Even with self-driving cars making headlines, most consumers still seem unaware that the Internet of Things (IoT) is going to change their lives. Even the technically challenged will experience it every time they visit a friend or a public institution like the DMV. Your company may have little choice but to get onboard now. Just as social media, cloud computing, and the internet itself transformed business, smart devices that save time and money are driving innovation and opportunities. Here’s how this technology will impact your organization.

1. Everything gets logged

Smart devices feeding their information to computer applications can be used to track everything that goes on for every second they’re up and running. Busy hospitals or huge distribution warehouses will be automatically tracking equipment and even logging maintenance requests via smart chips and bar code scanner data shared over Wi-Fi. You’ll know where every piece of equipment is, what items are being used or produced, and what’s been shipped. You’ll know in almost real-time every product that’s been sold in every one of your hundreds of store locations, who sold it, and unless cash is used, who bought it. This can help your business improve operations and sales, quickly locate equipment and products even in transit, reduce shoplifting, generate up-to-date reports, and much more.

2. More data

With billions of smart devices already exchanging information over Wi-Fi, companies will be swamped with data from the Internet of Things. Sensors, keypads, and memory chips will be constantly collecting information on how smart refrigerators or programmable security cameras are being used. This can help your company improve products to meet real-use conditions, but it also means a flood of real-time information. Almost all data stores will become “big data” – very big. That requires new methods of consolidating and analyzing it so that it can be made available to marketers, strategists, sales, designers, engineers, customer support, and more. Companies making smart products will thrive only according to how well they use this mountain of data.

3. Get there faster and safer

They may not be the norm on the streets of the US yet, but in China a driverless bus successfully ran its route through crowded city streets. The technology works, and there’s no reason why it can’t work for you. Soon you’ll have driverless forklifts, maintenance vehicles, and delivery carts, all controlled by sensors, beacons, Wi-Fi, and computers to keep from running into each other, product, or human beings. They can run on schedule or on demand. And when the government does finally approve self-driving vehicles as street legal, your trucks will be running routes determined by computers for maximum economy of time and fuel. You can also consider drones as commercial vehicles. Long before Amazon started deliveries, they were used to upload footage for inspections and surveying, faster and more safely than any human could.

4. Smart grids

Almost anything can become a smart device. They can do more than gather data. A company in Idaho is now testing panels that it’s hoped will one day fill the streets. These are essentially big acrylic wafers that can support a truck, yet harboring LEDs and interconnected circuits so that they can monitor traffic, and work in sync to display warning messages or other alerts to drivers. They even have heating elements to melt ice and snow. It would cost billions to put them into place over the country’s highways, but how about a few strategically located in your office or manufacturing facility? They can alert and inform employees, guide visitors, or be outfitted with other technologies for taking pictures, recording sounds, temperatures, and weights, detecting intruders, and more.

5. Remote management

Today’s smart homes can be managed via smartphones. You can send a signal from across town to start the washer, turn on the lights, feed the dog, turn up the AC, and see who’s at the door. The same methods can be used for business. Just as it does for homeowners, mobile apps can let business leaders check on CCTV cameras, join meetings, view performance dashboards, create and share documents, initiate automated processes, track vehicles, time sheets, and payroll from almost anywhere in the world and at any time of day. This also helps to network with sales people or vendors when you’re away from the office. Remote management maximizes your involvement with a waste of time and travel.

All it takes is some innovative programming with existing technology, and essentially any of your equipment, from coffee makers to tractor trailer trucks, can become a smart device. Gathering heaps of data can suggest improvements on everything your organization does. But the phrase “Internet of Things” is a bit of a misnomer; these devices are in place, ultimately, to communicate with you.