Tech giant Microsoft is looking to support the next wave of Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI) start-ups with the opening of a lab in Munich.
The center, set to open in April, will provide a select group of promising connected technology start-ups with the resources to help them develop their technologies, according to the company.
This is the latest center that the company has opened in recent years, following openings in Redmond, Washington and Shenzhen, China.
Each center is equipped with the resources to let companies bring their early-stage products to life through rapid design, prototyping and testing.
An IDC survey last year of 1,872 companies in Western Europe found that while more than a third were using IoT technologies, more than half of those were only collecting or analyzing data, without using it to improve production.
The IoT Insider experience
In addition to providing companies with access to the latest technologies, Microsoft experts are also on hand to provide assistance.
Replicating the model at work in its US and China counterparts, the Munich facility will offer 24/7 access to companies and be split into different areas based on their needs, products and expertise.
Although there’s an emphasis on collaboration, there’s private office space available for companies that want to spend time on idea generation, designing and problem solving.
Before companies get to work in the lab, Microsoft engineers sit down with them to better understand their goals, problems and product architectures.
This allows them to come up with a ‘sprint plan’, designed to tailor the experience so that participating companies are as productive and agile as possible.
There are specialists in areas such sensor hardware, machine learning, artificial intelligence and cloud computing, so that the hub can cater for a variety of different start-ups.
The labs are available at no cost to companies of all sizes, and stints run for around one to three weeks, depending on their projects.
“Companies have said their three weeks in the lab was worth four, five or six months of coding on their own,” said Cyra Richardson, Microsoft general manager of IoT business development.
Read more: IBM opens Watson IoT headquarters in Munich
Microsoft is working with a handful of ecosystem partners to support the start-ups. Networking giant Cisco is one of them. The company is supplying the lab with its IoT hardware and systems.
Vikas Butaney, general manager of Cisco IoT Connectivity, said: “Customers can get a first-hand experience of the combined power of Cisco IoT and Microsoft Azure IoT platform to develop innovative use cases in the IoT Insider lab.
“Customers can now securely connect devices, use intelligence at the edge and with Azure IoT achieve their business outcomes.”
Microsoft has also been working with the OPC Foundation, an industry consortium that creates and maintains standards for open connectivity of industrial automation devices and systems, to create common standards for the lab. Stefan Hoppe, vice president of the OPC Foundation, said: “Microsoft’s Insider Lab in Munich provides customers with various technologies and technical experience to help connect and digitize their businesses.
“Microsoft is the strongest open source contributor for OPC Unified Architecture (OPC UA), which enables industrial compatibility.
“Microsoft’s open source integration of the OPC UA code with Microsoft Azure IoT allows companies to bring millions of devices and apps to the public cloud and manage them with one single application – regardless of what operating system they’re running.”