The Internet of Things (IoT) has officially been typecast. Though tech outlets and watercooler pundits alike heap praise on the concept for its high utility and boundless potential, the actual discussion comes in limited flavors. If people aren't talking about its consumer applications, they're covering ways it can bolster workplace productivity.
To some degree, this technological tunnel vision makes sense. Numerous cool, useful things are happening in these specific segments of the IoT. Yet as the burgeoning field of IoT collaboration shows, mass connectivity is also building a world where working together is easier, more efficient, and more effective than it's ever been before. Here are just a few ways the IoT is changing teamwork for the better:
Data, Data Everywhere
In many ways, the IoT revolution you've been waiting for is already here — it just didn't make a lot of noise when it arrived. When your home bathroom scale, office copier, and even the pen on your desk can all hop on a network (and provide real utility in the process), it's hard to argue otherwise.
The common factor among these three products and countless other IoT devices is data — and lots of it. Whether it comes to building new tools from scratch or, as IoT.do noted, retrofitting standard office equipment into bona fide IoT collaboration tools, there's no end to the information modern devices can capture, transmit, and analyze.
With the sheer variety of data collected and processed, it's fair to assume the inclusion of IoT technology can enhance any collaborative practice. Even so, simple availability can be a game changer on its own. For one example, members of a distributed agricultural research team could use an array of sensors to monitor various soil compositions and temperature factors in real time, checking and working with the results in from home offices, laboratories, and field sites across the country. In turn, this would result in multiple improvements to the team's collaborative efforts in the following ways:
- Researchers requiring certain data to continue collaboration on a technical document would no longer need to wait on manual updates at set intervals.
- Team members in the field could more quickly respond to, analyze, and discuss physical factors behind the anomalous readings and view those anomalies closer to when they occurred.
- Researchers on conference calls could reference real-time readings, making both professional and administrative planning more efficient and responsive.
- In settings where experiments are held, results could be continuously monitored and reported at any rate the team saw fit, resulting in more precise analysis and stronger findings — with eyes across the country searching historical and current reports for notable results.
Optimizing (and Negating) Physical Space for Teams
Another common benefit of IoT-based collaboration technology is its ability to make physical distance and other human logistics issues a non-factor. In cases like the above, IoT tools remove the barriers distance can present, while sensors and connected devices help other teams make better use of the space they must share.
Consider vendor management and other relationships between two or more organizations. In these arrangements, space can be as challenging as it is necessary. While one party may want to share a meeting room and certain aspects of their operations with a partner, providing either (and especially the latter) may be challenging without granting an uncomfortable level of access in the process. This may be of particular concern in privacy-regulated industries such as healthcare or finance, as well as those where corporate espionage is a concern, such as manufacturing.
In this instance, IoT collaboration helps by virtualizing and abstracting the access. The vendor wishing to allay concerns over a manufacturing process could display and document their good work with a host of connected devices, including IP video cameras and automated sensors that alert via text or email when certain variances are recorded. The same gadgets could be used for business collaboration under a continuous improvement process, giving both sides deep insight into designated areas of the other's operations, and only those areas.
Individual businesses and the teams within them can also make better use of physical space with IoT collaboration. Turning back to the healthcare industry, care teams can better collaborate on inpatient room placement, care plans, and timing of various interventions. This results in better responsiveness and elasticity in a stressful, frequently understaffed environment. Similar tools are currently used in the hospitality industry by companies such as CytexOne. Devices allow housekeeping teams to assign work, mark completion, and call for assistance over the network.
Finally, trends such as collaborative innovation have become all the more effective with collaborative IoT tools easing spatial roadblocks. Even a common IoT-enabled task such as putting a paper draft directly from the scanner to a shared digital workspace removes several logistical inefficiencies. Gone are the days of taking the elevator up 10 floors to meet with Steve in legal, only to find he stepped out for lunch. There's also no need to navigate multiple schedules to set up face-to-face meetings with colleagues in different departments. The future is truly a wonderful place.
Collaboration's New Face
To be sure, the IoT has a lot of exciting applications in the consumer space. Just as surely, there are countless excellent process-optimization tools among the billions of connected devices out there today.
Even then, however, elevated collaboration may be the best enhancement these devices bring to the average workplace. From reporting data that was once updated by humans to the complex considerations a team must undertake when a new patient takes a hospital bed, there are as many use cases out there as there are teams that would benefit from an IoT upgrade. If the connected future isn't fully here yet, it's unquestionably underway — a fact businesses would be smart to explore now, before IoT-powered collaboration becomes a competitive necessity.
To learn more about IoT collaboration, contact a Vonage Business consultant.