When the Internet of Things (IoT) and cloud communications work together, collaboration happens at an unprecedented level, improving business processes and allowing faster decision-making in almost every sector of our lives. 

Most people may not even realize it, but the Internet of Things has become an integral part of our lives. It’s how products move across the world and into our local stores. It’s used in manufacturing and to run buildings we work in every day. It even helps our luggage travel with us and not to some unintended destination.

IoT has become so prevalent that Gartner forecasts there will be 20.4 billion connected things by 2020. That’s a lot of devices moving a lot of data. How can businesses capture that information and use it for better and faster decision-making?

IoT Brings People and Data Together

Sensors are great, but how do you go from raw data to initiating a workflow? The key to harnessing IoT’s power is to connect devices to the cloud and communications solutions using application programming interfaces (APIs). These solutions, often called “middleware,” collect and analyze data and trigger activities that enable a live person, if necessary, to interact with an IoT machine. Here are some examples.

Help is on the way. A car is involved in an accident and the airbag deploys. The contact center of the driver’s roadside assistance company is immediately alerted and reaches out to the driver via mobile technology. Using data from this call, as well as information from the car’s sensors and other connected vehicles nearby, the agent can determine what roadside assistance is needed.

Public safety. With IoT and Wi-Fi, university campuses are safer. Panic buttons communicate with first responders via voice and video. By providing location information, these devices get help to distressed individuals faster and more efficiently than analog phones.

Smooth operations. Ever wonder if your luggage will make it onto the plane? With IoT and cloud communications, luggage trolleys tagged with geolocating devices are closely tracked. If the trolley deviates from its intended path, the sensor notices it has left its geofence and alerts the operator and control center. They can then intervene before your bags take a different trip from yours.

Problems on the factory floor. Even before a machine breaks down, IoT sensors alert the right personnel when a problem looms. Via SMS, mobile and even video, the equipment communicates its status to operators, field techs, managers and other essential staff. If downtime occurs, manufacturers can make better decisions, such as changing work schedules or delivery logistics. Sensors also alert partners down the supply chain to potential disruptions.

Smart buildings. It’s difficult and costly to put permanent staff in every building. Using IoT technology – like sensors and cameras – humans working off-site respond whenever a problem occurs. For example, water sensors send an SMS message to service technicians when a pipe has burst. Or, a device flags an issue with the HVAC system on the roof, and remote service techs then use a video surveillance camera or drone to investigate, grab the correct parts and respond quickly.

Keeping patients safe. An Alzheimer’s patient wanders off the assisted living property and chaos ensues as the staff goes into emergency mode and calls the police. But imagine if the patient wore a wireless device connected to a geofence. Once he or she had stepped out of the allowed zone, the device can alert staff via phone call and text, enabling them to respond quickly and create a better experience for their customers — patients in need.

On the farm. Bosch, manufacturer of machines and technology, uses IoT and telematics to make sure farm equipment stays up and running. Sensors alert the farmer to any problems, then connects the farmer directly to a Bosch dealer via the cloud.

IoT Devices Connect on the Edge

As impressive as these examples are of how the Internet of Things collaborates with humans, the next level is even more exciting. In edge computing sensors use cloud communications for storage and processing to interact with each other nearer to the user or things – or “on the edge” – and make decisions even more quickly. 

For instance, sensors on a high-speed train, communicating via a network, can quickly alert the conductor and emergency responders once they detect a problem.  

Accurate and comprehensive information has always been a requirement for good decision-making. Outcomes, however, are often determined by the speed with which people are able to make a decision and take action. With IoT and cloud communications, businesses benefit from having the right information at the right time.

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Digital transformation has become a top initiative for business and IT leaders. In today’s business world, sustainable market leadership is no longer based solely on which company has the best products or even the best people. Instead, organizations that are agile and can quickly adapt to rapidly evolving market trends will become market leaders.

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