SMEs play an important role in our economy, accounting for 99% of all UK businesses and 60% of employment in the private sector. Altogether, they are responsible for £49.6 billion of energy expenditure.
Businesses and the Government are now turning to smart technologies to cut energy spend and reduce emissions. Smart technologies have the potential to save your SME money and reduce your impact on the environment.
Smart solutions are powered by the Internet of Things (IoT) and machine-to-machine communication. Sensing technology collects information that is analysed to improve efficiency in different areas.
There is a real business case for implementing this technology. It can typically provide energy and efficiency savings of up to 30% and a two to three-year return on investment. That's a potential saving of £8,639m for SMEs in the UK.
If you want to save money and help cut emissions, here are five ways that smart technology could help:
1. Fleet management
Business costs are rising, largely driven by surging energy and petrol costs. New software is now available to analyse data from your business's fleet of vehicles. It collects details such as vehicle type, speed, the number of stops, driving routes and even driving behaviours. This data is then analysed to provide recommendations to optimise fleet usage and service routes. It can also improve safety and reduce fuel consumption.
The average potential fuel saving is between 25% and 30%, saving your business money and improving your carbon footprint. Smart fleet management could cut costs by a total of £6,051m for SMEs across the UK.
2. Smart meters
At the start of 2015, there were around 510 million smart meters installed globally. This number is set to increase to 980 million by the end of 2020.
Smart meters digitally relay your energy usage to suppliers. Energy companies then instantly provide you with information about your energy consumption and cost. This gives you the power to change your own and your employees' behaviour to reduce costs and cut emissions.
Currently, these meters are not as widely available to SMEs as they are in homes but the Government is currently working to roll them out to businesses too. Smart meters are one technology that has the potential to save all businesses money - from micro start-ups to large corporations.
3. Integrated building management systems
These are computerised control systems installed in buildings. They control and monitor processes such as ventilation, lighting, heating and security systems.
They could reduce your energy use and waste, decreasing equipment operating cost by about 15% annually and creating a greener, more sustainable working environment for you and your team.
SMEs that operate from large offices or workspaces will benefit most from these technologies. Make sure you check with your landlord before implementing any changes to your building’s infrastructure. There are huge savings to be made here. Integrated building management has the potential to cut your combined electricity and gas bill by as much as 50%. In total, SMEs could save up to £935m across all sectors.
4. Smart lighting and heating systems
Using sensors and software, smart lighting systems can remotely adjust your lighting depending on the environment – such as by automatically dimming or turning off lights in bright daylight.
Similarly, smart thermostats can control heating and cooling systems remotely. This way you can ensure your workplace is always the correct temperature without using more energy than you need. Smart heating systems could cut your gas bill by up to 29%.
Smart lights could also save your business up to 32% on your electricity bill compared to conventional lighting systems - so implementing both could make a big impact on your running costs. Savings will be highest for SMEs that occupy large offices.
5. Big data for logistics and transportation
Big data has the power to cut your costs and pave the way for a more environmentally-friendly business.
New technology processes information about your current operations; it then provides recommendations on how to streamline your fleet’s activity. You can optimise your travel routes, utilise cargo capacity, reduce costs and cut carbon emissions.
Big data for logistics and transportation looks beyond managing your fleet. Using crowdsourced and customer data, your business can reduce fuel usage and improve service efficiency. The technology can also be used to predict trends and needs such as service capacity and customer usage patterns.
So why aren’t we all using smart technology?
Fleet management, smart building management and smart meters offer great potential savings to SMEs in the UK. However, the savings available to your business will depend on its size and operations.
There are some challenges to overcome before this technology becomes commonplace in business - the greatest being the financial implications. Business owners are cautious about the costs involved and there is a lack of understanding about the potential return on investment. Some worry about making improvements to buildings they lease; others fear the disruption installing these systems could create.
But while there could be some short-term disruption, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that investing in smart technology can improve your bottom line. For small businesses, smart metering and lighting are a modest outlay that could save your business money for years to come. For larger organisations, fleet management and analysing big data to refine your business model could equate to huge savings.
One thing is certain, smart technology and the Internet of Things are set to change the way businesses operate forever.
Sponsored post. Copyright © 2017 Emily Marchant - Education and technology writer. Digital skills advocate @EMarchant_