The practical possibilities for the Internet of Things reads like a missing chapter from Alice in Wonderland.
Fridges make weather forecasts, your exercise bike yells motivational slogans at you, your water pitcher orders its own filters, and your front door welcomes you home.
But within these fantastical innovations lies a simple goal–to make life easier.
The Internet of Things connects buildings, appliances, vehicles–most anything you can imagine–to the web, and it uses this connectivity to enhance people’s lives by reducing the steps between need and solution.
For the business world, these devices and ways of thinking can streamline everything from production through point of sale, and on to staying connected with your customers after purchase.
And video conferencing fits perfectly into this new world of interconnectivity and easy communication.
The Internet of Useful Things
So where could the Internet of Things be applied in your business?
Obviously there are the parts of office life that fall outside the core business model, which should be turned over to as much automation as possible.
Here you’ll find a use for that pitcher that orders its own filters via wi-fi, along with many other dishwasher, coffee machine, photocopier, and stationery maintenance issues that can be turned over to smart devices and taken off the daily chore list of multi-tasking employees. There are even wi-fi watering systems to take care of your plants for you.
But things get more exciting once you step into the workflow proper. IOT devices are able to give food companies precise, ongoing, and previously unavailable information about the status of their products. IOT sensors can do things like track food temperatures during transit and let food manufacturers see where all the moving parts of their production process are at the same time.
If you’re in retail, there are sensors available that track the movement of foot and vehicle traffic around your business, giving you an idea of how well you’re converting passers-by into customers.
If you’re in manufacturing or rely on heavy machinery there are products available that sit inside equipment and not only monitor their degradation, but order new parts and servicing when needed.
The IOT and Video Conferencing Meet
There are even ways of incentivizing your customers to report back to you on how, where, and when they use your products by creating your own smart add-ons that connect them directly to you via the internet.
For example, there’s a new generation of wearable tech on its way that can let customers interact with every product on your shelf. Spearheaded by the incredible potential of MIT’s SixthSense augmented reality pendant these devices will project a digital interface onto any product, advertisement, shop front, or catalog and let wearers instantly find out a host of information about cost, application, and production history. The SixthSense may still be under development, but it certainly offers a more immersive experience than Google Glass ever delivered.
By incorporating simple two-way cameras and printed links such as QR codes within a system like the MIT invention, your customers and clients could also open direct video portals to your customer service staff just by standing in front of your wares.
The Revolution of Video Connectivity
And that’s just one way to incorporate video conferencing into your business to increase the flow of information.
Remember, wherever there’s a screen there’s an opportunity to speak face-to-face with your customers, suppliers, colleagues, and partners.
Browser-based video calling, TV-based video calling, video calling by smartphone, and video calling through public facilities means it’s near impossible to be out of range of a video conference.
Give your customer a chance to see you in person by adding small digital screens to existing devices and offering a video hotline to your staff at the click of a button. Or, start including smart video conferencing links on packaging the way retailers currently include hackneyed old telephone helplines. After all, the smartphone they’re currently using to dial for assistance is the same one they could easily use to video call you.
Efficiencies are available inside the company as well.
So, eliminate an email chain and the unknown of how much your correspondent is paying attention by video calling them instead.
Reduce the amount of time staff spend on travel by conducting meetings via video link, encouraging video conversations between warehouse and sales divisions, and incorporating a workflow chat/video platform that means they’re always connected to each other.
Just like the Internet of Things, video conferencing is all about using the tools of technology to view every asset your business has as a means of staying connected and streamlined.
Image Source: Flickr CC User ITU Pictures