Azure Security Center for IoT RSA 2020 announcements

We announced the general availability of Azure Security Center for IoT in July 2019. Since then, we have seen a lot of interest from both our customers and partners. Our team has been working on enhancing the capabilities we offer our customers to secure their IoT solutions. As our team gets ready to attend the RSA conference next week, we are sharing the new capabilities we have in Azure Security Center for IoT.

As organizations pursue digital transformation by connecting vital equipment or creating new connected products, IoT deployments will get bigger and more common. In fact, the International Data Corporation (IDC) forecasts that IoT will continue to grow at double-digit rates until IoT spending surpasses $1 trillion in 2022. As these IoT deployments come online, newly connected devices will expand the attack surface available to attackers, creating opportunities to target the valuable data generated by IoT. Organizations are challenged with securing their IoT deployments end-to-end from the devices to applications and data, also including the connections between the two.

Why Azure Security Center for IoT?

Azure Security Center for IoT provides threat protection and security posture management designed for securing entire IoT deployments, including Microsoft and 3rd party devices. Azure Security Center for IoT is the first IoT security service from a major cloud provider that enables organizations to prevent, detect, and help remediate potential attacks on all the different components that make up an IoT deployment—from small sensors, to edge computing devices and gateways, to Azure IoT Hub, and on to the compute, storage, databases, and AI or machine learning workloads that organizations connect to their IoT deployments. This end-to-end protection is vital to secure IoT deployments.

Added support for Azure RTOS operating system

Azure RTOS is a comprehensive suite of real-time operating systems (RTOS) and libraries for developing embedded real-time IoT applications on multi control unit (MCU) devices. It includes Azure RTOS ThreadX, a leading RTOS with the off-the-shelf support for most leading chip architectures and embedded development tools. Azure Security Center for IoT extends support for Azure RTOS operating system in addition to Linux (Ubuntu, Debian) and Windows 10 IoT core operating systems. Azure RTOS will be shipped with a built-in security module that will cover common threats on real-time operating system devices. The offering includes detection of malicious network activities, device behavior baselining based on custom alerts, and recommendations that will help to improve the security hygiene of the device.

New Azure Sentinel connector

As information technology, operational technology, and the Internet of Things converge, customers are faced with rising threats.

Azure Security Center for IoT announces the availability of an Azure Sentinel connector that provides onboarding of IoT data workloads into Sentinel from Azure IoT Hub-managed deployments. This integration provides investigation capabilities on IoT assets from Azure Sentinel allowing security pros to combine IoT security data with data from across the organization for artificial intelligence or advanced analysis. With Azure Sentinel connector you can now monitor alerts across all your IoT Hub deployments, act upon potential risks, inspect and triage your IoT Incidents, and run investigations to track attacker’s lateral movement within your network.

With this new announcement, Azure Sentinel is the first security information and event management (SIEM) with native IoT support, allowing SecOps and analysts to identify threats in the complex converged networks.

Microsoft Intelligent Security Association partnership program for IoT security vendors

Through partnering with members of the Microsoft Intelligent Security Association, Microsoft is able to leverage a vast knowledge pool to defend against a world of increasing IoT threats in enterprise, healthcare, manufacturing, energy, building management systems, transportation, smart cities, smart homes, and more. Azure Security Center for IoT’s simple onboarding flow connects solutions, like Attivo Networks, CyberMDX, CyberX, Firedome, and SecuriThings—enabling you to protect your managed and unmanaged IoT devices, view all security alerts, reduce your attack surface with security posture recommendations, and run unified reports in a single pane of glass.

For more information on the Microsoft Intelligent Security Association partnership program for IoT security vendors check out our tech community blog.

Availability on government regions

Starting on March 1, 2020, Azure Security Center for IoT will be available on USGov Virginia and USGov Arizona regions.

Organizations can monitor their entire IoT solution, stay ahead of evolving threats, and fix configuration issues before they become threats. When combined with Microsoft’s secure-by-design devices, services, and the expertise we share with you and your partners, Azure Security Center for IoT provides an important way to reduce the risk of IoT while achieving your business goals.

To learn more about Azure Security Center for IoT please visit our documentation page. To learn more about our new partnerships please visit the Microsoft Intelligent Security Association page. Upgrade to Azure Security Center Standard to benefit from IoT security.

Microsoft Connected Vehicle Platform: trends and investment areas

This post was co-authored by the extended Azure Mobility Team.

The past year has been eventful for a lot of reasons. At Microsoft, we’ve expanded our partnerships, including Volkswagen, LG Electronics, Faurecia, TomTom, and more, and taken the wraps off new thinking such as at CES, where we recently demonstrated our approach to in-vehicle compute and software architecture.

Looking ahead, areas that were once nominally related now come into sharper focus as the supporting technologies are deployed and the various industry verticals mature. The welcoming of a new year is a good time to pause and take in what is happening in our industry and in related ones with an aim to developing a view on where it’s all heading.

In this blog, we will talk about the trends that we see in connected vehicles and smart cities and describe how we see ourselves fitting in and contributing.

Trends

Mobility as a Service (Maas)

MaaS (sometimes referred to as Transportation as a Service, or TaaS) is about people getting to goods and services and getting those goods and services to people. Ride-hailing and ride-sharing come to mind, but so do many other forms of MaaS offerings such as air taxis, autonomous drone fleets, and last-mile delivery services. We inherently believe that completing a single trip—of a person or goods—will soon require a combination of passenger-owned vehicles, ride-sharing, ride-hailing, autonomous taxis, bicycle-and scooter-sharing services transporting people on land, sea, and in the air (what we refer to as “multi-modal routing”). Service offerings that link these different modes of transportation will be key to making this natural for users.

With Ford, we are exploring how quantum algorithms can help improve urban traffic congestion and develop a more balanced routing system. We’ve also built strong partnerships with TomTom for traffic-based routing as well as with AccuWeather for current and forecast weather reports to increase awareness of weather events that will occur along the route. In 2020, we will be integrating these routing methods together and making them available as part of the Azure Maps service and API. Because mobility constitutes experiences throughout the day across various modes of transportation, finding pickup locations, planning trips from home and work, and doing errands along the way, Azure Maps ties the mobility journey with cloud APIs and iOS and Android SDKs to deliver in-app mobility and mapping experiences. Coupled with the connected vehicle architecture of integration with federated user authentication, integration with the Microsoft Graph, and secure provisioning of vehicles, digital assistants can support mobility end-to-end. The same technologies can be used in moving goods and retail delivery systems.

The pressure to become profitable will force changes and consolidation among the MaaS providers and will keep their focus on approaches to reducing costs such as through autonomous driving. Incumbent original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are expanding their businesses to include elements of car-sharing to continue evolving their businesses as private car ownership is likely to decline over time.

Connecting vehicles to the cloud

We refer holistically to these various signals that can inform vehicle routing (traffic, weather, available modalities, municipal infrastructure, and more) as “navigation intelligence.” Taking advantage of this navigation intelligence will require connected vehicles to become more sophisticated than just logging telematics to the cloud.

The reporting of basic telematics (car-to-cloud) is barely table-stakes; over-the-air updates (OTA, or cloud-to-car) will become key to delivering a market-competitive vehicle, as will command-and-control (more cloud-to-car, via phone apps). Forward-thinking car manufacturers deserve a lot of credit here for showing what’s possible and for creating in consumers the expectation that the appearance of new features in the car after it is purchased isn’t just cool, but normal.

Future steps include the integration of in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) with voice assistants that blend the in- and out-of-vehicle experiences, updating AI models for in-market vehicles for automated driving levels one through five, and of course pre-processing the telemetry at the edge in order to better enable reinforcement learning in the cloud as well as just generally improving services.

Delivering value from the cloud to vehicles and phones

As vehicles become more richly connected and deliver experiences that overlap with what we’ve come to expect from our phones, an emerging question is, what is the right way to make these work together? Projecting to the IVI system of the vehicle is one approach, but most agree that vehicles should have a great experience without a phone present.

Separately, phones are a great proxy for “a vehicle” in some contexts, such as bicycle sharing, providing speed, location, and various other probe data, as well as providing connectivity (as well as subsidizing the associated costs) for low-powered electronics on the vehicle.

This is probably a good time to mention 5G. The opportunity 5G brings will have a ripple effect across industries. It will be a critical foundation for the continued rise of smart devices, machines, and things. They can speak, listen, see, feel, and act using sensitive sensor technology as well as data analytics and machine learning algorithms without requiring “always on” connectivity. This is what we call the intelligent edge. Our strategy is to enable 5G at the edge through cloud partnerships, with a focus on security and developer experience.

Optimizations through a system-of-systems approach

Connecting things to the cloud, getting data into the cloud, and then bringing the insights gained through cloud-enabled analytics back to the things is how optimizations in one area can be brought to bear in another area. This is the essence of digital transformation. Vehicles gathering high-resolution imagery for improving HD maps can also inform municipalities about maintenance issues. Accident information coupled with vehicle telemetry data can inform better PHYD (pay how you drive) insurance plans as well as the deployment of first responder infrastructure to reduce incident response time.

As the vehicle fleet electrifies, the demand for charging stations will grow. The way in-car routing works for an electric car is based only on knowledge of existing charging stations along the route—regardless of the current or predicted wait-times at those stations. But what if that route could also be informed by historical use patterns and live use data of individual charging stations in order to avoid arriving and having three cars ahead of you? Suddenly, your 20-minute charge time is actually a 60-minute stop, and an alternate route would have made more sense, even if, on paper, it’s more miles driven.

Realizing these kinds of scenarios means tying together knowledge about the electrical grid, traffic patterns, vehicle types, and incident data. The opportunities here for brokering the relationships among these systems are immense, as are the challenges to do so in a way that encourages the interconnection and sharing while maintaining privacy, compliance, and security.

Laws, policies, and ethics

The past several years of data breaches and elections are evidence of a continuously evolving nature of the security threats that we face. That kind of environment requires platforms that continuously invest in security as a fundamental cost of doing business.

Laws, regulatory compliance, and ethics must figure into the design and implementation of our technologies to as great a degree as goals like performance and scalability do. Smart city initiatives, where having visibility into the movement of people, goods, and vehicles is key to doing the kinds of optimizations that increase the quality of life in these cities, will confront these issues head-on.

Routing today is informed by traffic conditions but is still fairly “selfish:” routing for “me” rather than for “we.” Cities would like a hand in shaping traffic, especially if they can factor in deeper insights such as the types of vehicles on the road (sending freight one way versus passenger traffic another way), whether or not there is an upcoming sporting event or road closure, weather, and so on.

Doing this in a way that is cognizant of local infrastructure and the environment is what smart cities initiatives are all about.

For these reasons, we have joined the Open Mobility Foundation. We are also involved with Stanford’s Digital Cities Program, the Smart Transportation Council, the Alliance to Save Energy by the 50×50 Transportation Initiative, and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development.

With the Microsoft Connected Vehicle Platform (MCVP) and an ecosystem of partners across the industry, Microsoft offers a consistent horizontal platform on top of which customer-facing solutions can be built. MCVP helps mobility companies accelerate the delivery of digital services across vehicle provisioning, two-way network connectivity, and continuous over-the-air updates of containerized functionality. MCVP provides support for command-and-control, hot/warm/cold path for telematics, and extension hooks for customer/third-party differentiation. Being built on Azure, MCVP then includes the hyperscale, global availability, and regulatory compliance that comes as part of Azure. OEMs and fleet operators leverage MCVP as a way to “move up the stack” and focus on their customers rather than spend resources on non-differentiating infrastructure.

Innovation in the automotive industry

At Microsoft, and within the Azure IoT organization specifically, we have a front-row seat on the transformative work that is being done in many different industries, using sensors to gather data and develop insights that inform better decision-making. We are excited to see these industries on paths that are trending to converging, mutually beneficial paths. Our colleague Sanjay Ravi shares his thoughts from an automotive industry perspective in this great article.

Turning our attention to our customer and partner ecosystem, the traction we’ve gotten across the industry has been overwhelming:

The Volkswagen Automotive Cloud will be one of the largest dedicated clouds of its kind in the automotive industry and will provide all future digital services and mobility offerings across its entire fleet. More than 5 million new Volkswagen-specific brand vehicles are to be fully connected on Microsoft’s Azure cloud and edge platform each year. The Automotive Cloud subsequently will be rolled out on all Group brands and models.

Cerence is working with us to integrate Cerence Drive products with MCVP. This new integration is part of Cerence’s ongoing commitment to delivering a superior user experience in the car through interoperability across voice-powered platforms and operating systems. Automakers developing their connected vehicle solutions on MCVP can now benefit from Cerence’s industry-leading conversational AI, in turn delivering a seamless, connected, voice-powered experience to their drivers.

Ericsson, whose Connected Vehicle Cloud connects more than 4 million vehicles across 180 countries, is integrating their Connected Vehicle Cloud with Microsoft’s Connected Vehicle Platform to accelerate the delivery of safe, comfortable, and personalized connected driving experiences with our cloud, AI, and IoT technologies.

LG Electronics is working with Microsoft to build its automotive infotainment systems, building management systems and other business-to-business collaborations. LG will leverage Microsoft Azure cloud and AI services to accelerate the digital transformation of LG’s B2B business growth engines, as well as Automotive Intelligent Edge, the in-vehicle runtime environment provided as part of MCVP.

Global technology company ZF Friedrichshafen is transforming into a provider of software-driven mobility solutions, leveraging Azure cloud services and developer tools to promote faster development and validation of connected vehicle functions on a global scale.

Faurecia is collaborating with Microsoft to develop services that improve comfort, wellness, and infotainment as well as bring digital continuity from home or the office to the car. At CES, Faurecia demonstrated how its cockpit integration will enable Microsoft Teams video conferencing. Using Microsoft Connected Vehicle Platform, Faurecia also showcased its vision of playing games on the go, using Microsoft’s new Project xCloud streaming game preview.

Bell has revealed AerOS, a digital mobility platform that will give operators a 360° view into their aircraft fleet. By leveraging technologies like artificial intelligence and IoT, AerOS provides powerful capabilities like fleet master scheduling and real-time aircraft monitoring, enhancing Bell’s Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) experience. Bell chose Microsoft Azure as the technology platform to manage fleet information, observe aircraft health, and manage the throughput of goods, products, predictive data, and maintenance.

Luxoft is expanding its collaboration with Microsoft to accelerate the delivery of connected vehicle solutions and mobility experiences. By leveraging MCVP, Luxoft will enable and accelerate the delivery of vehicle-centric solutions and services that will allow automakers to deliver unique features such as advanced vehicle diagnostics, remote access and repair, and preventive maintenance. Collecting real usage data will also support vehicle engineering to improve manufacturing quality.

We are incredibly excited to be a part of the connected vehicle space. With MCVP, our ecosystem partners and our partnerships with leading automotive players, both vehicle OEMs and automotive technology suppliers, we believe we have a uniquely capable offering enabling at global scale the next wave of innovation in the automotive industry as well as related verticals such as smart cities, smart infrastructure, insurance, transportation, and beyond.

Azure IoT improves pharmaceutical sample management and medication adherence

For the recent IoT Signals report, commissioned by our Azure IoT team and conducted by Hypothesis Group, more than 3,000 decision makers at enterprise companies across the US, UK, Germany, France, China, and Japan who were currently involved in IoT, participated in a 20-minute online survey. Healthcare was one of the industries included in the research. Of the healthcare executives surveyed, 82 percent said they have at least one IoT project in either the learning, proof of concept, purchase, or use phase, with many reporting they have one or more projects currently in ‘use.’ The top use cases cited by the healthcare executives included:

  • Tracking patient staff and inventory.
  • Remote device monitoring and service.
  • Remote health monitoring and assistance.
  • Safety, security, and compliance.
  • Facilities management.

Today we want to shed light on how two innovative companies are building upon this momentum and their own research to build IoT-enabled solutions with Azure IoT technologies that support medication management and adherence. These solutions address the safety, security, compliance, and inventory use cases highlighted in the report.

The Cost of Pharmaceutical Samples

According to a January 2019 article published by JAMA, Medical Marketing in the United States, 1997-2016, “Marketing to health care professionals by pharmaceutical companies accounted for [the] most promotional spending and increased from $15.6 billion to $20.3 billion, including $5.6 billion for prescriber detailing, $13.5 billion for free samples.”

Improving sample management

With billions of dollars on the line, one of our partners has developed an innovative way to ensure that pharmaceutical companies manage their samples in a cost-effective way. Using their own knowledge of the pharmaceutical industry and in-depth research, P360 (formerly Prescriber360), developed Swittons to Example of a branded virtual rep devicebridge the gap between pharmaceutical companies and physicians. Designed as a “virtual pharmaceutical representative,” this IoT-enabled device offers real-time, secure communications between the physician and the pharmaceutical company. With this single device, physicians can order a sample, request a visit from a medical science liaison (MSL) or sales rep, or connect with the pharmaceutical company’s inside sales rep (as shown in the graphic below).

Designed to be branded with each pharmaceutical company’s product, the device is a physician engagement tool that enables pharmaceutical companies to customize and manage a sales channel that remains fully authentic to their brand experience. Furthermore, it provides an audit trail to manage samples more economically, enabling pharmaceutical companies to penetrate market whitespace and extend efficient sampling in areas that were previously unreachable.

sample management workflowBuilt on our Azure IoT platform, Swittons takes advantage of the latest in cloud, security, telecommunications, and analytics technology. “We strategically selected Azure IoT as the foundation for our Swittons ‘Virtual Rep.’ Microsoft’s vision, investments and the breadth of Azure cloud were the key criteria for selection. Having a reliable IoT platform along with world-class data and security infrastructure in Azure made the choice very easy,” commented Anupam Nandwana, CEO, P360, parent company of Swittons.

On the other end of the pharmaceutical supply chain is another scenario that dramatically affects the efficacy of pharmaceutical products—medication adherence.

Ensuring medication adherence

In the US today, 25 to 50 percent of all adults fail to take their prescribed medication on time, contributing to poor health outcomes, over-utilization of healthcare services and significant cost increases.

The causes of low levels of medication adherence are multi-faceted and include factors like carelessness, fear, supply, cost, and lack of understanding or information, with forgetfulness as the primary cause.

Furthermore, as cited in an editorial from BMJ Quality and Safety, “medication adherence thus constitutes one of the ‘big hairy problems’ or ‘big hairy audacious goals’ of healthcare. As well as affecting patients’ long-term outcomes, non-adherence can increase healthcare costs through consumption of medicines below the threshold of adherence required for clinical benefit, as well as contributing to healthcare resource use such as hospital admissions.

In response to this, the global market for medication adherence (hardware-based automation and adherence systems and software-based applications) was worth nearly $1.7 billion in 2016. The market is expected to reach more than $3.9 billion by 2021, increasing at a CAGR of 18.0 percent from 2016 through 2021. This steep increase is fueled by burgeoning demand for advanced medication adherence systems and a growing number of people worldwide with chronic diseases.

Personal experience leads to action

Emanuele Musini knows all too well the implications of not taking medications properly. In fact, it was the pain of losing his father in 2005 from a chronic condition and a lack of adhering to the prescribed medication regimen that became the catalyst for Emanuele to start studying the issue in-depth, searching for a solution. In 2015, Emanuele, along with his multidisciplinary team of doctors, entrepreneurs, engineers, and user-experience professionals, created Pillo Health, a health platform centered around a robot and digital assistant designed to prevent other family members from enduring what Emanuele and his family experienced. Since their founding, they’ve partnered with leading manufacturers, such as Stanley Black & Decker, to bring in-home medication management solutions to market with solutions like Pria, a winner of the 2019 CES Innovation Awards.”

The Pillo Health team built their medication adherence solution on Microsoft Azure Cloud Services using Azure Cognitive Services for voice technology and facial recognition, and services from the Azure IoT platform, including IoT Hub. The result is a voice-first, personalized, cloud-enabled, medication assistant that can help people maintain their medication regimen through social connectivity and delivery of important medical information at home. In a 4-week study conducted with AARP in 2018 for diabetic patients who were prescribed Metformin, Pillo delivered an average medication adherence rate of more than 87 percent—a meaningful 20 to 30 percent improvement from conventional reported standards.

Antonello Scalmato, Director of Cloud Services at Pillo Health noted, “We selected Microsoft Azure because it provided the best infrastructure for PaaS applications, allowed us to speed up the development of our complex product and avoided the overhead of machine and security management for traditional web API infrastructure. Moreover, IoT Hub provides a channel for secure communications and notifications to our users, and also enables simple device management that protects our product, from the factory into the users’ homes.”

Pillo Health digital medication assistant Pillo Health digital medication assistant in the home

Learn More

Fueling intelligent energy with IoT

At Microsoft, building a future that we can all thrive in is at the center of everything we do. On January 16, as part of the announcement that Microsoft will be carbon negative by 2030, we discussed how advances in human prosperity, as measured by GDP growth, are inextricably tied to the use of energy. Microsoft has committed to deploy $1 billion into a new climate innovation fund to accelerate the development of carbon reduction and removal technologies that will help us and the world become carbon negative. The Azure IoT team continues to invest in the platforms and tools that enable solution builders to deliver new energy solutions, customers to empower their workforce, optimize digital operations and build smart, connected, cities, vehicles, and buildings.

Earlier, Microsoft committed $50 Million through Microsoft AI for Earth that provides technology, resources, and expertise into the hands of those working to solve our most complex global environmental challenges. Challenges like helping customers around the world meet their energy and sustainability commitments. Our partnership with Vattenfall illustrates how we will power new Swedish datacenter locations with renewable energy and our partnership with E.ON who manages low-voltage distribution grids is challenging the limits of traditional technology for low-voltage distribution grids through an inhouse IoT platform based on Microsoft Azure IoT Hub.

Over the past few years, our engineers have had the pleasure to connect with and learn from a large ecosystem of energy solution builders and customers that are proactively shifting their consumption priorities. Transmission system operators (TSOs) are focused on transforming grid operations while distribution system operators (DSOs) and utilities are approaching their customers with new solutions, and all participants are requesting better, more accurate, more secure data.

As millions of new electric vehicles are entering our roads, new challenges arise around the transformation of the energy grid that moves us in our daily commutes. At the heart of these transformations are solutions that help energy providers get connected, stay connected, and transform their businesses through devices, insights, and actions.

Late 2019, we announced updates to Azure IoT Central to help solution builders move beyond proof of concept to building business-critical applications they can brand and sell directly or through Microsoft AppSource. Builders can brand, customize, and make their own apps using extensibility via APIs, data connectors to business applications, repeatability, and manageability of their investment through multitenancy and seamless device connectivity. Two IoT Central energy app templates for solar panel and smart meter monitoring already help energy solution builders accelerate development.

IoT Central Energy Solutions

Azure IoT Central Energy App Templates.

DistribuTECH 2020

DistribuTECH International is the leading annual transmission and distribution event that addresses technologies used to move electricity from the power plant through the transmission and distribution systems to the meter and inside the home. Held January 28 to January 30 in San Antonio, Texas, we invited 8 leading Energy solution builders to join us at DistribuTECH to demonstrate how they have leveraged Azure IoT to deliver amazing innovation. These partners will join Azure IoT Experts who are available to discuss your business scenarios or get more specific on IoT devices, working with IoT data and delivering a secure solution from the edge to the cloud.

Partners fueling intelligent energy

NXP EdgeVerse™ platform: intelligently manage grid load securely at the edge

The shift to vehicle electrification requires a completely different fueling infrastructure than gas-powered vehicles. Drivers of electric vehicles need to trust they can fuel for every occasion—everywhere, anytime and not get stranded. Every electric utility vehicle in a managed fleet, for example, must be authorized to charge without overloading the grid during peak times.

To manage grid load intelligently, edge computing and security becomes vital. NXP and Microsoft have demonstrated “Demand Side Management” of a smart electric vehicle charging grid and infrastructure running on NXP’s EdgeVerse™ using Azure IoT Central. This solution helps reduced development risk and speed time to market. NXP EdgeVerse includes the NXP Layerscape LS1012 processor and i.MX RT 1060 series, integrated in Scalys TrustBox Edge, to provide best-in-class power efficiency and the most secure (portable) level of communication solution that connects to Azure IOT Central. As the fueling model shifts from petroleum to electric, intelligent management of grid load balancing is key.

OMNIO.net: Danish IoT connectivity startup onboarding devices and unifying data

OMNIO.net, a Danish Industrial IoT connectivity startup, is partnering with Microsoft Azure IoT to solve two of the biggest hurdles in Industrial IoT: onboarding of devices and unification of data.

OMNIO.net is helping companies of all sizes who have outfitted their campuses with solar panels. The OMNIO.net solution connected these panels to Azure IoT Hub to gather real-time data that will help optimize energy production and limit downtime. Companies look to OMNIO.net to overcome challenges connecting industrial devices and getting the most from their data. What may have taken months in the past, with the combination of OMNIO.net’s energy expertise and Azure IoT offers device connection for partners in less than 24 hours, so customers can focus on using their data to solve pressing business challenges rather than on IT.

iGen Technologies: a self-powered heating system for your home

iGen Technologies’ i2 is a self-power heating system for residential homes. With its patented technology, i2 sets a new benchmark in home comfort and efficiency, by generating, storing and using its own electricity, keeping the heat on, even during a grid outage. The system delivers resilience, lower operating costs, efficiency gains, and greenhouse gas emission reductions. The fully integrated solution offers a dispatchable resource with fuel switching capability, providing utilities a valuable tool to manage peak load and surplus generation situations. iGEN has partnered with Microsoft Azure IoT Central to develop a smart IoT interface for the i2 heat and power system. The integration of iGEN’s distributed energy resource (DER) technology with Microsoft’s robust IoT app platform offers an ideal solution for utility Demand Response programs.

The i2 self-powerd heating system The i2 self-powered heating system. 

Agder Energi, NODES: scaling a sustainable and integrated energy marketplace

Distributed energy resources, digitalization, decarbonization, and new consumer behavior introduce challenges and opportunities for grid system operators to maintain reliable operation of the power system and create customer-centric services. The NODES marketplace relies on Azure to scale its flexible marketplace across 15 projects in 10 different European countries. The focus is on the use of flexibility from the distribution grid, transmission and distribution coordination, and integration with current balancing markets. Agder Energi is now piloting a flexible asset register and data hub with device management and analytics built on IoT Central. Rune Hogga, CEO of Agder Energi Flexibility, told us, “In order to have control of the data and be able to verify flexibility trades, Azure IoT Central provides us with a fast and efficient way to set up a system to collect data from a large number of distributed flexible assets.”

L&T Technology Services: reducing carbon consumption and emissions

L&T Technology Services (LTTS) has developed low carbon and EV charging grid solutions for global enterprises, buildings, and smart cities. The LTTS Smart City, Campus & Building solutions enable reducing carbon emissions by up to 40 percent through its iBEMS on Azure solution by connecting an entire building’s infrastructure to through single unified interface. In collaboration with Microsoft Real Estate & Facilities, LTTS is building breakthrough EV Charging Solutions providing actionable insights and usage patterns, demand forecasting, design and efficiency anomalies for Facility Managers on EV Charger assets while accurately tracking carbon credit. The LTTS solution also enables Facility Managers to optimize EV Charging Grid based on energy sources (geothermal, solar, electric) and grid constraints such as energy capacity, providing consumer EV charging notifications-based drive range preferences.

Telensa: utilities to support the business case for smart street lighting

Telensa makes wireless smart city applications, helping cities and utilities around the world save energy, work smarter, and deliver more cohesive services for their residents. Telensa is demonstrating how utilities can support the business case for smart street lighting, offering a platform to simply and seamlessly add other smart city applications like traffic monitoring, air quality and EV charging with AI-driven data insights. Telensa’s smart city solutions are increasingly built on Microsoft Azure IoT, leveraging the combination of data, devices, and connectivity, making IoT applications a practical proposition for any city.

Telensa is leading the Urban Data Project, with an initial deployment in Cambridge, UK. This new edge-AI technology is generating valuable insights from streetlight-based imaging, creating a trusted infrastructure for urban data to enable cities to collect, protect, and use their data for the benefit of all residents. The first deployment is in Cambridge, UK. Telensa’s Urban IQ, using Microsoft Power BI for data visualization is an open, low-cost platform to add multiple sensor applications.

  Telensa’s streetlight based multi-sensor pods, which run on Azure IoT Edge and feature real-time AI and machine learning to extract insights.

Telensa’s streetlight based multi-sensor pods, which run on Azure IoT Edge and feature real-time AI and machine learning to extract insights.

eSmart Systems: improving powerline inspections and asset optimization by empowering human experts with Collaborative AI

eSmart Systems helps utilities gain insight into their assets by creating a virtuous cycle of collaboration and training between subject matter experts like Distribution or Transmission Engineers and state of the art deep learning artificial intelligence (AI).

A Microsoft finalist for AI energy partner of the year in 2019, eSmart’s Connected Drone software uses the Azure platform for accurate and self-improving power grid asset discovery and analysis. Grid inspectors continuously review results and correct them to feedback more accurate results to the system. Utilities can optimize visual data to improve their asset registries, reduce maintenance costs and improve reliability.

Kongsberg Digital: Grid Logic digital twin services for electrical grids

Increased electrification and introduction of intermittent, distributed, and renewable energy production challenge today’s grid operations. A lack of sufficient data and insights lead to over-investment, capacity challenges, and power quality issues. With Grid Logic digital twin services running on Azure, grid operators get forecasting and insights into hotspots and scenario simulation. With Azure IoT Hub, Grid Logic will make it possible to build a robust operating system for automation of real-time grid operation, optimization, and automation.

 Grid Logic capacity heatmap for a part of Norwegian DSO BKK Nett’s grid Grid Logic capacity heatmap for a part of Norwegian DSO BKK Nett’s grid.

Let’s connect and collaborate to build your energy solutions  

Microsoft Azure IoT is empowering businesses and industries to shape the future with IoT. We’re ready to meet and support you wherever you are in your transformation journey. Pairing a strong portfolio of products and partners will help you accelerate building robust IoT solutions, to achieve your goals. If you are attending DistribuTECH 2020, speak with Azure IoT experts, or connect with one of the partners mentioned above. 

Learn more about Microsoft Azure IoT and IoT for energy

Partner links:

IoT Signals retail report: IoT’s promise for retail will be unlocked addressing security, privacy and compliance

Few industries have been disrupted by emerging technology quite like retail. From exploding online sales to the growth of mobile shopping, the industry has made a permanent shift to accommodate digital consumers.

The rise of IoT has forced the retail industry to take notice; IDC expects that by 2025 there will be 41.6 billion connected IoT devices or ‘things,’ generating more than 79 zettabytes (ZB) of data. These billions of devices are creating unprecedented visibility into a business, leading to transformation of operations, from the supply chain to automated checkout, personalized discounts, smart shelves, and other advances powered by IoT. In fact, IoT can help brick-and-mortar stores create customer experiences that rival that of online stores; for instance, customers can be sent alerts about discounts relevant to them when they get close to a store, and those stores can use IoT to keep track of inventory and increase efficiency.

Today we’re sharing a new IoT Signals report focused on the retail industry that provides an industry pulse on the state of IoT adoption to help inform how we better serve our partners and customers, as well as help retail leaders develop their own IoT strategies. We surveyed 168 decision makers in enterprise retail organizations to deliver an industry-level view of the IoT ecosystem, including adoption rates, related technology trends, challenges, and benefits of IoT.

The study found that while IoT is almost universally adopted in retail and considered critical to success, companies are challenged by compliance, privacy concern, and skills shortages. To summarize the findings:

  1. Retail IoT is strong and improving customer experience is a growth opportunity. Retailers’ future planning focuses on IoT projects that help customers get in and out quickly, which increases revenue. Areas like automated checkout and optimizing inventory and layout are key, and survey respondents rank store analytics (57 percent) and supply chain optimization and inventory tracking (48 percent) as the top two IoT use cases.
  2. AI is integral to IoT and retailers who incorporate it achieve greater IoT success. For many retail IoT decision makers (44 percent), AI is a core component of their IoT solutions. Furthermore, retailers who leverage AI say they are able to use their IoT solutions more quickly and more fully. They also plan to use IoT even more in the future than those not integrating AI. Those surveyed who use AI as a core part of their solutions are more likely to use it for layout optimization, digital signage, smart shelving, and in-store contextualized marketing (including beacons).
  3. Across regions, unique retail benefits and challenges emerge around IoT, but all are committed. Globally, IoT is being widely adopted in retail, with the survey respondents in the US, UK, and France all reporting 92 percent IoT in adoption. In the US, IoT is often utilized for security and store analytics (65 percent each), while store analytics (49 percent) and supply chain and store optimization (43 percent) are more popular uses in Europe. Despite a variety of adoption barriers across regions, retailers are dedicated to overcoming challenges and leveraging IoT even more in the future.
  4. IoT is seen as critical to retail business success. Nearly 9 in 10 (87 percent) surveyed consider IoT as critical to their business success. Looking forward, respondents believe the biggest benefits they will see from IoT adoption include increased efficiency (69 percent), cost savings (64 percent), increased competitive advantage (62 percent), and new revenue streams (56 percent).
  5. The biggest barriers to success for retailers include budget, privacy concerns, compliance challenges, and talent. In the US, the top three concerns of retailers surveyed are a lack of budget, consumer privacy concerns, and lack of technical knowledge. In Europe, compliance and regulatory challenges top the list, followed by human resources and timing and deployment issues. Despite these challenges, the future of IoT looks bright, with 82 percent of US and 73 percent of European respondents anticipating greater IoT implementation in the future.

Microsoft is leading the charge to address these IoT challenges

We’re committed to helping retail customers bring their vision to life with IoT, and this starts with simplifying and securing IoT. Our customers are embracing IoT as a core strategy to drive better business outcomes, and we are heavily investing in this space committing $5 billion in IoT and intelligent edge innovation by 2022 and growing our IoT and intelligent edge partner ecosystem to over 10,000.

We’re dramatically simplifying IoT to enable every business on the planet to benefit. We have the most comprehensive and complete IoT platform and are going beyond that to simplify IoT. Some key examples include Azure IoT Central, which enables customers and partners to provision an IoT app in seconds, customize it in hours, and go to production the same day. To help ensure that retailers have a robust talent pool of IoT developers, we’ve developed both an IoT School and an AI School, which provides free training for common application patterns and deployments.

Security is crucial for trust and integrity in IoT cloud- and edge-connected devices because they may not always be in trusted custody. Azure Sphere takes a holistic security approach from silicon to cloud, providing a highly secure solution for connected microcontroller units (MCUs), which go into devices ranging from connected home devices to medical and industrial equipment. Azure Security Center provides unified security management and advanced threat protection for systems running in the cloud and on the edge.

Finally, we’re helping our retail customers leverage their IoT investments with AI at the intelligent edge. Azure IoT Edge enables customers to distribute cloud intelligence to run in isolation on IoT devices directly and Azure Databox Edge builds on Azure IoT Edge and adds virtual machine and mass storage support. Going forward, Azure Digital Twins (currently in preview) will enable retailers to create complete virtual models of physical environments, making it easy to unlock insights into their retail environments.

When IoT is foundational to a retailer’s transformation strategy, it can have a significantly positive impact on the bottom line, customer experiences, and products. We are invested in helping our partners, customers, and the broader industry to take the necessary steps to address barriers to success. Read the full IoT Signals Retail Report and learn how we are helping retailers embrace the future and unlock new opportunities with IoT.

Microsoft is a leader in The Forrester Wave™: Streaming Analytics, Q3 2019

Processing Big data in real-time is an operational necessity for many businesses. Azure Stream Analytics is Microsoft’s serverless real-time analytics offering for complex event processing.

We are excited and humbled to announce that Microsoft has been named a leader in The Forrester Wave™: Streaming Analytics, Q3 2019. Microsoft believes this report truly reflects the market momentum of Azure Stream Analytics, satisfied customers, a growing partner ecosystem and the overall strength of our Azure cloud platform. You can access the full report here.

Forrester Wave for Streaming Analytics published in Q3 2019 that positions Microsoft as a leader in the category.

 

The Forrester Wave™: Streaming Analytics, Q3 2019

 

Forrester Wave™: Streaming Analytics, Q3 2019 report evaluated streaming analytics offerings from 11 different solution providers and we are honored to share that that Forrester has recognized Microsoft as a Leader in this category. Azure Stream Analytics received the highest possible score in 12 different categories including Ability to execute, Administration, Deployment, Solution Roadmap, Customer adoption and many more.

The report states, “Microsoft Azure Stream Analytics has strengths in scalability, high availability, deployment, and applications. Azure Stream Analytics is an easy on-ramp for developers who already know SQL. Zero-code integration with over 15 other Azure services makes it easy to try and therefore adopt, making the product the real-time backbone for enterprises needing real-time streaming applications on the Azure cloud. Additionally, through integration with IoT Hub and Azure Functions, it offers seamless interoperability with thousands of devices and business applications.”

Key Differentiators for Azure Stream Analytics

Fully integrated with Azure ecosystem: Build powerful pipelines with few clicks

Whether you have millions of IoT devices streaming data to Azure IoT Hub or have apps sending critical telemetry events to Azure Event Hubs, it only takes a few clicks to connect multiple sources and sinks to create an end-to-end pipeline.

Developer productivity

One of the biggest advantages of Stream Analytics is the simple SQL-based query language with its powerful temporal constraints to analyze data in motion. Familiarity with SQL language is enough to author powerful queries. Additionally, Azure Stream Analytics supports language extensibility via C# and JavaScript user-defined functions (UDFs) or user-defined aggregates to perform complex calculations as part of a Stream Analytics query.

Analytics prowess

Stream Analytics contains a wide array of analytic capabilities such as native support for geospatial functions, built-in callouts to custom machine learning (ML) models for real-time scoring, built-in ML models for Anomaly Detection, Pattern matching, and more to help developers easily tackle complex scenarios while staying in a familiar context.

Intelligent edge

Azure Stream Analytics helps bring real-time insights and analytics capabilities closer to where your data originates. Customers can easily enable new scenarios with true hybrid architectures for stream processing and run the same query in the cloud or on the IoT edge.

Best-in-class financially backed SLA by the minute

We understand it is critical for businesses to prevent data loss and have business continuity. Stream Analytics guarantees event processing with a 99.9 percent availability service-level agreement (SLA) at the minute level, which is unparalleled in the industry.

Scale instantly

Stream Analytics is a fully managed serverless (PaaS) offering on Azure. There is no infrastructure to worry about, and no servers, virtual machines, or clusters to manage. We do all the heavy lifting for you in the background. You can instantly scale up or scale-out the processing power from one to hundreds of streaming units for any job.

Mission critical

Stream Analytics guarantees “exactly once” event processing and at least once delivery of events. It has built-in recovery capabilities in case the delivery of an event fails. So, you never have to worry about your events getting dropped.

Try it today

There is a strong and growing developer community that supports Stream Analytics. Learn how to get started and build a real-time fraud detection system.

Azure Sphere guardian module simplifies & secures brownfield IoT

One of the toughest IoT quandaries is figuring out how to bake IoT into existing hardware in a secure, cost-effective way. For many customers, scrapping existing hardware investments for new IoT-enabled devices (“greenfield” installations) isn’t feasible. And retrofitting mission-critical devices that are already in service with IoT (“brownfield” installations) is often deemed too risky, too complicated, and too expensive.

This is why we’re thrilled about a major advancement for Azure Sphere that opens up the brownfield opportunity, helping make IoT retrofits more secure, substantially easier, and more cost effective than ever before. The guardian module with Azure Sphere simplifies the transformation of brownfield devices into locked-down, internet-connected, data-wielding, intelligent devices that can transform business.

For an in-depth exploration of the guardian module and how it’s being used at major corporations like Starbucks, sign up for the upcoming Azure Sphere Guardian Module webinar.

An image of Rodney Clark, VP of IoT and mixed reality sales.

The guardian module with Azure Sphere offers some key advantages

Like all Microsoft products, Azure Sphere is loaded with robust security features at every turn—from silicon to cloud. For brownfield installations, the guardian module with Azure Sphere physically plugs into existing equipment ports without the need for any hardware redesign.

Azure Sphere, rather than the device itself, talks to the cloud. The guardian module processes data and controls the device without exposing existing equipment to the potential dangers of the internet. The module shields brownfield equipment from attack by restricting the flow of data to only trusted cloud and device communication partners while also protecting module and equipment software.

Using the Azure Sphere guardian module, enterprises can enable any number of secure operations between the device and the cloud. The device can even use the Azure Sphere Security Service for certificate-based authentication, failure reporting, and software updates.

Opportunities abound for the Microsoft partner ecosystem

Given the massive scale of connectable equipment already in use in retail, industrial, and commercial settings, the new guardian module presents a lucrative opportunity for Microsoft partners. Azure Sphere can connect an enormous range of devices of all types, leading the way for a multitude of practical applications that can pay off through increased productivity, predictive maintenance, cost savings, new revenue opportunities, and more.

Fulfilling demand for such a diverse set of use cases is only possible thanks to Azure Sphere’s expanding partner ecosystem. Recent examples of this growth include our partnership with NXP to deliver a new Azure Sphere-certified chip that is an extension of their i.MX 8 high-performance applications process series and brings greater compute capabilities to support advanced workloads. As well as our collaboration with Qualcomm Technologies, Inc to deliver the first cellular-enabled Azure Sphere chip, which gives our customers the ability to securely connect anytime, anywhere.

Starbucks uses Azure Sphere guardian module to connect coffee machines

If you saw Satya Nadella’s Vision Keynote at Build 2019, you probably recall the demonstration of Starbucks’ IoT-connected coffee machines. But what you may not know is the Azure Sphere guardian module is behind the scenes, enabling Starbucks to connect these existing machines to the cloud.

As customers wait for their double-shot, no-whip mochas to brew, these IoT-enabled machines are doing more than meets the eye. They’re collecting more than a dozen data points for each precious shot, like the types of beans used, water temperature, and water quality. The solution enables Starbucks to proactively identify any issues with their machines in order to smooth their customers’ paths to caffeinated bliss.

Beyond predictive maintenance, Azure Sphere will enable Starbucks to transmit new recipes directly to machines in 30,000 stores rather than manually uploading recipes via thumb drives, saving Starbucks lots of time, money, and thumb drives. Watch this Microsoft Ignite session to see how Starbucks is tackling IoT at scale in pursuit of the perfect pour.

As an ecosystem, we have a tremendous opportunity to meet demand for brownfield installations and help our customers quickly bring their existing investments online without taking on risk and jeopardizing mission-critical equipment. The first guardian modules are available today from Avnet and AI-Link, with more expected soon.

Discover the value of adding secured connectivity to existing mission-critical equipment by registering for our upcoming Azure Sphere Guardian Modules webinar. You will experience a guided tour of the guardian module, including a deep dive into its architecture and the opportunity this open-source offering presents to our partner community. We’ll also hear from Starbucks around what they’ve learned since implementing the guardian module with Azure Sphere.

Azure Stack HCI now running on HPE Edgeline EL8000

Do you need rugged, compact-sized hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) enabled servers to run your branch office and edge workloads? Do you want to modernize your applications and IoT functions with container technology? Do you want to leverage Azure’s hybrid services such as backup, disaster recovery, update management, monitoring, and security compliance? 

Well, Microsoft and HPE have teamed up to validate the HPE Edgeline EL8000 Converged Edge system for Microsoft’s Azure Stack HCI program. Designed specifically for space-constrained environments, the HPE Edgeline EL8000 Converged Edge system has a unique 17-inch depth form factor that fits into limited infrastructures too small for other x86 systems. The chassis has an 8.7-inch width which brings additional flexibility for deploying at the deep edge, whether it is in a telco environment, a mobile vehicle, or a manufacturing floor. This Network Equipment-Building System (NEBs) compliant system delivers secure scalability.

HPE Edgeline EL8000 Converged Edge system gives:

  • Traditional x86 compute optimized for edge deployments, far from the traditional data center without the sacrifice of compute performance.
  • Edge-optimized remote system management with wireless capabilities based on Redfish industry standard.
  • Compact form factor, with short-depth and half-width options.
  • Rugged, modular form factor for secure scalability and serviceability in edge and hostile environments including NEBs level three and American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) level three/four compliance.
  • Broad accelerator support for emerging edge artificial intelligence (AI) use cases, for field programmable gate arrays or graphics processing units.
  • Up to four independent compute nodes, which are cluster-ready with embedded networks.

Modular design providing broad configuration possibilities

The HPE Edgeline EL8000 Converged Edge system offers flexibility of choice for compute density or for input/output expansion. These compact, ruggedized systems offer high-performance capacity to support the use cases that matter most, including media streaming, IoT, AI, and video analytics. The HPE Edgeline EL8000 is a versatile platform that enables edge compute transformation so as use case requirements change, the system’s flexible and modular architecture can scale to meet them.

Seamless management and security features with HPE Edgeline Chassis Manager

The HPE Edgeline EL8000 Converged Edge system features the HPE Edgeline Chassis Manager which limits downtime by providing system-level health monitoring and alerts. Increase efficiency and reliability by managing the chassis fan speeds for each server blade installed in addition to monitoring the health and status of the power supply. It simplifies firmware upgrade management and implementation with HPE Edgeline Chassis Manager.

Microsoft Azure Stack HCI:

Azure Stack HCI solutions bring together highly virtualized compute, storage, and networking on industry-standard x86 servers and components. Combining resources in the same cluster makes it easier for you to deploy, manage, and scale. Manage with your choice of command-line automation or Windows Admin Center.

Achieve industry-leading virtual machine performance for your server applications with Hyper-V, the foundational hypervisor technology of the Microsoft cloud, and Storage Spaces Direct technology with built-in support for non-volatile memory express (NVMe), persistent memory, and remote-direct memory access (RDMA) networking.

Help keep apps and data secure with shielded virtual machines, network microsegmentation, and native encryption.

You can take advantage of cloud and on-premises working together with a hyperconverged infrastructure platform in the public cloud. Your team can start building cloud skills with built-in integration to Azure infrastructure management services, including:

  • Azure Site Recovery for high availability and disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS).

  • Azure Monitor, a centralized hub to track what’s happening across your applications, network, and infrastructure – with advanced analytics powered by AI.

  • Cloud Witness, to use Azure as the lightweight tie breaker for cluster quorum.

  • Azure Backup for offsite data protection and to protect against ransomware.

  • Azure Update Management for update assessment and update deployments for Windows virtual machines (VMs) running in Azure and on-premises.

  • Azure Network Adapter to connect resources on-premises with your VMs in Azure via a point-to-site virtual private network (VPN.)

  • Sync your file server with the cloud, using Azure File Sync.

  • Azure Arc for Servers to manage role-based access control, governance, and compliance policy from Azure Portal.

By deploying the Microsoft and HPE HCI solution, you can quickly solve your branch office and edge needs with high performance and resiliency while protecting your business assets by enabling the Azure hybrid services built into the Azure Stack HCI Branch office and edge solution.  

Microsoft partner ANSYS extends ability of Azure Digital Twins platform

Digital twins have moved from an exciting concept to reality. More companies than ever are connecting assets and production networks with sensors and using analytics to optimize operations across machinery, plants, and industrial networks. As exact virtual representations of the physical environment, digital twins incorporate historical and real-time data to enable sophisticated spatial analysis of key relationships. Teams can use digital twins to model the impact of process changes before putting them into production, reducing time, cost, and risk.

For the second year in a row, Gartner has identified digital twins as one of the top 10 strategic technology trends. According to Gartner, while 13 percent of organizations that are implementing IoT have already adopted digital twins, 62 percent are in the process or plan to do so. Gartner predicts a tipping point in 2022 when two out of three companies will have deployed at least one digital twin to optimize some facet of their business processes.

This is why we’re excited by the great work of ANSYS, a Microsoft partner working to extend the value of the Microsoft Azure Digital Twins platform for our joint customers. The ANSYS Twin Builder combines the power of physics-based simulations and analytics-driven digital twins to provide real-time data transfer, reusable components, ultrafast modeling, and other tools that enable teams to perform myriad “what-if” analyses, and build, validate, and deploy complex systems more easily.

“Collaborating with ANSYS to create an advanced IoT digital twins framework provides our customers with an unprecedented understanding of their deployed assets’ performance by leveraging physics and simulation-based analytics.” — Sam George, corporate vice president of Azure IoT, Microsoft

Digital twins model key relationships, simplifying design

Digital twins will be first and most widely adopted in manufacturing, as industrial companies invest millions to build, maintain, and track the performance of remotely deployed IoT-enabled assets, machinery, and vehicles. Operators depend on near-continuous asset uptime to achieve production goals, meaning supply-chain bottlenecks, machine failures, or other unexpected downtime can hamper production output and reduce revenue recognition for the company and its customers. The use of digital twins, analytics, business rules, and automation helps companies avoid many of these issues by guiding decision-making and enabling instant informed action.

Digital twins can also simulate a multidimensional view of asset performance that can be endlessly manipulated and perfected prior to producing new systems or devices, ending not just the guesswork of manually predicting new processes, but also the cost of developing multiple prototypes. Digital twins, analytics-based tools, and automation also equip companies to avoid unnecessary costs by prioritizing issues for investment and resolution.

Digital twins can optimize production across networks

Longer-term, companies can more easily operate global supply chains, production networks, and digital ecosystems through the use of IoT, digital twins, and other tools. Enterprise teams and their partners will be able to pivot from sensing and reacting to changes to predicting them and responding immediately based on predetermined business rules. Utilities will be better prepared to predict and prevent accidents, companies poised to address infrastructure issues before customers complain, and stores more strategically set up to maintain adequate inventories.

Simulations increase digital twins’ effectiveness

ANSYS’ engineering simulation software enables customers to model the design of nearly every physical product or process. The simulations are then compiled into runtime modules that can execute in a docker container and integrate automatically into IoT processing systems, reducing the heavy lift of IoT customization.

With the combined Microsoft Azure Digital Twins-ANSYS physics-based simulation capabilities, customers can now:

  • Simulate baseline and failure data resulting in accurate, physics-based digital twins models.
  • Use physics-based predictive models to increase accuracy and improve ROI from predictive maintenance programs.
  • Leverage “what-if analyses” to simulate different solutions before selecting the best one.
  • Use virtual sensors to estimate critical quantities through simulation.

Engineering software

In addition, companies can use physics-based simulations within the Microsoft-ANSYS platform to pursue high-value use cases such as these:

  •  Optimize asset performance: Teams can use digital twins to model asset performance to evaluate current performance versus targets, identifying, resolving, and prioritizing issues for resolution based on the value they create.
  •  Manage systems across their lifecycle: Teams can take a systems approach to managing complex and costly assets, driving throughput and retiring systems at the ideal time to avoid over-investing in market-lagging capabilities.
  •  Perform predictive maintenance: Teams can use analytics to determine and schedule maintenance, reduce unplanned downtime and costly break-fix repairs, and perform repairs in order of importance, which frees team members from unnecessary work.
  •  Orchestrate systems: Companies will eventually create systems of intelligence by linking their equipment, systems, and networks to orchestrate production across plants, campuses, and regions, attaining new levels of visibility and efficiency.
  •  Fuel product innovation: With rapid virtual prototyping, teams will be able to explore myriad product versions, reducing the time and cost required to innovate products, decreasing product failures, and enabling the development of customized products.
  •  Enhance employee training: Companies can use digital twins to conduct training with employees, improving their effectiveness on the job while reducing production design errors due to human error.
  •  Eliminate physical constraints: Digital twins eliminate the physical barriers to experimentation, meaning users can simulate tests and conditions for remote assets, such as equipment in other plants, regions, or space.

Opening up new opportunities for partners

According to Gartner, more than 20 billion connected devices are projected by 2020 and adoption of IoT and digital twins is only going to accelerate—in fact, MarketsandMarkets™ estimates that the digital twins market will reach a value of $3.8 billion in 2019 and grow to $35.8 billion by 2025. Our recent IoT Signals research found that 85 percent of decision-makers have already adopted IoT, 74 percent have projects in the “use” phase, and businesses expect to achieve 30 percent ROI on their IoT projects going forward. The top use case participants want to pursue is operations optimization (56 percent), to reap more value from the assets and processes they already possess. That’s why digital twins is so important right now because it provides a framework to accomplish this goal with greater accuracy than was possible before.

“As industrial companies require comprehensive field data and actionable insights to further optimize deployed asset performance, ecosystem partners must collaborate to form business solutions. ANSYS Twins Builder’s complementary simulation data stream augments Azure IoT Services and greatly enhances its customers’ understanding of asset performance.”—Eric Bantegnie, vice president and general manager at ANSYS

Thanks to Microsoft partners like ANSYS, companies are better equipped to unlock productivity and efficiency gains by removing critical constraints, including physical barriers, from process modeling. With tools like digital twins, companies will be limited only by their own creativity, creating a more intelligent and connected world where all have more opportunities to flourish.

Learn more about Microsoft Azure Digital Twins and ANSYS Twin Builder.

Microsoft has validated the Lenovo ThinkSystem SE350 edge server for Azure Stack HCI

Do you need rugged, compact-sized hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) enabled servers to run your branch office and edge workloads? Do you want to modernize your applications and IoT functions with container technology? Do you want to leverage Azure’s hybrid services such as backup, disaster recovery, update managment, monitoring, and security compliance?  

Microsoft and Lenovo have teamed up to validate the Lenovo ThinkSystem SE350 for Microsoft’s Azure Stack HCI program. The ThinkSystem SE350 was designed and built with the unique requirements of edge servers in mind. It is versatile enough to stretch the limitations of server locations, providing a variety of connectivity and security options and can be easily managed with Lenovo XClarity Controller. The ThinkSystem SE350 solution has a focus on smart connectivity, business security, and manageability for the harsh environment. To see all Lenovo servers validated for Azure Stack HCI, see the Azure Stack HCI catalog to learn more.

Lenovo ThinkSystem SE350:

The ThinkSystem SE350 is the latest workhorse for the edge. Designed and built with the unique requirements for edge servers in mind, it is versatile enough to stretch the limitations of server locations, providing a variety of connectivity and security options and is easily managed with Lenovo XClarity Controller. The ThinkSystem SE350 is a rugged compact-sized edge solution with a focus on smart connectivity, business security, and manageability for the harsh environment.

The ThinkSystem SE350 is an Intel® Xeon® D processor-based server, with a 1U height, half-width and short depth case that can go anywhere. Mount it on a wall, stack it on a shelf, or install it in a rack. This rugged edge server can handle anything from 0-55°C as well as full performance in high dust and vibration environments.

Information availability is another challenging issue for users at the edge, who require insight into their operations at all times to ensure they are making the right decisions. The ThinkSystem SE350 is designed to provide several connectivity options with wired and secure wireless Wi-Fi and LTE connection ability. This purpose-built compact server is reliable for a wide variety of edge and IoT workloads.

Microsoft Azure Stack HCI:

Azure Stack HCI solutions bring together highly virtualized compute, storage, and networking on industry-standard x86 servers and components. Combining resources in the same cluster makes it easier for you to deploy, manage, and scale. Manage with your choice of command-line automation or Windows Admin Center.

Achieve industry-leading virtual machine (VM) performance for your server applications with Hyper-V, the foundational hypervisor technology of the Microsoft cloud, and Storage Spaces Direct technology with built-in support for non-volatile memory express (NVMe), persistent memory, and remote direct memory access (RDMA) networking.

Help keep apps and data secure with shielded virtual machines, network micro-segmentation, and native encryption.

You can take advantage of cloud and on-premises working together with a hyper-converged infrastructure platform in the public cloud. Your team can start building cloud skills with built-in integration to Azure infrastructure management services:

  • Azure Site Recovery for high availability and disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS).

  • Azure Monitor, a centralized hub to track what’s happening across your applications, network, and infrastructure, with advanced analytics powered by artificial intelligence.

  • Cloud Witness, to use Azure as the lightweight tie-breaker for cluster quorum.

  • Azure Backup for offsite data protection and to protect against ransomware.

  • Azure Update Management for update assessment and update deployments for Windows Virtual Machines running in Azure and on-premises.

  • Azure Network Adapter to connect resources on-premises with your VMs in Azure via a point-to-site VPN.

  • Sync your file server with the cloud, using Azure File Sync.

  • Azure Arc for Servers to manage role-based access control, governance, and compliance policy from Azure Portal.

By deploying the Microsoft + Lenovo HCI solution, you can quickly solve your branch office and edge needs with high performance and resiliency while protecting your business assets by enabling the Azure hybrid services built into the Azure Stack HCI Branch office and edge solution.  

Unlocking the promise of IoT: A Q&A with Vernon Turner

Vernon Turner is the Founder and Chief Strategist at Causeway Connections, an information and communications technology research firm. For nearly a decade, he’s been serving on global, national, and state steering committees, advising governments, businesses, and communities on IoT-based solution implementation. He recently talked with us about the importance of distinguishing between IoT hype and reality, and identifies three steps businesses need to take to make a successful digital transformation.

What is the promise of IoT?

The promise of more and more data from more and more connected sensors boils down to unprecedented insights and efficiencies. Businesses get more visibility into their operations, a better understanding of their customers, and the ability to personalize offerings and experiences like never before, as well as the ability to cut operational costs via automation and business-process efficiencies.

But just dabbling with IoT won’t unlock real business value. To do that, companies need to change everything, how they make products, how they go to market, their strategy, and their organizational structure. They need to really transform. And to do that, they need to do three things, lead with the customer experience, migrate to offering subscription-based IoT-enabled services, and have a voice in an emergent ecosystem of partners related to their business.

Why is the customer experience so important to fulfilling the promise of IoT?

There can be a lot of hype around IoT-enabled offerings. 

I recently toured several so-called smart buildings with a friend in the construction industry. He showed me that just filling a building with IoT-enabled gadgets doesn’t make it smart. A truly smart building goes beyond connected features and addresses the specific, real-world needs of tenants, leaseholders, and building managers.

If it doesn’t radically change the customer experience, it doesn’t fulfill the promise of IoT.

What’s the disconnect? Why aren’t “smart” solution vendors delivering what customers want?

Frankly, it’s easier to sell a product than an experience.

Customer experience should be at the center of the pitch for IoT, because IoT enables customers to have much more information about the product, in real-time, across the product lifecycle. But putting customer experience first requires making hard changes. It means adopting new strategies, business models, and organization charts, as well as new approaches to product development, sales and marketing, and talent management. And it means asking suppliers to create new business models to support sharing data across the product lifecycle.

Why is the second step to digital transformation, migrating to offering subscription-based, IoT-enabled services, so important?

To survive in our digitally transforming economy, it’s essential for businesses and their suppliers, to move from selling static products to a subscription-based services business model.

As sensors and other connected devices become increasingly omnipresent, customers see more real-time data showing them exactly what they’re consuming, and how the providers of the services they’re consuming are performing. By moving to a subscription (or “X as a service”) model, businesses can provide more tailored offerings, grow their customer base, and position themselves for success in the digital age.

When companies embrace transformation, it can have a ripple effect across their operations. Business units can respond to market needs to create a new service by combining microservices using the rapid software development techniques of DevOps. These services drive a shift from infrequent, low-business-value interactions with customers to continuous engagement between customers and companies’ sales and business units. This improves customer relationships, staving off competition, and introducing new sales opportunities.

What challenges should companies be prepared for as they migrate to offering subscription services?

For a subscription-based services model to work, most companies need to make significant changes to their culture and organizational structure.

Financial planning needs to stop reviewing past financial statements and start focusing on future recurring revenue. Instead of concentrating on margin-based products, sales should start selling outcomes that add value for customers. Marketing must be driven by data about the customer experience and what the customer needs, rather than what serves the branding campaign.

From now on, rapid change, responsiveness to the customer, and the ability to customize and scale services are going to be the norm in business.

You mentioned the importance of participating in an emergent ecosystem of partners. What does that mean? Why does it matter?

As digital business processes mature and subscription models become the standard, customers will demand ways to integrate their relationships with IT and business vendors in an ecosystem connected by a single platform.

Early results show that vendors who actively participate in their solution platform’s ecosystem enjoy a higher net promoter score (NPS). In the short term, they gain stickiness with customers. And in the long run, they become more relevant across their ecosystem, gain a competitive advantage over peers inside and outside their ecosystem, and deliver more value to customers.

How does ecosystem participation increase the value delivered to customers?

Because everyone’s using the same platform, customers get transparency into the performance of suppliers. Service-level management becomes the first point of contact between businesses and suppliers. Key performance indicators trigger automatic responses to customer experiences. Response times to resolve issues are mediated by the platform.

These tasks and functions are carried out within the ecosystem and orchestrated by third-party service management companies. But that’s not to say businesses in the ecosystem don’t still have an individual, separate relationship with their customers. Rather, the ecosystem acts as a gateway for IT and business suppliers to integrate their offerings into customer services. Business and product outcomes from the ecosystem feed research and development, product design, and manufacturing, leading to continual improvement in services delivery and customer experience.

To conclude, let’s go back to something we talked about earlier. For builders, a truly smart building is one that does more than just keep the right temperature. It also monitors and secures wireless networks, optimizes lighting based on tenants’ specific needs, manages energy use, and so on to deliver comfortable, customized work, living, or shopping environments. To deliver that kind of customer experience takes an ecosystem of partners, all working in concert. For companies to unlock the value of IoT, they need to participate actively in that ecosystem.

Learn how Azure helps businesses unlock the value of IoT.

Forrester names Microsoft a leader in Wave report for Industrial IoT Software Platforms

As a company, we work every day to empower every person on the planet to achieve more. As part of that, we’re committed to investing in IoT and intelligent edge, two technology trends accelerating ubiquitous computing and bringing unparalleled opportunity for transformation across industries. We’ve been working hard to make our Azure IoT platform more open, security-enhanced, and scalable, as well as to create opportunities in new market areas and our growing partner ecosystem. Our core focus is addressing the industry challenge of securing connected devices at every layer and advancing IoT to create a more seamless experience between the physical and digital worlds.

Today, Microsoft is positioned as a leader in The Forrester Wave™: Industrial IoT Software Platforms, Q4 2019, receiving of the highest score possible, 5.00, in partner strategy, innovation roadmap, and platform differentiation criteria, the highest score in the market presence category, and the second-highest score in the current offering category.

According to the Forrester report, “Microsoft powers industrial partners but also delivers a credible platform of its own. Microsoft continues to add features to the platform at an impressive rate, with the richer edge capabilities of Azure IoT Edge and the simplified application and device onboarding offered by Azure IoT Central formally launching since we last evaluated this market.”

We believe this latest recognition spotlights our commitment and ability to:

Support a comprehensive set of deployment models, from edge to cloud. According to our own IoT Signals research, the decision-makers surveyed believe that in the next two years, AI, edge computing, and 5G will be critical technological drivers for IoT success. And they want tools that can drive success across diverse deployment models.

Deliver business integration that goes beyond connectivity and device management. It’s become increasingly important for businesses to be able to link IoT workflows to data and processes across the operation, and we’re helping customers accelerate time to value.

Turn analytics into actionable intelligence. Industrial firms capture and generate mountains of time-series data in real-time. Transforming this data into timely insights is key to turning that data into decisions that move the business forward.

Forrester Wave Solutions

We’re committed to making Azure the ideal IoT platform, and this recognition comes at a great point in our journey. Download this complimentary full report and read the analysis behind Microsoft’s positioning as a Leader.

More information on our Azure IoT Industrial platform.

The Forrester Wave™: Industrial IoT Software Platforms, Q4 2019, Michele Pelino and Paul Miller, November 13, 2019. This graphic was published by Forrester Research as part of a larger research document and should be evaluated in the context of the entire document.