As a result of technologies that have been developed within the last decade, wireless connectivity has produced remarkable achievements. As part of the vast new cyberworld known as the Internet of Things (IoT), smart cities are being created with totally integrated information systems, connecting everything from schools, libraries and hospitals to water supply networks and city government offices.
In much the same way, IoT technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality (VR) and 3-D printing are helping startups manufacture and produce products at a faster pace, and at lower costs than ever before.
Here are five of the most impressive IoT technologies today that are streamlining manufacturing and boosting production for startup companies:
1. Artificial intelligence (AI)
According to global professional services company Accenture, AI has the potential to double the world's yearly economic growth rates by 2035. In addition, AI is slated to boost labor productivity by as much as 40 percent.
AI includes technologies such as video analytics, learning tools and natural language processing platforms that, when integrated, can enable machines and manufacturing systems to learn, comprehend and act.
AI technology is now so integrated into our lives, it’s at play in even the most commonplace everyday tasks, such as asking Amazon's Alexa to look up information, or speaking to an AI-powered chatbox about troubleshooting. Today, manufacturing plants can use the same AI technology to automate production lines so that they can not only run without supervision (a major concern for small startups) -- but also produce items at a faster rate.
2. Virtual reality (VR)
Since its inception, virtual reality has been seen as a largely untapped entertainment platform, and there’s no denying that the medium is experiencing rapid growth right now. However, VR and immersive experiences can also be extremely useful in a business setting.
For example, in terms of online marketing, VR is an indispensible tool. It offers consumers the opportunity to experience a host of things, such as live events and location tours, from the comfort of their own homes, in a way that they normally wouldn’t have easy access to.
Moreover, VR is also invaluable in cost-effective employee training. Manufacturing employees in particular can be trained in large groups through the use of VR simulation tools.
3. 3-D printing
It’s no secret that this newly-emerging technology, which can construct anything from a dress to a vehicle, is especially beneficial for small business manufacturers. By simply creating a design, uploading it into a 3-D printer or outsourcing to a printing company website, and hitting the "print" button – your item can either be printed, or manufactured on premises, or can be shipped to you.
If printing on premises, this eliminates the need for a middleman in the manufacturing process. If outsourcing, the benefit is that you’re able to eliminate the cost of maintaining and operating machinery and equipment, making small business production more cost-effective than ever before.
4. IoT analytics
Automotive manufacturers are already using IoT analytics to create data for every aspect of the manufacturing process. When a construction fault is discovered, data can be immediately accessed to identify the problem. While converting to digital analytics can be costly, the ROI makes the conversion worthwhile thanks to better machine monitoring and higher yield.
5. Wireless sensor networks
These autonomous sensors can monitor physical/environmental conditions, including sound, pressure and temperature. They can also be placed within machinery systems to monitor functionality, check wiring and calibrations and fine tune delicate mechanisms, thus mitigating the risk of breakdowns and eliminating hours of manpower.
While the above business technologies are making strides in the world of manufacturing and streamlining small business processes at a quick clip, we’re still in the infancy stages. Once we’re able to fully harness the power of AI, VR and IoT, we will not only see advances in the professional world, but also consumers’ private lives.