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Why SMEs need to invest in the Internet of Things

Tim Stone, Partner of Breed Reply, Europe’s leading active operational investor in early stage IoT businesses, discusses the IoT and it’s potential for SMEs

When a business is facing major disruption, having an edge is crucial. This is especially the case if you are among the UK’s small and medium-sized business (SMEs).

That is why investment in the right types of technology is key for modern SMEs. And since these types of enterprises (fewer than 250 employees) make up 99% of all businesses in the UK, according to the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy, this investment is also crucial for the future health of the British economy.

Worryingly, however, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), which has around 160,000 members, found in 2018 that seven in ten small firms were not planning to increase investment in the short term, while one in seven (respondents told the organisation that they were planning to decrease investment.

These companies are missing out on new opportunities and bottom-line gains. The emergence and popularity of the Internet of Things (IoT) and it’s related technologies, is set revolutionise the way we live and work, as sensors, data, analytics and the latest generation of mobile technology, 5G, combine to provide quicker and smarter services and platforms.

The IoT industry, which is expected to reach $318 per year globally by 2023 (according GlobalData’s Technology Intelligence Centre), is offering game-changing technologies which are more accessible than ever to growth companies, particularly in the manufacturing and industrial sectors.

Take, for example, predicting if your machines needed repairing. You would avoid downtime, reduce maintenance costs and ultimately become more profitable. In Senseye, a cloud-based solution which uses machine-learning algorithms, such a tool exists for smaller manufacturers to use. Likewise, imagine that whole factories could optimise their energy flows, thus allowing businesses to make significant savings. Again, such a solution exists in Metron.

Beyond the factory floor, IoT can also be used to enhance and improve the agricultural industry. Have you ever met, for instance, the so called “connected cow”? Dutch-based start-up Connecterra helps dairy farmers, in many cases the epitome of a small business, monitor the health and productivity of their livestock thanks to a combination of machine-learning algorithms, sensors and analytics.

But before SMEs get ahead of themselves, they should think carefully about buying any new technologies. There are at least two essential questions they should ask: can this technology improve my business, and can I integrate it? In other words, alongside embracing new technologies and IoT, SMEs should make sure they have a digital transformation plan.

With all of those tips in consideration, SME owners should have no doubt that we are only just starting with the so Fourth Industrial Revolution, which IoT is central to, and they should seek to get on board fast.