Harvesting Wi-fi data can boost business efficiency

Digital business is unmistakably on the rise, with half of CEOs expecting their industries to be ‘unrecognisably transformed’ in five years’ time.

Considering that businesses expect to run more than 7 billion connected things by 2020, the impact is undoubtedly powering change in the workplace, placing more data than ever at our fingertips.

Sat on a goldmine of opportunity to record, track and monitor, are businesses currently applying the data in the best way to improve internal processes and better serve customers? And is information currently being gathered and analysed in a structured and strategic way to help fill some of the most critical data gaps?

With an increasingly data-centric world, comes huge opportunity for business operations. Today, Wi-Fi is proving to be a key enabler in helping organisations realise additional value from their existing network infrastructure investments. Here’s how…

Harvesting crucial insights

Whether a business collects data to help better manage stock, to understand customer behaviours or to improve operations – too often firms consider these insights in isolation. Business-wide insights are therefore missed, and the true value of a dataset won’t be achieved.

Already hosting a variety of data in a company’s applications and data clouds, businesses can cross-reference insights to unearth endless patterns and insights. Take for example the manufacturing industry. By interrogating factory-machine usage data with insights around machine breakdowns, this can help anticipate maintenance issues, protect the machines and limit potential downtime.

Organisations just need a way to connect and query the data efficiently.

In the space of a just a few years, trends such as BYOD and the phasing out of desktop machines has contributed to a surge in Wi-Fi traffic, and virtually every item of industrial equipment now has the option for WiFi connection. This firmly places it as an essential component of corporate IT infrastructure.

As such, the Wi-Fi network can itself become a source of valuable data based on how resources are being used. If each device in a business is connected and can be analysed, a virtually unlimited pool of data generated by internal processes can provide huge business value. The purchase of a commodity automatically transitions into a strategic investment, which can yield new actionable insights into the behaviour of customers, employees or other stakeholders. Over time, this data can increasingly be applied to more wide-ranging issues, such as resourcing plans, the physical layout of buildings or the acquisition of future office spaces.

Insights can improve service and operations with a long-term view to increasing turnover and profitability, but what can business apply today to start reaping the benefits?

Putting wheels in motion

Connected clouds provide the tools for transformation, by creating opportunities for businesses to turn the Internet of Things and big data hype into reality. At present, companies should look first at how they can significantly improve their own processes, leveraging big data principles to their existing information streams and systems. Even a minor first step can deliver immediate, and ultimately long-term returns.

Whether the goal is to cut operational costs or drive energy efficiencies there are countless routes on offer. Take for example that office managers can now assess footfall data to remodel a workplace environment, based on what would make efficient access to key resources. Or for a greener approach, firms can apply environmental data to automate heating and ventilation so that power is managed purely on actual usage. Installing smart machinery that can proactively manage its own maintenance cycle could make significant efficiencies and help avoid total system failure.

To assist with facilities management and proactive maintenance, Deloitte’s Amsterdam office currently uses intelligent Wi-Fi and sensors connected via a “digital ceiling” using light over Ethernet developed with Philips. Providing valuable information to employees via a dedicated smartphone app, individuals can control the environmental conditions in their workspace, boosting productivity levels. The sensors can also determine whether a room has been used and requires cleaning, reducing wasted resource. This information can then be used to plan and put insights into automated actions.

Looking to the future, the connected enterprise will be able to both collect data from a range of devices – and act on insights in real time. Collecting data from sensors is one thing, but enabling intelligent, automated action based on that data is crucial to realising its true value.

Businesses need to constantly re-evaluate where data can be collected and define how data can be used to improve the customer’s experience. Even if those changes take place in back-end operations, insights can be unlocked to better streamline operations at all levels of the company. The tools are already in an organisation’s hands, they just need to be applied.

Consider for a moment how the intelligent use of data can make a difference to simple processes. When extended throughout the supply chain, the foundations of the businesses, and perhaps even an entire industry – there is real potential for all of the above to be reformed.

The value of Wi-Fi

As we approach the digital era, it’s still the case that innovation is being driven at the edge of an enterprise - where departments are coming up with solutions to new challenges that arise day-to-day. But for maximum value, developments need to be integrated and datasets shared across the business as quickly as possible.

The solution? Ubiquitous in the workplace, the Wi-Fi network itself has become established as a key source of valuable data on how IT is being used across an organisation. As such it has the power to constantly create new competitive advantages, process efficiencies and cost savings.

After all, if an enterprise can monitor a process, it can almost certainly use technology to improve it – whether today or in the future.

Paul Hennin, Senior Director of International Marketing, Aerohive Networks

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