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The Internet of Things: What It Is and What It Means for the Franchise Industry

Mike Mack

It’s no secret that the world we live in is getting smaller every day due in large part to the technology that plays a more important role in our lives as time marches on. Statistically speaking, almost 80% of adults in the United States now carry a device in their pockets all day long that is more powerful than the technology that ushered the space program into existence in the 1950s and 1960s – their smartphones.

While connected technology and an important concept called “The Internet of Things” has many positive implications for our personal lives, it is the franchise industry in particular that stands to benefit the most for a number of interesting reasons.

What is “The Internet of Things?”

If you take a look around your office, you probably see very few pieces of electronic equipment that AREN’T connected to the Internet in some way. From your cell phone to your tablet to the wireless printer connected to your desktop computer, all of these devices are essentially connected to the World Wide Web 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The Internet of Things is a concept that uses this connection to its advantage to not only collect massive amounts of valuable data, but to exchange data with one another for the benefit of the end user.

At its core, the “Internet of Things” is a concept that utilizes software, sensors, network connectivity and other attributes to exchange data, providing the user with a host of analytical insights that they wouldn’t have had under other circumstances.

What Does “The Internet of Things” Mean for the Franchise Industry?

The life of a franchise industry professional can be a stressful one, particularly when it comes to geography. By the very nature of how franchises operate, an individual is often in charge of multiple locations within a particular region and it is unfortunately impossible to physically be in more than one place at one time.

Thanks to the “Internet of Things,” however, it now essentially IS possible to be in more than one place at one time, digitally speaking. Sensors embedded in electronic equipment at the warehouse level can be used to feed information about supply chain networks to a single location, allowing a person to instantly see where particular items in an inventory are located, where they’re going and how long they’ve been there. This technology can be used to remotely monitor activities and even employee engagement on a large scale, allowing a person to get a significantly larger amount of work done with a significantly smaller amount of effort on their part.

“The Internet of Things” also has a number of positive implications for the franchise industry regarding the level of actionable intelligence that it can provide. Consider the example of a franchise operator trying to improve ordering by only stocking the most popular items in a particular retail location. Using the actionable intelligence provided by the “Internet of Things,” it’s not possible to see how long Item A has been on store shelves, what type of velocity Item A is enjoying (ie: how fast it’s selling), how often a franchise operator orders Item A and more. Using this, it is now easier than ever to understand exactly what customers want and what they’re willing to pay for it, dramatically streamlining the ordering process by removing guesswork from the equation and improving things like margin and even the store’s bottom line at the same time.

The best part of all is that all of these benefits require very little effort beyond the implementation phase from franchise industry professionals. Once the sensors are in place and the larger network infrastructure has been constructed, these “things” are essentially autonomous – they’re constantly collecting information and sharing it with every other component in the setup, thus putting all of this and more at your fingertips at a moment’s notice. It’s the type of benefit that franchise industry professionals can no longer afford to ignore.

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