Microsoft looks to build out IoT business

Microsoft looks to build out IoT business

Signs deals with GE, Ecolab and Japan Airlines to provide Azure as IoT backbone

Microsoft partners with Renault-Nissan
Microsoft partners with Renault-Nissan

Microsoft has put its faith in the Internet of Things (IoT) with a series of announcements it hopes will lead to higher margins and faster growth for itself and its partners.

In a blog post coinciding with the firm’s Worldwide Partner Conference, Gavriella Schuster, corporate vice president of Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Group, said that the cloud would form the basis of its strategy as it looks to get on the IoT bandwagon.

Schuster announced that General Electric (GE) would make its industrial IoT platform Predix available on the Microsoft Azure cloud for industrial businesses.

“The move marks the first step in a broad strategic collaboration between the two companies, which will allow customers around the world to capture intelligence from their industrial assets and take advantage of Microsoft’s enterprise cloud applications,” she said.

Predix rides Microsoft’s cloud

Azure will support the growth of the entire industrial IoT ecosystem by offering Predix customers access to Azure, along with data sovereignty, hybrid capabilities, and advanced developer and data services. Additionally, GE and Microsoft plan to integrate Predix with Azure IoT Suite and Cortana Intelligence Suite along with Microsoft business applications, such as Office 365, Dynamics 365 and Power BI, in order to connect industrial data with business processes and analytics.

Schuster also said that Ecolab, a provider of water, hygiene and energy technologies and services, is teaming with Microsoft to help companies operate more sustainably with the Microsoft cloud. Through the use of Microsoft technologies, including Azure IoT Suite, Microsoft Power BI and Microsoft Dynamics 365, Ecolab will be able to collect, analyse and share data across its customers’ multiple locations worldwide.

“The result is more effective and efficient operations designed to support their ultimate goal of conserving up to 300 billion gallons by 2030 – equalling the annual drinking needs of more than 1 billion people,” said Schuster.

She added that Japan Airlines is to use Microsoft HoloLens to train flight crews and mechanics.

“HoloLens can project holograms into the environment, offering a remarkable new way to display cockpit instruments or how jet engine parts fit together, with vastly improved safety,” she said.

Azure gets IoT boost

Ian Hughes, Internet of Things analyst at 451 Research, told Internet of Business that Microsoft recently extended its existing cloud Azure platform to support IoT, with a set of components and services for applications and endpoint devices.

“The services are provided through a software called IoT Hub and additional service calls,” he said.

“Endpoint devices with suitable computation power are supported with a Windows 10 IoT Core SDK to give Universal Window Platform (UWP) function, though this is not mandatory. A range of pricing mechanisms allow both free starter kit access with a 500 device limit through to enterprise grade systems with per message tiered pricing for unlimited devices.

He added that the company is not taking a lock-in approach, “instead open-source components and standard protocols to allow customers to build their own hubs or use different endpoint operating systems, the draw being the extra function in the Azure cloud of stream analytics, machine learning, notification hubs and Power BI.”