IoT solutions are complex, and a shortage of skills in development, deployment, data mining and cloud technology makes it difficult for businesses to take advantage of all that IoT has to offer. In response, Microsoft plans to launch IoT Central, a fully managed IoT-as-a-service offering for customers and partners to assist with the deployment of IoT applications. According to Microsoft, the goal of the service is to “reduce the complexity of IoT solutions and enable IoT scenarios without requiring cloud expertise.”
Built on the Azure cloud, Microsoft IoT Central simplifies technology development, making the process easier and faster for companies to get started. Microsoft IoT Central will be available along with the company’s existing Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) solution, Azure IoT Suite, which enables more customization and full control.
As an end-to-end IoT SaaS offering, IoT Central “has the potential to dramatically increase the pace at which manufacturers can innovate and release products into the market,” says Sam George, Partner Director, Azure IoT. It lowers the barrier for solution providers and businesses to build, use and maintain a fleet of smart, connected products.
While Microsoft is positioning IoT Central for multiple vertical markets, its early target companies operate in the manufacturing and engineering industries and include companies already using its Azure IoT Suite, such as ThyssenKrupp Elevator, digital manufacturing company Sandvik Coromant and Rolls-Royce.
The Connected Factory
Along with IoT Central, Microsoft has announced several packaged solutions for easier IoT deployment. A preconfigured product, Azure IoT Suite Connected Factory, targets manufacturers and helps them connect and configure Object Linking and Embedding for Process Control (OPC) on-premise devices to the Microsoft cloud, ensuring each device has a secure connection. Microsoft has partnered with OPC companies, including Unified Automation, Softing and HPE to streamline its Connected Factory platform.
The Connected Factory solution leverages Azure IoT Hub, which provides the messaging infrastructure for distributed devices to communicate to each other via Azure. It relies on widely used IoT protocols MQTT, HTTPS and AMPQPS, as well as device authentication.
Additionally, Microsoft is beefing up its portfolio with a service for edge technology. Azure Stream Analytics allows edge devices to run real-time analytics locally, without having to send the data to Azure first.
Microsoft isn’t avoiding the challenging data mining area. IoT devices and sensors send data in a time-based fashion, and a critical requirement is to find anomalies and trends in the data. Typically, companies have had to hire partners or staff experts for data mining, and the demand for people with those skills is far greater than the supply.
To make that job easier without hiring more staff, Microsoft is launching Azure Time Series Insights, an analytics, storage and virtualization service based on the technology it uses to log billions of events on Azure daily.
Time Series Insights, currently available in preview, will allow enterprises to interactively visualize and analyze events for trends and anomalies in near real time. It also provides a global view of data spanning different event sources and enables businesses to validate IoT products. Microsoft IoT Central and the Connected Factory solution both leverage the Azure Time Series Insights service.
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