Mike Doman
Technology Journalist

Mike Doman is a technology, lifestyle, industrial and education writer

Mike Doman
Technology Journalist

Mike Doman is a technology, lifestyle, industrial and education writer

Connected devices are fundamentally changing the way healthcare and retail operations are using technology. And it’s not going to slow down.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is as much evolution as revolution, according to a panel at Telstra’s Vantage event held in September that included Telstra director of emerging technology and innovation, Ben Crosby; Telstra retail industry executive, Gareth Jude; and Telstra national general manager of healthcare, Tanya Felton.

It’s an evolving and emerging idea that, while fundamentally complex behind the scenes, should simplify processes and fit seamlessly within a business’ processes.

Tied up in a neat acronym, IoT is all about DNA – devices, networks and analytics. Devices, ranging from phones to fridges to cars, are able to interconnect over networks and communicate with one another. In addition to the inherent benefits like having your smartphone able to talk to your TV, these connections also create data that can be analysed to inform future strategies, make better decisions faster and change behaviours – particularly for businesses.

“I think the internet of things is really a way of describing the fact that you can collect information from all sorts of things these days,” says Gareth.

“It might be your stock, as well as your cash register, as well as cameras in the store, as well as maybe some unstructured things from the internet. And you can combine that all together [for business purposes].”

Businesspeople at Telstra Vantage 2015

The aim of IoT

This might seem tech-heavy and complex, but the IoT is expected to fundamentally do four things:

  1. Improve quality of life for you or your customers
  2. Allow for loyalty building through data analysis and new ways of communicating
  3. Change businesses models
  4. Benefit the business ecosystem by improving connectivity

These changes necessitate a change in the business mindset. IoT is where solutions like cloud were a few years ago – it isn’t a matter of if, but when businesses need to adapt and take advantage.

Making a difference in healthcare

For Tanya, the IoT is helping the healthcare sector overcome challenges for clinicians and patients, improving their quality of life significantly. She pointed to a number of significant examples in the course of her presentation, including healthcare allowing dementia patients to manage their medications and navigate their homes, as well as providing immediate locations for equipment in emergency rooms.

This connectivity is being implemented in many operations across the country in a number of ways: Fridges can talk to monitors, for example, ensuring medications are served at the correct temperature and warnings are sounded if temperatures rise above a certain level, improving patient care and limiting opportunities for litigation to arise.

Conflict in its essence, is inefficient. But collaboration delivers good business outcomes

- GARETH JUDE, TELSTRA

A new retail experience

In the retail space, IoT offers both challenges and opportunities for smaller retailers. While their larger competitors are able to invest in the infrastructure to gather more customer data, these technologies enable daily stocktakes, more knowledge of goods and build on the anecdotal knowledge they have on their customers.

“Small retailers have generally relied on their ability to know their customers better than big chains, but I think these days they’re going to be challenged by this,” said Gareth at the Telstra Vantage event.

“They’re going to need to collect information from technology that allows them to play in the same ballpark with the chains who do this by systematic methods.

“If you build an app for your customers, that can collect all sorts of information about your customers’ movements, habits, buying preferences, how they interact with your app, that will help you know them better. From the point of view of running your business more efficiently, you can use IoT to manage your stock really well.

“So I think IoT can offer smaller retailers an opportunity to know their customers better, but also manage their asserts more efficiently.”

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Collaboration in the supply chain

Another area IoT is making a significant difference is by making the supply chain connected, monitored, measured and managed. Using technologies like M2M, telemetrics and GPS tracking, transparency can be increased, which enables better decision making and opportunities to optimise operations.

But this requires collaboration between multiple operations, says Jude, especially as eCommerce and changing customer expectations increase competition in the space.

“Well it’s been proven, I think, over the last 30 years, that collaboration is a better model than conflict in terms of running a business,” he says.

“Conflict in its essence, is inefficient. But collaboration delivers good business outcomes.

“It’s effectively making two and two equal five instead of four when you put a supply chain together with a retailer. That’s what the likes of Walmart have been doing for many years.”

Knowledge equals success

At the end of the day, increasing how much you know about your operations empowers better results – whether it’s for a customer, a patient or a client. The connectivity and knowledge that IoT can deliver when combined with technology solutions that makes sense of these connections has the power to change business across the country.

Whether it’s smarter packaging, the connected medicine fridge or connected paper (yes it’s a thing), the world’s going to get more connected. Smart businesses will make this connectivity work to their advantage.

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