The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has halted operations in some of the major economic sectors. Owing to the nation-wide lockdown, people are not getting to attend offices physically. With slipping business conditions and zero profitability, a large number of companies are giving pink slips to their staffs. Here lies the importance of the Internet of Things (IoT) to sustain businesses. When office spaces are inaccessible, companies are providing devices to their employees at home. Access to uninterrupted internet connection is essential here. Businesses are benefitting through this work-from-home mode, offering stability to their clients.
This concept of multiple physical objects communicating with each other using the internet is identified as Internet of Things (IoT). Initially the concept was limited to computers, smartphones, and tablets. Continuous innovation in the field has included a larger number of physical objects under its operation. There are approximately 50 billion devices that can connect to the internet. Mobile Device Management (MDM) of IoT devices like thermostats, smart lights, and key or mobile tracking devices may be mentioned as example. With an increased use of IoT, its market size is expected to reach $243 billion by 2021, at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 13.7% during 2019-2021. The International Data Corporation (IDC) estimated the global IoT market will grow to around $1 trillion within 2020.
Business continuity through work-from-home
IoT and Artificial Intelligence (AI) coupled with cloud are giving devices the power to operate automatically while improvising its work process. Potential of IoT is observed mostly when multiple devices are interacting and communicating with each other at a time. The Business Continuity Management (BCM) teams of major Information Technology (IT) companies to enable work-from-home facility include IBM, Microsoft, Google, Oracle, Intel, Ericsson, Sony, Vodafone, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), Infosys, Cognizant and Accenture among others.
Work-from-home ecosystem is now implemented for a large number of jobs including media, IT, education sector, entertainment industry available in OTT platforms and even healthcare sector. Doctors are involved in work-from-home through tele-health consultations and digital diagnostics. Remote robot assistance in the sector is also easing treatment of Covid-19 impacted patients. Online classes and tutorials are helping teachers to continue with their professions. The IT sector is using it mostly. They have sent office devices to their employees’ homes o Office meetings and training sessions over video conferences using cloud and IoT.
The work-from-home atmosphere is aiding the companies in cost management during the time of pandemic - when their businesses are already heading south. It is also a permanent solution to the office space crunch leading to overhead cost reduction and electricity savings. IT companies like PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) and TCS are thinking of continuing with their work-from-home opportunity even in the post-pandemic period.
Stepping forward, India’s largest public bank, the State Bank of India in its annual report published in June, 2020 states that they upgrading the existing WFH policy to Work from Anywhere (WFA) policy. The bank will enable Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM), OFFICE 365, IT Service Management (ITSM) policies and IoT will be an integral part of it.
Benefit for employees
IoT is supporting to avoid physical exposure and related risk factors. Physically challenged or newly became mothers are being able to continue office works despite obstacles. It is increasing productivity as the travel time is reduced. IoT and AI help employees to monitor their emails and office schedule.
Online transaction which is increasing during lockdown - can be monitored electronically with the help of IoT. Most of the food supply chains and logistic services are now only accepting online transaction to avoid physical contact.
IoT in manufacturing
Due to the lockdown, manufacturing sector has been shrinking since the last three months. IoT can aid the sector allowing industries to utilise much lesser human labour maintaining social distancing. Their supply-chain management has also been easier to track. Smart grid technologies are helping to reduce consumption of fuel. IoT can also notify if a machine is running low or in case of malfunctioning and curtail wastages.
In manufacturing, continuous modification of operation, improvement in efficiency, quality control and safe business has been possible for IoT – with a combined help of cloud, data centre and Google analytics. This new step in the industrial sector is defined as ‘Industry - 4.0’.
The consumers of IoT applications should be far more cautious concerning security issues now. Prameya Mondal, IT associate, Cognizant Technology Solutions, told BE, “In work-from-home atmosphere, IT companies provide their own systems where external devices like pen drive or USB cannot be used. But the internet is an essential part of IoT. Unlike office environments, the internet connections used for office work are not secured. At home, harmful websites are also not blocked. Hackers in major cases send camouflaged e-mails which cannot be identified easily that they are containing Malicious Software (malware), Worm, Trojan or Spyware. These will threaten important data of both individual users and the employer companies.” Using long passwords, different passwords for different devices, monitoring webcam regularly, multi-factor authentication, notification activation and reporting suspicious e-mails can minimise the risk factors.
Smart design at home-workspace
With the number of people working from home, they are treating their homes as offices spaces. They will try to improve their home atmosphere through smart designs using IoT.
•White good items like television, air-coolers and air-conditioners, washing machines are now using IoT.
•Kitchen appliances are being smart to ease the domestic works.
•Smart designs of interior infrastructure are being adapted more to turn the home spaces into work-friendly spaces.
•Installation of smart devices like Alexa will increase.
•Smart switch, plug, lights, thermostat, smoke detectors, robotic floor cleaner, smart locks and security cameras are being installed.