When it comes to a lot of the latest technologies, it’s easy to presume that they’re really only relevant for bigger companies in more advanced industries.
That’s certainly been the case for the Internet of Things, or IoT, especially for business applications. Most of the attention has been given to big smart cities projects or advanced manufacturing advancements that are really only relevant for a tiny part of the business population.
Recently, however, I’ve seen a number of intriguing examples of IoT projects being focused on tiny businesses in old traditional industries, such as fishing, winemaking, plant nurseries and more. Specifically, I, along with other tech industry press and analysts, got to spend some time in the old whaling town of New Bedford, MA. There we met with some folks from Dell and Inex Advisors, a New Bedford company that’s doing some great work with other small businesses in the area to put IoT concepts into practice.
We got a chance to see everything from how local fishermen can reduce paperwork while at the same time meeting compliance regulations through a simple network of sensors and cameras, to how local vintners are tapping into tiny weather stations to better care for their vines.
The more I’ve thought about these kinds of applications, the more I’ve come to realize that the biggest potential impact for IoT is, in fact, going to be in small businesses, not big ones.
To be clear, these aren’t eye-popping, world-changing ideas or innovations. In fact, most of them are pretty simple and, arguably, pretty boring, especially if you’re not familiar with the day-to-day needs of these kinds of vertical industries.
However, for the millions of small businessmen and businesswomen running these types of organizations, the simple, but potentially very useful, information that these kinds of applications generate can make a difference. Whether that’s accurately knowing how much water is available in a well, or measuring temperature fluctuations in a greenhouse, the type of data that a simple network of sensors can generate helps small businesses make better decisions. That, in turn, translates into sustainable, real-world savings.
Individually, these savings might only be measured in the hundreds of dollars, such as to help fishermen avoid paying someone to monitor their catch on certain days or to help nurseries generate one extra crop of microgreens over the course of a several week period. Collectively, however, given that just over 89% of all US businesses have fewer than 20 employees, according to the latest US census data, these savings can add up to much bigger numbers. Plus, for many small businesses, even the several hundred-dollar savings can make a meaningful difference.