The decreasing cost of IoT sensors. The increase in mobile devices. The scale of cloud-based platforms. Advances in traditional analytics as well as machine learning and artificial intelligence.
These are the trends that will enable almost every industry to adopt and create IoT solutions in the next few years. Faced with this pace of change and disruption, companies are wondering how to plan, implement, and keep up. They need the right people and the right technology to build a digital vision that will empower employees, engage customers, optimize operations, and transform products.
Microsoft has been working with customers and partners across multiple industries and regions to enable this digital transformation, and today we’re seeing a new paradigm — an intelligent cloud with an intelligent edge. Companies are building new experiences that are multi-device, multi-sense and not bound by any particular computing experience.
This week at the World Congress on Information Technology and Microsoft’s IoT Expo running concurrently in Taipei, Taiwan, Jason Zander, CVP, Microsoft Azure discussed how some companies are using new capabilities to change their business with IoT — and announced new resources Microsoft is bringing to the region to help more customers and partners realize their vision for the network edge.
A new OPC UA testing lab in Taiwan
During the event, Zander announced a new lab for Industrial IoT to enable devices and solution partners in Asia for the Open Platform Communication–Unified Architecture (OPC UA) gateway protocol, based on the Azure IoT intelligent edge framework.
OPC UA is a nonproprietary protocol that is seeing growing adoption and has become one of the standards for Industry 4.0. While it is an open protocol that enables devices to easily share data, it is also a secure protocol for IoT Hub-assisted communication that allows companies to develop new IoT solutions with the firewall closed, so production doesn’t need to stop.
In addition to empowering customers and partners in the APAC region, the announcement also furthers Microsoft’s support for the OPC Foundation—a collection of large companies who collaborate on the protocol.
Zander also announced a new “Federated Lab” model for Microsoft labs, to build up strategic alliances and bring together engineering resources for developing vertical IoT solutions.
From a business perspective, organizations who join the federated lab will be able to connect with allied parties through IoT Innovation Centers at Microsoft, to strengthen their IoT service value-chain and broaden global outreach. Through the federated lab partnership, companies can attain technical readiness training for Microsoft IoT, including Azure IoT Services, PCS, Data Analytics platform, and Cognitive Services.
Customers and partners can also join the discussion on use cases and business models for vertical IoT solutions, and share design and development guidance, reference architecture and industrial practices in collaboration with other federated lab partners.
Customers transforming their business with IoT
IoT, along with analytics, advanced AI, and machine learning are the key enablers of this transformation. Microsoft Cloud technologies are designed to bring all of these assets together, from infrastructure to PaaS to bots, and customers all over the world are using the Microsoft cloud to transform their production lines and service delivery:
- Tatung Group: With a history stretching back nearly a century, Tatung is exploring new business models with multiple IoT services across consumers, enterprises, factories, buildings, and cities. Over the last two years, Tatung has utilized Azure IoT Suite to build a shared services IoT platform with multiple vertical offerings—energy management, fleet management, retail beacons, and Tatung Smart Appliances, and is working to further improve their service level with AI-powered proactive maintenance services.
- Hershey: Ingredients like chocolate and licorice are sensitive: One or two degrees in the wrong direction could mean discarding an entire batch. Using Azure IoT and Azure Machine Learning, iconic snack brand Hershey was able to build predictive algorithms to ensure the licorice extruders on the Twizzler’s production line are performing at peak optimization, saving more than $0.5M a year. Hershey plans on expanding the solution to more expensive ingredients–such as chocolate–to help reduce waste and increase savings.
- SkyAlert: Mexico is subject to eight times more earthquakes than the U.S., but their early warning system for civilians operates only in Mexico City and relies on outdated technology. SkyAlert built its own early-warning solution using sensors strategically placed in buildings around the city and is sending the data to Azure IoT Hub for processing. The solution is 100 percent accurate and reliable, can be expanded to new cities within a matter of three months, and best of all, can alert millions of citizens to pending earthquakes up to 2 minutes before they strike – allowing more time to seek safety.
These companies join others like thyssenkrupp, RAC and Stockrose in embracing Microsoft Cloud technologies and collaborating with partners worldwide to build groundbreaking IoT solutions with intelligence at the network edge.
Only Microsoft has all the pieces to enable this transformation from the cloud, to the edge and back again, and with these announcements, we’re deepening our commitment to providing not just the technologies, but the tools and expertise to innovate with IoT.