4 real-life IoT use cases proven to transform business

04.03.2020
8 min.

The 2019 forecast from IDC predicts that there will be 41.6 billion connected IoT devices by 2025. These devices are expected to generate 79.4 zettabytes of data. The forecast also projects that the amount of data created by connected devices will have a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 28.7% between now and 2025.

Businesses are quick to grasp opportunities, often with the help of internet of things developers, either for a market gain or for extra operational efficiency. In 2019, IDC also put out the global IoT spending guide, which predicts the spending of $1.1 trillion in 2023, with a CAGR of 12.6%. Among the top adopters are such industries as manufacturing, utilities, transportation, and logistics.

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 only a vague picture of how exactly IoT is going to influence the way business is done.

Today, we are going to look at IoT examples with impressive track records from those companies that have taken this plunge first.

IoT use case #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, and understand customer purchasing behavior. It is also used to 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

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 the most popular drinks and 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 came to understand that mixing Cherry Coke and Vanilla Coke was popular among the customers.

In the Coca-Cola vending machines, IoT enables cashless payments, personalized communications, sending 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 get 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 IoT, 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’s 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 their session and a protein shake after their session. To get this functionality in their phones, consumers can simply text 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. For now though, the company has already started testing its range of smart IoT-enabled coolers across the US. The connected coolers 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.

IoT use case #2. Compology

Reducing waste collection costs

As smart cities are becoming a reality, IoT is seeping into urban life on a much grander scale than connecting consumers to brands through beacons in retail outlets. 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 that is waste management.

Compology is a San Francisco startup that was launched in 2014 to sell smart waste collection solutions. Compology introduced WasteOS, which can help make waste collection 40% more efficient, thanks to the cloud-based IoT waste management platform.

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 in the cloud to calculate real-time container fullness.

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 make their routes more efficient and save costs.

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 get there. The app is designed visually for optimized safety and ease-of-use in a noisy and dangerous urban environment.

The data is also used for the awareness of the roll-off inventory and times when each container was emptied last. As a result, 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. Capturing abundant, accurate and up-to-date data can be instrumental in improving services and helping municipalities reach their zero-waste goals.

WasteOS also leads to better customer service—haulers know when services are needed before the client does. This allows drivers to anticipate when they’re full before the client even has to call, which brings efficiency to the routing.

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

IoT use case #3. Rio Tinto

Harnessing the power of predictive analytics and maintenance

IoT-powered predictive maintenance helps identify existing maintenance issues before an actual malfunction or accident happens. One such IoT success case is a global mining company, Rio Tinto, that launched into the IoT arena 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 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

The result is that the company’s staff always knows where each truck is. The data coming from the equipment, personnel, and geological tools are aggregated in a single operational center. Additionally, Rio Tinto’s Mine Automation System utilizes IoT data analytics. This 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 empowers Rio Tinto to manage their fleet without humans by using autonomous drilling and automated rail systems.

IoT use case #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 for business cases on this list, yet one of the most effective in the IoT history. 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 into 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 used in a way that brings valuable insights to managers without bringing up any legal issues or discomfort. To make this process fully legitimate 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, if listeners face the speaker, if the speaker dominates the conversation, if speakers mirror each other, or if they are on equal terms. This helps to map out socializing patterns and connect them to the actual productivity of the employees.

Sociometric Badges

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 to have all employees take breaks together, the company could raise its overall productivity by 10 percent.

IoT for business 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 over 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 difficult to get on the IoT trend, with the competition from corporate giants with almost unlimited budgets, and who started investing in the field 10-20 years ago. Because of this, they can already show impressive results. But with the latest IoT development practices, IoT-enabling technologies are becoming smaller, cheaper, easier to use, and more accessible.