The in­ter­net of things and your busi­ness

The in­ter­net of things prom­ises to bring any com­pany into the fu­ture. How you too can come along for the ride


YOU MAY THINK ONLY gi­ant cor­po­ra­tions can ben­e­fit from the in­ter­net of things— the net­work­ing of non­tech­ni­cal ob­jects so they can re­ceive and trans­mit data. But right now, busi­nesses like yours are em­ploy­ing the IoT: dig­i­tiz­ing work sites, of­fice build­ings, man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­i­ties, and ship­ments. It’s eas­ier than you might think.

IMCO Gen­eral Con­struc­tion, which em­ploys 180 in Fern­dale, Wash­ing­ton, faced typ­i­cal challenges for build­ing con­trac­tors: a dis­persed work force; far-flung work sites; gath­er­ing data from com­plex con­struc­tion projects. Then the com­pany be­gan work­ing with Seat­tle­based startup Un­earth, which net­works re­mote sen­sors, drones, satel­lite data, and mo­bile de­vices to help con­struc­tion firms re­duce ac­ci­dents and re­spond to prob­lems quickly.

“If we’re fly­ing [a drone] over a site and the owner can see on the live feed that they need some­thing changed, we can re­act to it quickly,” says IMCO con­struc­tion man­ager Casey Dougherty. “It’s def­i­nitely made our crews more ef­fi­cient, which means more prof­itabil­ity.” The prices of Un­earth’s ser­vices vary, but gen­er­ally start at $1,000 per month.

Other com­pa­nies are us­ing IoT to cut costs. When Mag­net 360—a 190-per­son firm that helps busi­nesses use the Sales­force plat­form—moved into an of­fice con­verted from an old ware­house in Min­neapo­lis, the staff quickly re­al­ized their HVAC sys­tem needed an up­grade. En­ter lo­cal IoT startup 75F, which uses sen­sors to an­a­lyze air flow, and au­to­mates heat­ing and cooling func­tions; the costs for a 75F sys­tem range from 50¢ to $3.50 per square foot. By us­ing 75F, com­pa­nies can cut en­ergy costs up to 70 per­cent, says its chief oper­at­ing of­fi­cer, Bob French.

The IoT helps with harder-to- de­fine tasks, too. Fam­ily- owned Chris­tensen Farms, a pork pro­ducer in Sleepy Eye, Minnesota, af­fixes wire­less track­ing de­vices called Bees, made by Santa Clara, Cal­i­for­nia–based Roam­bee, to its live­stock trail­ers. There they track hu­mid­ity lev­els in­side the trucks, so drivers know if they need to ad­just the ven­ti­la­tors. Brian Bourke, the VP of mar­ket­ing for Seko Lo­gis­tics in Chicago, says his com­pany of­ten places a Roam­bee de­vice in sen­si­tive ship­ments to pro­vide an ex­tra layer of as­sur­ance to key clients. “They can see where a pack­age is at any point,” he says—which lets Seko staffers fo­cus on more valu­able tasks. Roam­bee’s

de­vices, which may be stopped and started de­pend­ing on sea­sonal need, and re­lated hard­ware gen­er­ally cost $1 to $1.50 per de­vice per day of us­age. Var­i­ous pay­ment op­tions are avail­able.

And Form­labs, a pro­fes­sional 3-Dprint­ing com­pany based in Somerville, Mas­sachusetts, uses de­vices from nearby IoT startup Tulip to track the pro­duc­tion of its cus­tom­ized sam­ple parts, says chief prod­uct of­fi­cer Dávid Lakatos. Form­labs’ cus­tom Tulip setup has a mon­i­tor and in­ter­face at every ma­jor sta­tion on its shop floors; there they track and record key com­pany pro­cesses. Form­labs has grown 100 per­cent each of the past two years, and with the train­ing time it’s sav­ing by pre­re­cord­ing in­struc­tions for ma­jor tasks, chances are it will grow even more. Just like the IoT.

SMARTER SHIP­PING – Us­ing the IoT, car­ri­ers can re­lay lo­ca­tion data and other in­for­ma­tion to clients; IoT tags could re­duce the vol­ume of lost pack­ages and in-tran­sit dam­age for tem­per­a­ture­con­trolled items.

PLEASED PORK – Al­most all busi­nesses can ben­e­fit from the IoT. Just ask this pig. (OK, OK. Ask his owner in­stead.) Agri­cul­tural uses for the IoT in­clude sen­sors that mon­i­tor hu­mid­ity lev­els in trucks trans­port­ing pigs, so drivers can ad­just in­stantly...

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