4 real-life IoT examples proven to transform business

8 min.

Cisco predicts there will be 3.5 connected devices per capita by 2021. Already today, there are 2,776 million IoT devices, according to Statista, with their number increasing by 26% since last year.

Number of Internet of Things (IoT) devices connected worldwide in 2017 and 2018, by type (in millions):


  2017 2018
Connected & smart home
822.6 1,200
Smart cities
450 473.2
Personal IoT
407.4 472.6
Industrial IoT 356.5 440.8
Medical IoT 56.5 125.4
Connected car 103.4 64.7



Businesses are quick to grasp opportunities, associated with IoT development, either for a market gain or for an extra operational efficiency. According to PwC, the global spending on IoT solutions is to hit $6 trillion between 2015 and 2020. Among the top adopters, there are such industries as manufacturing, utilities, transportation and logistics, which will have invested $40 billion on average each by 2020.

At this scale, it’s obvious that IoT is becoming a major business disruptor, calling for enterprises worldwide to tap these waters. Internet of things is predicted to bring multiple advantages to how businesses create and manage their customers’ experiences, how they optimize their supply chain processes, and how they redefine their core operations.

IoT is clearly piping hot, but a general audience still has a vague picture of how exactly IoT is going to perform miracles.

Today, we are going to look at the IoT examples with impressive track records from those companies that have taken this plunge first and see if the business gain justified the investment.

#1. Coca-Cola: next-level customer experience, loyalty, and marketing

Today, the store is where the customer is. People want things here and now via smooth and intuitive experiences. Experiences that are carefully planned out yet perceived as authentic. The first of the IoT success stories is about crafting such experiences through the power of connected vending machines.

A true IoT pioneer, Coca-Cola boasted a third of their vending machines being connected to the internet back in 1982. Today, the company uses IoT to fine-tune their contextual engagement strategies, offer self-service in one click, understand the customer purchasing behavior, reimagine customer loyalty, and trace spikes in consumption to improve targeted marketing.

We utilize intelligent vending machines to enable our digital strategy for vending. That strategy is comprised of three key elements: a smart connected fleet, empowering digital path to purchase, and seamless payment and loyalty.

Derek Myers Photo

Without human assistants at the retail point to collect customer feedback, getting data from IoT-enabled vending machines is crucial. It helps identify the busiest locations and most popular drinks, gage inventory levels, and machine profitability. In one instance, this data has led Coca-Cola to come up with a new flavor: by analyzing the accumulated big data, the vendor has come to understand that mixing Cherry and Vanilla Coke was popular among the customers.

In the Coca-Cola vending machines, IoT enables cashless payments, personalized communications, stock and refill notifications to the brand’s management, and gathering performance and service data for suppliers. It also helps implement loyalty programs allowing customers to accumulate bonus points and use them to buy a free drink all in one tap on their smartphones.

To make these business-critical capabilities a reality, Coca-Cola has partnered with AirWatch, SAP, and Salesforce, which serve the IoT technology to create and gain insight from the profile for each dispenser. With Coca-Cola’s 100,000 machines accepting mobile wallets, it’s now the biggest mobile payment retail fleet. Mobile wallets also support contextual notifications to the brand’s loyalty program members.

A case in point: when Coca-Cola Derek Myers travels, he likes to stay hydrated, but sometimes forgets to purchase his water. “My Coke Rewards platform can push a message reminding me to pick up a bottle before I board to ensure I’m not left thirsty en route to my next destination.” Similarly, consumers heading to the gym will be reminded to get a sports drink prior to and a protein shake after their session. To get this functionality in the phones, consumers can simply text to the brand’s designated number to register and download their card.

Coca-Cola’s next step is to enable students to pay for drinks with student ID cards. By now though, the company has already started testing its range of smart IoT-enabled coolers across the US. The connected coolers are installed at some smaller retail chains in Chicago and Dallas and are to help with preemptive equipment maintenance, stock optimization, and personalized customer communication. This way, IoT is poised to hit multiple targets across the brand’s operational and sales strategies.

#2. Compology: reducing waste collection costs by 40%

IoT is seeping into the urban life on a much grander scale than connecting consumers to brands through beacons as smart cities are becoming a reality. From smart street lighting to better parking, IoT technologies are gradually redefining our immediate surroundings. But there’s one more crucial area where connected devices are expected to bring a common good, and it’s waste management.

Compology is a San Francisco startup that was launched three years ago to sell smart waste collection solutions. Compology introduced its WasteOS that can help authorities cut waste collection costs by 40% thanks to its cloud-based IoT waste management platform.

Compology sensor in use

Compology sensor in use, photo by govtech.com

The solution uses sensors and software that analyses real-time data to plan the most efficient routes for waste collection fleets. GPS sensors complemented with cameras are “built like a tank” to stay weather‑resistant. The captured images are then transmitted over mobile networks to calculate a real-time container fullness in the cloud.

The data from all such serviced dumpsters helps optimize routing and scheduling. It can also be used for predictive analysis of container statuses in low-connectivity areas with incomplete data. This way, waste collection truck fleets can be reduced by 40%, according to Jason Gates, co-founder of Compology.

The drivers are equipped with tablets with the purpose-built customized apps to get real-time data on containers in need of service, as well as the fastest routes, to do it. The app is designed visually for optimized safety and ease-of-use in a noisy and dangerous urban environment. In Gates’ words, “It’s not cute… it’s very functional.”

The data is also used to be aware of the roll-off inventory and times when each container was emptied last. The number of lost or stolen containers gets minimized. Pick-up takes place only when there is a real need for it. Fewer equipment pieces are required to do the same job, which leads to efficient asset management and a greater revenue for municipal agencies. Such solutions can also improve performance by analyzing metrics on sales and operations, visualized in powerful cloud-based dashboards. The financial benefits of using Compology’s IoT solution can be quantified using this online calculator.

Waste OS also leads to a better customer service—haulers know when services are needed before the client does. As Compology user Louie Pellegrini says, “The ability to anticipate when they’re full, in advance of the customer calling, brings efficiency to routing and work to be done in the future.”

Compology is among the IoT examples that are truly ahead of competition thanks to the cost-effectiveness of the product that can be retrofitted to containers already utilized.

#3. Rio Tinto: harnessing the power of predictive analytics and maintenance

IoT-powered predictive maintenance helps identify existing maintenance issues before an actual accident happens. One of such IoT success examples is a global mining company Rio Tinto that launched into the IoT area back in 2008 with its Mine of the Future program. By routinely gaining insight into the company’s fleet of vehicles via 24/7 IoT sensor monitoring, they manage to save an upside $2 million daily for every time a breakdown is averted.

Rio Tinto sensors

Rio Tinto sensors, scheme by John McGagh for Internet of Things

Rio Tinto has been using self-driving dump trucks in Western Australia for the last decade. All the vehicles are joined into the Autonomous Haulage System (AHS) allowing the staff to manage the fleet remotely. Each truck is equipped with 200 sensors, a GPS receiver, and an RGS (radar guidance system). As of today, the company generates 2.4 terabytes of data every minute in the sensors and mobile equipment deployed across its 1,500 km of railways, ports, and power stations.

Rio Tinto Mine Automation System

Rio Tinto Mine Automation System, scheme by John McGagh for Internet of Things World Forum

The result is that the company’s staff always knows where each truck is. The data coming from the equipment, personnel, and geological tools is aggregated in a single operational center. Rio Tinto’s Mine Automation System provides a real-time 360-degree view of all the mining operations, comprehended via 3D visualizations for the purposes of predictive maintenance, smart scheduling, and servicing.

At the moment, IoT hasn’t fully replaced the need for human input on the company’s sites. It’s still necessary to oversee the mining equipment on location and customize routes. But gradually, IoT starts empowering Rio Tinto to manage their fleet without humans with autonomous drilling and automated rail systems.

#4. Bank of America: a more productive workplace culture

It may sound intrusive and illegal but employee surveillance has been around for at least 20 years. With the coming of the IoT revolution, this function can turn into a true business enabler with its unprecedented capacity to unlock productivity drivers.

Dating from 2013, this one may be the oldest of the IoT examples on this list, yet one of the most effective. Sociometric Solutions developed tracking sensors for Bank of America based on the MIT students’ idea of uncovering the truth behind team-building successes like Google’s. These sensors have a very specific purpose: built in the employees’ IDs, they collect real-time data on their tone of voice, speaking speed and volume, movements, and posture when communicating with colleagues.

The goal is to boost efficiency by uncovering when and how productivity reaches its peak levels. IoT-enabled employee tracking can be done in a way that brings valuable insights to managers without bringing up any legal issues or discomfort. To make this process fully legit from the regulatory point of view, sensors do not record conversations, and connected software stores all the metadata without associating it with the employees.

The sociometric sensors are composed of a microphone, a motion sensor, an infrared beam, and a Bluetooth module. The data on voice pitch and speed is used to indicate the amount of emotion in the conversation at a given time. Infrared beams help identify other IDs and the position of interlocutors to gather communication-related insights. For example, whether listeners face the speaker, the speaker dominates the conversation, speakers mirror each other, or they are on equal terms. This would help to map out socializing patterns and connect them to the actual productivity.

Sociometric Badges
Sociometric Badges, photo from Sociometric Solutions twitter

The devices were tested with the help of 90 call-center employees at the Bank of America branches. The results were revealing: when taking breaks together, employees actually took time to solve workplace issues. By changing its workplace culture, the company could raise its overall productivity by 10 percent.

Alex Pentland, an MIT professor and advisor to Sociometric Solutions, swears by the accuracy of received data, writing for the Harvard Business Review: “We’ve been able to foretell, for example, which teams will win a business plan contest, solely on the basis of data collected from team members wearing badges at a cocktail reception.”

IoT is versatile and powerful

As highlighted in the IoT success stories above, this emerging technology is set to bring multiple benefits for those who adopt it. With its skyrocketing investment volumes, it is certainly finding its place in such industries as manufacturing, retail, logistics, and mining. The public sector is up for it too, with the smart city initiatives popping up around the world and transforming our everyday lives.

These transformations are not new, though. Started more than 10 years ago, IoT projects have already helped their owners reap the first results, be it better customer loyalty, fuel savings, preemptive maintenance, or a more productive corporate culture.

What does the future hold for those who want to get on the bandwagon now? In this environment, it’s pretty difficult to get on the IoT trend, what with the competition from corporate giants with almost unlimited budgets, who started investing in the field 10-20 years ago and can already show impressive results. But with the latest IoT development practices, IoT-enabling technologies are becoming smaller, cheaper, and easier to use.