Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Internet of Things and the MSME Sector

The term Internet of Things (IoT) brings to mind the stereotypical image of a working woman who triggers the cooker at home as she leaves office to drive back home or a refrigerator which sends a replenishment note to a grocer as soon as it senses some of the frequently required items such as milk or butter are exhausted. Given the numerous possibilities which IoT can inspire, many large product companies have already embarked on programs to build IoT compatibility into their existing or new products.



What is IoT?
The Smartphone as a device of communication is an IoT device and knowingly or unknowingly we have already been using it. IoT enables each device or thing to communicate with other devices or things and perhaps be directed or direct the actions of other such devices.

An IoT enabled device must have a built in microcomputer and suitable sensor devices which will sense /capture important parameters in real life. In addition, it must have access to and be identifiable with a unique IP address. Increasingly, there are standard electronic communications modules available which could be connected to any device which you wish to enable them for IoT. The costs of such modules and standardized interfaces may seem a bit high as of now but this situation will certainly improve with increased demand and availability.

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IoT makes the owner omnipresent
in most food cooking and retail businesses such as a cookie/bakery stores, the owner is required to formulate an hourly forecast and plan the production accordingly .This plan has to be adjusted based on the day of the week, time of the day , cultural and religious sensitivities , seasonal variations as well as actual walk-ins into the shop. When the owner is away, the ability of the team to replicate such expertise becomes a challenge. IoT can help the owner to encapsulate his expertise in the form of business rules into the bakery systems which allows his team to exercise their judgment but within bounds and send alerts to the owner in cases of deviations and exceptional situations. The owner’s expertise is thus at hand at all times irrespective of his location. MSME with multi-locational operations can thus benefit immensely from the owner’s expertise.

IoT and autonomous systems
The machines learn with every transaction, production or service experience. This means that the encapsulated business rules in the controller attached to the machine can be changed based on new experiences. The communication between the machine, sensors, business rules engines and the machine learning algorithms on a central server all interact thanks to IoT. Add to this the ability of the machine to initiate actions on its own and we have ‘autonomous machines’ and in a larger sense processes and systems which can run on their own like the autopilot of an aircraft.

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In Conclusion
MSMEs can now manage their resources efficiently and effectively, create smarter products and build smarter services using the power of the IoT and associated technologies. The challenge of scalability and replicability of the owner’s experience and personal skills which are perhaps the biggest concerns among MSMEs can be dealt with quite effectively by IoT. Finally, IoT itself is a great opportunity for innovation and new product/service/business models. A proactive move in this direction would ensure that MSMEs find the path to growing into a dominant component of the emerging ‘Smart’ economy.

See more at: forbesindia.com

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