Over the past few years, there’s been no shortage of discussion—some might call it hype—about the Internet of things (IoT). The ability to connect people, devices and data is increasingly a key to cutting costs, improving business processes, and introducing entirely new ways to interact with customers, employees and business partners.
“There is a growing recognition that the Internet of things will have a huge impact on business,” says Craig McNeil, global IoT practice lead, Accenture Digital–Mobility. “But there are huge questions about how to navigate it.”
The truth is that key components of the IoT already exist: smartphones and tablets. These smart devices—and the anywhere, anytime connectivity they deliver—play a growing role in defining and redefining how communication, collaboration and transactions take place, as well as how data flows into and out of an organization.
Simply put: Smart devices are at the center of a growing universe of machines, sensors and systems that radically rewire and redefine business processes and practices. As McNeil puts it: “It’s not only a way to cut costs and achieve greater efficiency. If it’s used to maximum advantage it can lead to entirely new capabilities and new revenue streams.”
What makes smart devices so powerful is the array of technologies, protocols and standards they support. The ability to connect communications platforms such as WiFi, Bluetooth, near field communication (NFC) and cellular networks is transformative. The ability to use the sensors on a device and from external sources introduces exponentially greater gains.
As Michael Liard, an independent analyst and consultant, explains: “Advancing technology, better standards and lower cost points are revolutionizing and redefining business.”
Room for a View
The concept is at the center of an emerging digital business strategy for the Wyndham New Yorker Hotel. The 43-story Art Deco-style hotel, located adjacent to Times Square in New York City, has 1,083 rooms, 64 suites and two major restaurants.
“The reality is that almost every person who steps into the hotel has a smartphone in hand, and they are using it on a regular basis,” points out John Yazbeck, director of sales and marketing. “Smartphones impact just about everything that takes place, from check-in to check-out. It’s important to find ways to enhance the guest experience and make things as simple and pleasurable as possible.”
The hotel has introduced a number of features that tap into the power of smart devices. Using a technology platform from Guest Driven, it now offers an app that supports mobile check-in and check-out, room upgrades, requests for things such as blankets and pillows, and in-app purchasing from shops and restaurants.
In addition, the Wyndham New Yorker is turning to beacons in public spaces so that it can send notifications and messages to guests. This makes it possible to inform guests of the historic property that they can visit a museum below the lobby. It is also used to offer promotions and coupons for the Wyndham’s shops and restaurants, as well as outside retailers that partner with the hotel.
In the future, the hotel may deploy smartphone-managed lock systems. Also, it will use data and analytics to better understand guests’ needs so it can deliver a more personalized experience.
Beyond the App
To be sure, smart devices introduce an array of possibilities. By tapping into geolocation capabilities, accelerometers, cameras, microphones, and various other chips and sensors, it’s possible to deploy new and useful features that wouldn’t have been imaginable only a few years ago. Services and apps such as OpenTable, Lyft, MyFitnessPal, RedLaser, ParkNav and Shazam demonstrate some of the possibilities.
Other apps and tools allow consumers to scan and deposit checks, transfer money to friends or colleagues instantly, order food and beverages for pickup, and view inventory and product availability in real time. In the B2B space, many businesses are introducing equally innovative features that redefine internal processes and extend into the supply chain.
Accenture’s McNeil suggests that business and IT leaders begin assessing the situation, while looking for new and creative ways to combine technologies that are embedded in smart devices with crowdsourcing, social media, RFID, beacons and more. It’s critical to look for opportunities to test, pilot and deploy IoT technologies.
The key, he says, is to understand how mobile technology and the IoT can serve as the catalyst for new revenue streams and greater value to customers and the business. In the end, this may require new skills, including hiring data scientists and analysts. It also may require new partnerships and alliances, as well as APIs that connect apps and data from different sources.
“There are incredible benefits possible through the IoT and smart devices,” McNeil concludes. “It’s important to begin exploring how to maximize and monetize the space.”