Microsoft once again will have a major presence at Digital Factory Hall at Hannover Messe 2018, the world’s largest annual manufacturing exhibition in Hannover, Germany. Our booth is filled with examples of the great work our customers and partners are doing, and we’ll also have new Azure IoT innovations on display. We continue to make advances in IoT at a rapid pace. Here are our latest updates that matter to manufacturers:
- Automatic Discovery Service for Connected Factory: We’ve added several components to our industrial IoT reference architecture to simplify onboarding and securing industrial assets, which significantly reduces administration costs. Available as open source in Azure IoT Suite Connected Factory, the new components run on Azure IoT Edge and as micro-services on Azure and include an OPC UA Global Discovery Server interface for compatibility with existing clients and servers.
- Azure IoT Hub and Device Provisioning Service on Azure Stack: We’re working on bringing Azure IoT Hub and IoT Hub Device Provisioning Service to Azure Stack, extending the reach of Azure to on-premises environments. This will allow operators to deploy and manage their IoT devices as well as collect and process real-time data within their facility.
- Azure Sphere: We’ve made strong progress as an industry securing capable IoT devices, but these devices only represent a small fraction of the 20 billion devices expected to be connected by 2020. Last week at the RSA security conference, we made an even stronger commitment by announcing a preview of Azure Sphere, the first holistic platform to provide industrial-grade security for connected microcontroller (MCU) devices, 9 billion of which are expected to ship this year in machines ranging from home appliances to industrial equipment in factories.
- Azure Time Series Insights: In response to manufacturers’ requests, Microsoft is planning a new update to Times Series Insights (TSI), a service that adds massively scalable storage and data archiving capabilities. The update will significantly reduce storage costs while allowing operational technology teams to easily uncover long-term trends.
These updates complement one another, providing more value for manufacturers that are setting the industrial agenda by investing in IoT solutions. The updates, along with Azure IoT Central, our IoT software-as-a-service offering, give manufacturers even more choice in how they connect, monitor, and manage their IoT assets at scale.
Automatic Discovery Service for Connected Factory
We continue our efforts to improve and simplify security with our commitment to the OPC UA interoperability standard developed and maintained by OPC Foundation. We’re taking a very active role within the foundation and have increased our participation in the working groups. We’ve created several new Azure IoT Edge modules including OPC Twin and Global Discovery Server that automatically detect, register, and perform a security audit on industrial assets—giving operators the option to automatically configure the security of those assets leveraging OPC UA. Since the data created is stored in the IoT Hub Device Registry and Azure Key Vault, the solution is the world’s first Global Discovery Server.
With OPC Twin and Global Discovery Server integrated into Azure IoT Suite Connected Factory, operators are no longer required to manually exchange OPC UA certificates for each client and server on the factory floor. Instead, they can manage these security settings on a global scale using a cloud-based interface, saving time while greatly enhancing security. OPC Twin also allows operators to securely interact with each OPC UA asset in their factory from the Azure cloud.
Azure IoT Hub and Device Provisioning Service on Azure Stack
IoT operators can’t always rely on an internet connection to run mission-critical manufacturing processes. To address latency and connectivity requirements, and specific regulatory and compliance policies, we’re announcing that we will make Azure IoT Hub and IoT Hub Device Provisioning Service available on Azure Stack. This will enable deployment of IoT solutions for managing IoT devices and processing real-time data within local facilities. Azure Stack will enable IoT scenarios with intermittent connectivity, disconnected operations for remote sites, and applications that cannot send data to the public cloud because of regulatory requirements.
These additions will provide more deployment choices for manufacturers. For global deployments, customers may need to host different regional instances of the same application in Azure or Azure Stack, depending on their business and technical needs. Customers also have the option of connecting Azure Stack to Azure for hybrid solutions so they can benefit from the local capabilities of Azure Stack, while obtaining a global view across multiple instances or performing advanced analytics in the Azure cloud at scale.
As more consumer products, industrial devices, and manufacturing services become connected, a tiny chip called an MCU will be available in nearly every one of them. No larger than a thumbnail, these chips will play a vital role in device performance, hosting essential functions such as compute, memory, and storage. Microsoft recently announced Azure Sphere, a platform for securing and powering this new class of IoT devices at the intelligent edge. Security is built into the chip’s silicon alongside processing power five times that of traditional MCUs. Azure Sphere also includes a highly secure operating system designed specifically for IoT as well as a turnkey cloud security service that will monitor and detect threats, and automatically update security protocols—providing lifetime protection for every Azure Sphere device. As MCU chips proliferate, Azure Sphere will allow manufacturers to produce the next generation of connected devices while increasing IoT security at every level.
Azure Time Series Insights
Historically, time series data—or sensor readings taken at intervals—has been challenging to store, analyze, and visualize. Azure TSI simplifies all of this, putting meaningful insights into the hands of manufacturers by adding massively scalable storage and data archiving capabilities—creating a single place for the long-term storage of this time series data in the cloud. Manufacturers will be able to move their times series data to an IoT cloud platform where this information can be more securely stored and managed, lowering storage costs while helping them obtain meaningful insights that transform their business.
TSI also adds a device-based or “tag-based” user experience that makes it easy and familiar for process engineers and asset operators to get value from TSI’s visualization experience. Organizations can add hierarchy and context to their data, enriching it so users can easily find and compare their devices and tags for further trend analysis. TSI has been integrated with Microsoft Power BI, making it easy for industrial systems operators to visualize their time series data so they can take informed action. TSI can also be connected to Azure Machine Learning Studio and other third-party machine learning tools such as Jupyter Notebook and Apache Zeppelin, and can be used in conjunction with batch analytics tools like Azure Databricks and other Apache Hadoop and Apache Spark ecosystem services.
Partner and customer momentum
A strong partner ecosystem is critical to the future of IoT, and today our partnerships took yet another step forward as Siemens announced its IoT ecosystem MindSphere is now available on the Microsoft Azure cloud platform, giving our joint customers the ability to make their IoT applications available on our cloud. MindSphere can connect assets to Microsoft’s intelligent cloud services, allowing industry applications to operate with intermittent connectivity, and provide local feedback loops, cognitive services, edge analytics, and artificial intelligence on the edge. The preview of MindSphere for Microsoft Azure is available for select customers and partners, and will follow a continuous development and deployment model. MindSphere for Microsoft Azure is planned to be generally available in the calendar 4th quarter of 2018.
The open platform as a service infrastructure will also empower partners to develop and deliver new applications. Our Azure cloud is used by IoT platforms from leading automation companies including ABB, Emerson, GE, Honeywell, PTC, Rockwell Automation, SAP, Schneider Electric, and Yokogawa. We’ve also established one of the largest partner ecosystems in the world, working with more than 8,500 cloud partners across the globe.
Industrial IoT is a big bet for us because we can help manufacturers improve connectivity flows and speed, address complexity issues, and heighten security and compliance. For example, ABB, a global leader in industrial technology, is leveraging Microsoft’s Azure cloud technologies for its ABB Ability™ platform, one of the largest Industrial IoT platforms in the industry. At HMI ABB will showcase its ABB Ability Ellipse™ platform. Built on Microsoft AI technology, this platform empowers organizations to optimize Enterprise Asset Management and automatically detect anomalies to minimize maintenance costs across their customer’s install base.
Likewise, Bayer’s Environmental Science Business Unit is digitally transforming decades-old pest control practices for trapping rodents with a smarter digital mousetrap that provides remote rodent monitoring built on top of the Azure IoT platform. The solution collects information from sensors installed within each trap within a facility and immediately alerts pest management professionals when rodents are present so they can optimize the effectiveness of pest control programs.
These manufacturers join many others that are turning to the Azure IoT platform because of Microsoft’s holistic approach to security, our commitment to standards and interoperability, and our powerful yet simple solutions.
Come see us
At HMI this week, we’ll be showcasing our latest IoT innovations as well as the groundbreaking work of many customers and partners that are using our technology to digitally transform their businesses. If you plan to attend, be sure to stop by Hall 7, Stand C40 to say hello, see our demonstrations, and give us your feedback.