Seven billion connected devices and counting—and we are only at the threshold of the massive, new class of connected devices known as the Internet of Things (IoT).
Devices, such as sensors, remote robots and everyday objects, are rapidly becoming connected to expand the universe of IoT and to provide valuable data. In a network-centric world, the more devices that are connected in aggregate, the more value is created for the whole. And this value scales exponentially. It’s what’s called a network effect, and it can bring boundless possibilities for value and wealth creation in the next five years.
What types of possibilities? As I shared in my previous blog post about connecting to the internet, when we combine plentiful, high-speed wireless with new technologies—such as small sensors, shrinking robots and augmented reality—the delivered services and experiences will be enriched with the insights of a wealth of data, the ability to automate our response and new levels of self-directed experiences. But the real nirvana will be when all this happens and customers can create value for and among themselves.
Yet even before we account for all the new possibilities of IoT, much more is possible today with our wireless networks. IT teams need to move quickly to capture the available business opportunities and productivity gains of new digital services on wireless. If they don't, they risk falling behind in a world where catching up in fast-evolving spaces, such as digital experiences, is not only increasingly difficult but also exposes their organizations to new competitive threats.
Fortunately, the business case for the foundational steps is here now, even at your smallest sites. Today’s consumers expect reliable, wireless connectivity for free at all locations and will quickly adopt engaging, connected experiences that make your products and services more valuable to them.
Digital services enhance the customer experience
The list of options for justifying an expansion in your wireless and digital capabilities includes not only new services for your customers, but also services for employees at branch locations, who sell directly to buyers and deliver your offerings and customer service. For example:
- Self services: Many customers today want to direct their own experiences with your on-site products and offerings—from submitting their own orders to handling their own check-in/check-out, to running health assessments. You can offer new applications that increase footfall and put your customers in control.
- Location-based services: New wireless technology lets you enhance how you interact with customers based on precise location. For example, enrich customer relationships by sending useful information based on proximity analytics or improve how customers flow through your business by analyzing movement through your location.
- Facility services: Managing remote sites is one of the most challenging for your facilities team. They are constantly reacting to problems or failures that others must notify them of—things like heating and air conditioning, broken equipment and the need for new space. Simply managing space amidst soaring costs, especially in downtown business districts, in the $15 trillion commercial real estate market can be an area rich in savings opportunities. If you offer an application that combines space scheduling with actual use tracking (using Wi-Fi location services), your solution has the potential for hefty ROI.
These new services overlay and help to justify foundational Wi-Fi services that keep customers happy with high-performing connectivity, not to mention great network security. You never want to be that company where customers were hacked while they visited you. Can you imagine?!
What is a busy IT team to do?
Honestly, I get it. Implementing new digital services often means introducing a new layer of work that many organizations simply don’t have the time, personnel or expertise to handle. Some try to do it themselves, but since business wireless installations and ongoing maintenance are more complex than residential ones, this often leads to unreliable connections and frustrated customers.
One option is to consider managed wireless services. For around $20 per small site (atop an existing service), many providers offer a variety of managed Wi-Fi services, many packaged to specific use cases or verticals.
Managed Wi-Fi services help busy commercial customers:
- Offer the most reliable and hassle-free wireless experience
- Attract new customers with differentiated experiences
- Enable new customer experiences and types of services
- Manage technology transitions in new wireless standards and protocols
What about service providers?
For providers offering these managed wireless services, many choose to develop, update and maintain their services platform themselves and ramp up their teams accordingly. Others reach for a stand-alone “direct to SMB product,” which launches quickly but is incapable of allowing the provider to brand the service as their own, let alone customize it or even tie it into their existing billing, support and maintenance workflows.
Consequently, a growing number of communication providers are turning to a new option: third-party vendors to help bring these new revenue streams to life without incurring the associated platform costs or limited offering of off-the-shelf solutions. Think “wireless as a service.” In this case, a provider can identify what it wants to offer, then brand and bundle the new wireless offering into its existing services, and gain a new opportunity for growth. In addition to being able to offer branded, reliable managed Wi-Fi to small sites, wireless as a service allows communication providers to create and offer myriad new managed services for specific groups of customers.
Whether you’re a small business, or a large firm with many small branches, establishing a strong wireless foundation lets you not only meet connectivity needs, but also creates new digital experiences for your customers today. And let’s face it: Your customers expect a great digital experience. No organization—no matter the size—can afford to fall short. And the added benefit? IoT holds countless possibilities for value and wealth creation tomorrow. Are you ready?
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