When we think about the Internet of Things, a lot of sexy consumer applications tend to come to mind. We think of wearable fitness trackers, home security systems, "smart homes," and even the idea of automated vehicles. These are only some of the applications and concepts that are driving interest in the IoT among the general public, but a lot of the IoT's larger impacts are already taking place at an enterprise level that consumers don't necessarily notice.
We've written before about how technology is changing our spending habits. Now, thanks to some of the behind-the-scenes IoT applications that are becoming popular with larger companies, that same technology is making products more readily available than ever before. Here's a slightly deeper look into what specifically we're talking about.
First, it's about productivity in manufacturing facilities for businesses. This is something most of us would never give a second thought to, but it matters how quickly and efficiently products are made. Thanks to the IoT, manufacturing facilities can operate far more efficiently than ever before. From tracking pieces of product through different stages of the process to monitoring worker activity and making sure machines are in good condition, connected sensors can accomplish all kinds of useful goals. Plant managers are more aware of their schedules, what might be holding them up, and how employees are performing.
Once products leave plants and factories they need to be distributed to the locations where they'll actually be sold, and the IoT is beginning to have a profound impact through its connection to the fleet vehicles that deliver them. The idea was explained by Telogis as being about getting more done with fewer resources in less time. That means outfitting vehicles and drivers with the tools they need to move product in a quick, safe, and cost-efffective fashion. Advanced GPS can communicate with a fleet management headquarters and display optimal routing for a whole day's delivery schedule. Vehicle diagnostics can be monitored in a way that cuts back on breakdowns and delays, and fleet managers can gain a better understanding of the habits of drivers so they can adjust accordingly. The whole process is using technology to ensure that products are available as soon as possible while streamlining everything for consumers and businesses.
Finally, the IoT is also in play once products are actually on store shelves and available for sale. Business Insider got into a number of different ways in which the IoT is shaping our retail experiences and touched on this idea by pointing out the utility of so-called "smart shelves" that are able to monitor inventory. What's happening is that stores are equipping their shelves with sensors that can tell when inventory is running low and it's time to order more items. This can automatically set the entire supply chain process in motion and guarantee that more product will be heading to store shelves for the good of consumers. If only they were using it for the Mini NES Classic Edition.
Altogether though, this application of new technology is very good news for consumers. And in a broader sense, it's a nice example of how the IoT can be useful even when it's not particularly visible.