How Any Company Can Save Money With the Internet of Things
Inc. Magazine, July/August 2017
You may think only giant corporations can benefit from the internet of things–the networking of nontechnical objects so they can receive and transmit data. But right now, businesses like yours are employing the IoT: digitizing work sites, office buildings, manufacturing facilities, and shipments. It’s easier than you might think.
IMCO General Construction, which employs 180 in Ferndale, Washington, faced typical challenges for building contractors: a dispersed work force; far-flung work sites; gathering data from complex construction projects. Then the company began working with Seattle-based startup Unearth, which networks remote sensors, drones, satellite data, and mobile devices to help construction firms reduce accidents and respond to problems quickly.
“If we’re flying [a drone] over a site and the owner can see on the live feed that they need something changed, we can react to it quickly,” says IMCO construction manager Casey Dougherty. “It’s definitely made our crews more efficient, which means more profitability.” The prices of Unearth’s services vary, but generally start at $1,000 per month.
Other companies are using IoT to cut costs. When Magnet 360–a 190-person firm that helps businesses use the Salesforce platform–moved into an office converted from an old warehouse in Minneapolis, the staff quickly realized their HVAC system needed an upgrade. Enter local IoT startup 75F, which uses sensors to analyze air flow, and automates heating and cooling functions; the costs for a 75F system range from 50¢ to $3.50 per square foot. By using 75F, companies can cut energy costs up to 70 percent, says its chief operating officer, Bob French.
The IoT helps with harder-to-define tasks, too. Family-owned Christensen Farms, a pork producer in Sleepy Eye, Minnesota, affixes wireless tracking devices called Bees, made by Santa Clara, California-based Roambee, to its livestock trailers. There, they track humidity levels inside the trucks, so drivers know if they need to adjust the ventilators. Brian Bourke, the VP of marketing for Seko Logistics in Chicago, says his company often places a Roambee device in sensitive shipments to provide an extra layer of assurance to key clients. “They can see where a package is at any point,” he says–which lets Seko staffers focus on more valuable tasks. Roambee’s devices, which may be stopped and started depending on seasonal need, and related hardware generally cost $1 to $1.50 per device per day of usage. Various payment options are available.
And Formlabs, a professional 3-D-printing company based in Somerville, Massachusetts, uses devices from nearby IoT startup Tulip to track the production of its customized sample parts, says chief product officer Dávid Lakatos. Formlabs’ custom Tulip setup has a monitor and interface at every major station on its shop floors; there they track and record key company processes. Formlabs has grown 100 percent each of the past two years, and with the training time it’s saving by prerecording instructions for major tasks, chances are it will grow even more. Just like the IoT.