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This week we’re joined by Steve Latham, CEO and founder of Banyan Hills Technologies. He came to discuss how to actually use IoT solutions in manufacturing and then implement their influence in your marketing. But first of all, let’s answer the first easy question about this trend.
1. WHAT IS ‘IoT’?
The “Internet of Things” is the practice of connecting any machine or device to the internet to then monitor the data it produces. It can also create automatic reactions for your business to take based on that data.
Even if the definition of IoT seems unfamiliar at first glance, you’ve probably seen these devices already entering the market. Ever seen a smart doorbell or smart thermostat?
IoT products are becoming even more commonplace in households. It could be lights or locks you can control on your phone, or a robot vacuum that can also use the data from its wanderings to map out the floor plan to your home.
2. WHY DOES MY BUSINESS NEED IoT SOLUTIONS?
In short, everyday people are getting used to connected devices in their own lives. It’s changing their expectations of what “new and innovative” technologies look like. That means when clients walk into your industrial or manufacturing facility, they’re going to look more and more for these inter-connected devices to gauge how revolutionary your business is.
“Consumers are starting to get an education on what IoT really is…and now [they] expect that the same types of experiences…are now replicated inside of these big enterprises.”
Yes, IoT might put a bit of pressure on companies to innovate. But the truth is that any business trying to reduce costs and increase revenues will find that IoT solutions can help them do just that.
“If IoT can help…drive automation into a physical footprint, that’s going to naturally reduce cost for the operator.”
“If I’m an operator of a facility…I’ve got a connected thermostat or an HVAC unit and also a connected lighting system, and I’m managing those through one automation platform. Can I start to correlate the data from those control systems, and then drive entirely new experiences for our customer?”
3.HOW COULD MY BUSINESS USE IoT?
Take a casino. The building could have thousands of connected devices, as well as dozens or hundreds of returning or VIP customers in their database.
Now imagine each device changing its appearance or displays. Different colors, different ads, different music, different experiences…based on recognized customers passing through different areas on the casino floor. Personalization like that is huge – especially in marketing! And this concept isn’t just an mere idea floating in the void. Banyan Hills is already working it into reality with their own customers.
And IoT has plenty of applications from an industrial standpoint, too.
Manufacturing and industrial companies naturally have to monitor a lot of factors closely. Measurements, temperatures, resources, inventory, and beyond. All of those factors have an impact on expenses, whether blatant or not.
Imagine if you could track expenses more closely and then show proof of cost reduction in different departments.
Companies like CribMaster, a branch of Stanley Black & Decker, have established smart inventory machines that can track tool usage and reorder assets before factory floors run out of anything. That is IoT manufacturing if anything is.
4. START BY COLLECTING DATA
A lot of clients come to Banyan Hills in pursuit of IoT solutions because they care the most about monitoring those expenses. At first, they only care initially about these applications as far as they can connect that data with dollars as quickly as possible. But as Steve explains, IoT is not an instant, overnight solution.
First, the entire process just starts with monitoring the data.
You have figure out how to plug your devices and tools into the “internet of things.” Then you figure out a way to collect the data. And then you wait and watch.
Think about a hunter trying to bring down a deer. The first step is not to chase the herd, but to sit down and study where the herd wanders most frequently. Only then does the hunter take action by setting up a blind in one choice location. Then the hunt actually begins. Similarly, your business shouldn’t act upon IoT data until they can properly read it.
Only after you get used to the data and establish what is “average” do you decide which patterns ought to trigger reactions.
45. CONNECT THE DATA TO AUTOMATION
Once you know how to identify changes in the data, then you can begin campaigns accordingly and introduce automation as a player in the game.
For example, a pest control service might set up smart traps in a hotel or a restaurant. Normally, they send personnel to check the traps and replace used ones every week or month. But after a short time of study, they’ll be able to identify when traps are triggered – or particular locations that are having more pest activity than usual.
Now the company can start adding automation to the process, and alert teams any time that a trap is triggered. That way, their personnel will travel only to the locations that actually need replacement traps. This will not only save them time and fuel expenses, but it will also increase the hygiene of their client locations because traps won’t sit there containing decaying pests for such long periods of time.
“It starts at monitoring. It goes to this enhanced customer experience…and then it lands at this really massive data store.”
Soon the data library itself becomes a valuable product in its own right. Your business can sell its findings to other companies that may benefit.
A great example of this is a Banyan Hills customer in the field of self-storage. After connecting their storage containers to a database and monitoring any time a door was opened and then shut, they noticed a pattern emerging. Customers rarely used their storage containers unless they were either moving in…or moving out.
Soon this self-storage company was able to prove with the data that a certain percentile increase in activity meant that a user might be moving out. These findings were not only useful in alerting the self-storage facilities of the upcoming change – they were also valuable for moving services that worked in partnership with the self-storage company. Now valuable, interested leads could receive more timely promotions for a moving van or other products!
5. HOW SHOULD WE HANDLE OR IMPROVE OUR IoT SOLUTIONS?
The good news is, IoT is not so much an emerging technology trend as it is an established one now. That means that most experimentation is behind us. There are a lot of standards and findings that have laid the groundwork in the past 12-24 months for companies that are looking to start down the road of IoT.
“Make sure you understand the value proposition that you’re pursuing before you just go experiment.”
“At the end of the day if your IoT is not enhancing the customer experience or changing your cost or revenue profile, you have to ask yourself if it’s worth the experiment.”
The trick is to keep from getting bogged down by excess data, and focus on your strengths. If your core competency is manufacturing hardware, your IoT connections may not necessarily turn you into an enterprise marketing mogul overnight. That’s not necessarily the core of your business.
Use IoT solutions to enhance your main product or service first. Only then should you start trying to connect that data into your marketing.
In some cases, it can be valuable for your company to establish a relationship with IoT or marketing firms that can help you interpret the data building up in your library.
“Without a doubt, the most important thing to do…is to understand what your customers want. Understand the real value proposition of what it is that you’re building so that your message can be really focused, really targeted, and solve the right problems for them…
“A trap is that you have just built something that technically is very cool and very fun, but it actually doesn’t solve the issue for the customer. And so your product is wrong, your marketing is wrong, you’re missing the point.”
Make sure you’ve got the voice of your customer nailed down, and always keep in mind what they want.
Like most other business challenges, there is no silver-bullet solution for everyone.
Self-evaluation is key. If you’re solving customer challenges, then you’re on the right track. If you just want to make something cool…you may need to go back to the drawing board.
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If there’s a particular topic that you’d like for us to talk about, or if you have a particular a challenge that you’d like us to take a crack at, send us an email. We’d be happy to answer them for you – and if your topic gets picked for a future episode, you’ll win a free IndustrialSage t-shirt!