Customers are shaping industries in groundbreaking ways: How the cloud is democratizing digital to unlock a new wave of innovation

Man standing in field of crops
The USDA is using data and AI to address the critical need to sustainably feed a global population, potentially revolutionizing how food is grown. (Photo by Dan DeLong)

I have been talking a lot this year about democratizing digital. It is about empowering everyone to have a digital experience and enabling everyone to participate in the digital economy. This trend is large-scale, with broad business and social impact. This was clear earlier this month at the Microsoft Government Leaders Summit in Washington, D.C. There, I met with federal agency and department leaders to discuss how cloud computing and artificial intelligence (AI) are delivering new levels of innovation and impacting entire markets and industries.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) offers one of the best examples of the power of data and AI to transform agricultural productivity through the FarmBeats initiative. By using data from sensors, drones, satellites and tractors, farmers hope to reduce costs, increase yields and grow crops that are more sustainable. The USDA is piloting FarmBeats at its largest research facility — a 7,000-acre farm in Beltsville, Maryland, with plans to expand the technology to more than 200 farms in the national research network, ranging from small family farms to large commercial operations.

Another example of government innovation is taking place within the Department of the Interior’s (DOI) Office of Aviation Services. The DOI is increasing the speed, accuracy and scalability of data captured from over 500 million acres of land from its unmanned aviation systems — more commonly known as drones. By leveraging Power BI and PowerApps, employees can build tools and custom applications to quickly gain insights from data captured during critical missions (like natural disaster relief).

Scientist looking at tablet
Novartis is bringing together deep bioscience and AI to help patients worldwide, reinventing treatment discovery and development.

Health care is one of the most important areas of focus as we talk about democratizing digital. To support this, we have announced three important partnerships, each aimed at solving pressing challenges facing doctors, researchers and patients. Yesterday we announced our seven-year partnership with Humana to develop predictive solutions for personalized and secure patient support. Using the Microsoft Azure cloud, Azure AI and Microsoft 365, Humana will also be able to equip home health care workers with real-time access to information and voice technology to better understand key factors that influence patient health.

We also announced last week a partnership with health care solutions provider Nuance to transform the doctor-patient experience through the delivery of ambient clinical intelligence technologies (ACI). By using speech-recognition technology and advanced conversational AI with Azure, doctors will have more time to focus on meaningful conversations with their patients. Once a patient gives consent to the ACI system, the clinical documentation writes itself — all while meeting the security and privacy requirements of this regulated industry.

Novartis will bring Microsoft AI capabilities together with its deep expertise in life sciences to address specific challenges that make the process of discovering, developing and delivering new medicines so costly and time-consuming. Today, it typically takes 10 years and more than $2 billion to develop and bring to market a new prescription drug. Because streamlining this process could save so many lives, our goal is to empower Novartis associates at each step of drug development to use AI to unlock the insights hidden in vast amounts of data, even if they are not data scientists by training.

People inside a film set
Technicolor is empowering creative professionals to collaborate together in the cloud from anywhere in the world.

I am excited to see the cloud revolutionizing the media and entertainment industry, empowering creators to tell stories more collaboratively. Studios and broadcasters around the world are looking to the cloud to unlock new, more efficient ways to create, produce and distribute content. We are working with The Walt Disney Studios, as a StudioLAB innovation partner, to pilot new ways to use the Microsoft Azure cloud platform to accelerate innovation in the production and postproduction process — or from “scene to screen.” Technicolor is moving Pulse, its cutting-edge data asset management platform, to Azure to empower content creators to quickly and easily organize and access their work from anywhere in the world. Plus, in India, we are collaborating with Eros Now to build a next-generation platform on Azure, strengthening the company’s position as a leading provider of online video streaming entertainment for viewers around the world.

Spices and ingredients in spoons
Majans is one of the first manufacturers in the world to deploy the IoT intelligence capabilities of Dynamics 365 Supply Chain, capturing salt, flavor and moisture readings from its production line.

Seeing the industry momentum above reinforces the fact that every company can be a technology company, and everyone can benefit from a digital experience to become more agile, efficient and data-driven. Ste. Michelle Wine Estates is creating a holistic consumer experience by reimagining the shopping journey with Dynamics 365 Commerce, bridging physical and digital channels. The leading Australian snack food business Majans is using Dynamics 365 AI-driven insights to create a digital feedback loop for production and distribution on a global scale, bringing the company closer to its factory of the future.

To keep inspiring innovation, we continue to expand and deepen our relationships with many companies — including other technology providers. We are working with Oracle to streamline workflows that enable customers to use AI-powered voice within Microsoft Teams to access Oracle Cloud Applications. Two days ago, we announced an extensive go-to-market partnership with SAP to continue powering business transformation for enterprise customers, making it easier to migrate to the cloud. This exciting milestone is another step toward helping our customers reduce complexities and minimize cost while leveraging best-in-class technologies.  Further, we are building upon our long-standing partnership with Samsung to combine our intelligent experiences with Samsung’s devices to help people be more productive on any device, anywhere.

Across all these examples, I am amazed by the scale and impact of our customers’ digital ambitions — from government to health care to media and beyond. I look forward to seeing our customers’ innovations solve even more business, industry and societal challenges around the world.

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