic proportions – in 2008, the number of devices connected to the Internet surpassed the number of people on earth, according to Cisco. By 2020, the IoT is expected to reach 50 billion connected items.

It is important to note that these are not only smart phones, tablets and computers. Applications range far and wide – one Dutch startup is even using Internet-enabled sensors on cattle to help track their health and pregnancies. This means that small businesses with a creative gene can dream up new ways to use the Internet to improve their enterprise. It starts by recognizing a process that can be consolidated, made more efficient or more accurate and using a device to address those upgrades.

Imagining business with Internet integration
The IoT can impact a company's operations by connecting processes and leveraging data, according to Forbes. By connecting with the billions of Internet-capable things, managers will have access to not only a new set of transactional and other internal data, but also larger market trends and consumer sentiment data. These companies will then be able to implement the data by way of operational processes and predictive, automated actions. In this way, small businesses will transform the way their customers interact with the company and add value to the overall client experience.

Plus, companies will affect their own bottom lines as they build more efficient business models. Forbes found there are three primary areas in which the IoT may be effectively applied:

  • Assets: The world's gross domestic product is around $46.6 trillion. The total value of all assets is believed to be significantly higher. A major chunk of that value goes toward maintenance expenditure – an estimated $447 billion. By using Internet-enabled tools, companies could greatly reduce those costs by detecting and recovering system malfunctions, perform remote diagnostics or even recalibrate the machine.
  • Manufacturing: Connected machines can change the day-to-day operations of a business by building a system in which tasks are completed in the correct order with optimized efficiency. There are already 100 million machine-to-machine devices, which is expected to expand to 700 million by 2023.
  • Logistics: Shipping can be a huge benefactor of the IoT. Traffic patterns, congestion, weather and route variance can all impact the timing of a shipment to the company or customer. Logistics spending represents 8.2 percent of gross domestic product, so the sector is rife with savings potential. With smart devices and Internet-capable things, companies can determine the best shipping routes and factor in delays and other setbacks.

Companies should look to embrace the IoT sooner rather than later. Eventually, it is likely that most – if not all – businesses will be onboard. Early adopters will have a head start and remain ahead of the curve moving forward.

Office technology industry piece brought to you by Marlin Equipment Finance, leaders in office technology equipment financing. Marlin is a nationwide provider of equipment financing solutions supporting equipment suppliers and manufacturers in the security, food services, healthcare, information technology, office technology and telecommunications sectors.