Editor’s note: Rachael Meleney is Program Director for the RIoT Accelerator Program. RIoT is a Raleigh-based organization focusing on making the Internet of Things a reality.
RALEIGH – The bulk of tech news focuses on unicorn companies and huge venture capital raises. If we just follow the news headlines, we might assume that innovative startups and giant tech corps are the only ones capturing IoT opportunities. But the reality is every business from Wall Street to Main Street is impacted by big technology shifts.
So while our news might focus on unicorns, we know that tech shifts aren’t exclusive to the tech sector—they also affect main street, government, nonprofits and all commerce and industry.
We’ve seen this reality before. Pre-internet, successful businesses ran on phones (pre-smart) and mail (without an “e”), and yes, the first companies that adapted to email and internet technologies were techy startups backed by resources and new talent. But over time, every business had to adopt internet technologies, not just the cutting-edge startups. (We know this to be true; eventually every business had to adapt to email, to social media, to ecommerce…)
We’re seeing that same shift again today. We all adapted to the internet, yes, and now it’s time for the next revolution: IoT. The Internet of Things is what economists are calling the major tech shift of today—the fourth industrial revolution.
The buzzwords of our time all fall under this IoT umbrella—Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain, 5G and Machine Learning. The techiest of the tech companies are raising massive capital and getting unicorn valuations as they adopt these new technologies. But once again, main street businesses are similarly impacted.
In the near future, a restaurant or grocery store that cannot track digital chain of custody for their food all the way from the farm to the shelf or table will not be able to compete with one that does. The advances in food quality and safety will drive the market. Farmers that do not adapt to new technologies will no longer have a market to sell their crops.
A shop that does not utilize analytics-driven inventory management and predictive trends in buyer habits will be at considerable disadvantage to shops that do.
A daycare that does not use new technologies for child safety monitoring will fail to build trust with and gain customers.
Where do small businesses turn for technology support? Not everyone needs to be a technology expert to leverage the efficiencies and opportunities that the latest technologies present.
The RIoT organization was built on the premise that partners are necessary to create successful technology business in the age of IoT. This is why we operate a sponsor community of all types of companies, from tech corporates and engineering firms to universities and municipalities.
Where any business needs to start is simply with an awareness of how technology shifts will affect their business. Business owners have to be wary about—and plan for—how their market will shift with new demands from suppliers and customers and how their operations need to improve accordingly. An awareness of changes can then lead to the top priority new technologies to adopt, and who they might partner with to implement such changes.
To support this sea change, RIoT, in partnership with the City of Raleigh as part of the Impact Partner Grant program, has created Mainstreet IoT workshop for small business owners.
As a central convener in the Internet of Things community, RIoT has a broad view into the fundamental technology changes that are happening now and will continue to impact all businesses for years to come. The goal of Mainstreet IoT is to arm small businesses with an awareness of how the latest technologies will change the way they do business, and how they can stay ahead of the curve and leverage these changes for their benefit.
The big stories in tech that drive lots of flashy media coverage might be the craziest and most cutting edge tech companies with the deep-pocketed backers—but the longtail of this fourth industrial revolution of IoT is small business. Long after big exits, small business owners will still be economic necessities and drivers in their communities.
If small business owners learn to leverage today’s new technology, then they will be tomorrow’s thriving cornerstone of healthy, updated local economies.