A look at the best smart tech for small businesses
Small business owners don’t always have the time to look into new technologies that would improve their businesses, but this oversight is costing them money. There are several tech trends that will help small businesses succeed, and smart business owners can take advantage of these opportunities to improve their costs, sales, and customer service, among other things.
One of the best ways to cut costs in your small business (and help the planet at the same time) is to install smart tech in your office space. Smart technology saves energy in so many ways that the investment tends to pay for itself pretty quickly. And this is only one of the ways smart tech can improve your bottom line. Here are 8 smart tech systems that can improve small business operations.
- Security system
To protect your investment, consider a smart security system. Originally designed for homes, these systems are becoming increasingly popular with small business owners. Most come with a number of door, window, and motion sensors that will alert you immediately via your smartphone if there’s unauthorized activity at any entry point. Many also include heat and leak sensors to protect your space from non-human damage. SimpliSafe and Adobe offer affordable options. A newer entry into the market, Kogniz, includes AI technology with facial recognition to monitor for repeat shoplifters.
- Video doorbell
Home or office businesses can benefit from a smart doorbell, which incorporates a camera to allow business owners to see who’s at the door from wherever they are and monitor for attempted theft. These are especially helpful for appointment-only businesses that may not want to answer the door for unexpected callers.
- Smart lock
If you have employees or contractors coming and going, a smart lock will help you provide access only when needed and monitor who’s entering when. You can use this tech to set up individual codes, lockout everyone at any time, and replace swipe card systems with keyless locks for better security.
Such systems can also give reports of comings and goings and send you alerts whenever the front door is opened or closed if you need to closely monitor activity at your business site. Kwikset Kevo and Schlage Sense are two robust options.
- Smart thermostat
Energy efficiency isn’t just good for the planet—it’s good for your bottom line. The first step to cutting your energy costs is a smart thermostat. You can set it to kick on the HVAC system on customizable schedules. And employees will be happier when they arrive in the morning to a workspace that’s already at a comfortable temperature.
Smart thermostats will monitor your usage and make slight adjustments to the temperature settings to save you money, and some have integrated motion-sensing capabilities to respond to the environment and adjust in real time—say, if everyone has left early on a Friday afternoon. Look for a smart thermostat designed specifically for businesses.
- Smart lighting
Such tech has been on the scene for a while and makes a real difference in your energy costs. Installing a complete system with smart LED bulbs, motion sensors, and remote control will give you the most bang for your buck and allow for nuanced control of the lighting in your workspace.
As work schedules become increasingly flexible, it’s more important to make sure the lights are only on in the spaces they’re needed. Philips Hue has been the gold standard in smart lighting, but newer options such as LIFX, Digital Lumens, and Wiz offer good integration options.
- IoT devices
Smart lighting is one example of how the Internet of Things is moving forward, but businesses can benefit from other IoT devices as well. For example, auto-fulfillment of consumable supplies is now an option with connected devices like the Brother Printer Refresh, which will detect when ink or toner is getting low and order more. Merchandise RFID tags can automatically update your inventory, saving a lot of human labor time. Connected sensors used in shipping help you monitor inventory as well, benefiting logistics and supply chain.
- Digital assistants
The first thing a digital assistant can do for you is to create a hub for all the smart devices you’re adding to your business space, making it easier to monitor and control those devices. However, digital assistants also create more efficiency in operations by providing an easy way to schedule meetings (and get timely reminders), search emails, and quickly access important data.
At home, people might rely on digital assistants to check the weather, play music, or order takeout, but once you start exploring what this tech can do for businesses you’ll find the possibilities are endless.
Chatbots might seem like the domain of large businesses with big customer service departments, but they can be a boon to small businesses as well. One popular way to implement a chatbot is on your business Facebook page, so you’re always offering timely responses even when you don’t have dedicated personnel. On your site, a chatbot can help answer frequently asked questions and aid customers in searching for information or products.
Chatbots can help with more advanced business needs, to—for instance, automating sales by performing many of the functions a human might. And as AI advances, the information chatbots collect can be analyzed, turned into data, and accessed from a digital assistant.
Smart tech is still in the early stages, but it already offers many benefits to small businesses in terms of increased efficiency, cost savings, improved operations, and deeper business understanding.
Written by: Hilary Thompson
Hilary is a freelance writer, small business owner, and travel junkie. With a background in content strategy, journalism, and business management, she loves to explore solutions for success, in all areas: health, business, parenting, life.