Microsoft has unveiled Azure IoT Edge, a technology which it says will extend “the intelligence and other benefits of cloud computing to edge devices.”
The Redmond-based company revealed the cloud service at its Build 2017 conference in Seattle, which builds on its existing Azure IoT Gateway offering.
The aim is to transition IoT devices from simply sending and receiving data back and forth between the cloud, to enabling them to start running cloud intelligence locally – or ‘out on the edge’.
According to Sam George, partner director of Azure IoT, enabling this kind of intelligence on IoT devices “means enabling analytics and insights to happen closer to the source of the data”. In turn, this would drive down costs, he claimed.
Plenty of options
The new platform can run on Windows and Linux, as well as devices smaller than a Raspberry Pi, with as little as 128MB of memory. Cloud services including Azure’s machine learning, stream analytics, and artificial intelligence capabilities will all be available on IoT Edge, while devices can be managed using Azure’s IoT Hub. Developers will be able to build and configure code in programming languages including C, Node.js, Java, Microsoft .NET and Python.
The most interesting aspect of Microsoft IoT Edge is that the company believes that devices are powerful enough to cope with the demands of organisations who want real-time information at their fingertips.
For years, internet-connected devices such as smartphones did not have strong enough processors to handle the ‘intelligence’ layer and therefore the processing power was shifted to the cloud.
Now, Microsoft is suggesting that mobile processors in IoT devices could rival PC processors. Therefore, it’s a logical move to bring the power directly to each and every device. For developers, this means a rethink in how applications are developed.
Microsoft isn’t first to market with an IoT service like this; in November last year, Amazon Web Services launched AWS Greengrass for IoT, a service which will allow local compute, messaging, and data caching for the IoT. Device manufacturers and chipmakers were told that they would be able to build Greengrass into devices from the outset.
Last month, Microsoft unveiled IoT Central, an IoT-as-a-service offering, designed to help enterprises who may not have the necessary in-house IoT skills, to deploy IoT projects.