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Microsoft to invest $5bn in IoT

Steve Rogerson
April 10, 2018

Microsoft is to invest $5bn in the IoT over the next four years as it aims to give its customers the ability to transform their businesses, and the world at large, with connectivity.
“It’s well understood that IoT can create operational efficiencies, but we know the true impact extends well beyond that into our daily lives,” said Julia White, CVP for Microsoft Azure, in a blog post. “Our customers are delivering electricity to schools in Africa, creating better patient outcomes with predictive care, improving worker safety on job sites and driver safety on Alaskan roadways.”
She said that Microsoft had been investing in the IoT before the term was coined, when enterprises had endpoints in their factories, buildings and other devices that were totally dark.
“Today, we’re planning to dedicate even more resources to research and innovation in IoT and what is ultimately evolving to be the new intelligent edge,” she said. “With our IoT platform spanning cloud, OS and devices, we are uniquely positioned to simplify the IoT journey so any customer – regardless of size, technical expertise, budget, industry or other factors – can create trusted, connected solutions that improve business and customer experiences, as well as the daily lives of people all over the world. The investment we’re announcing today will ensure we continue to meet all our customers’ needs both now and in the future.”
The increased adoption and exponential growth that analysts have been forecasting for years is now being seen, she said. AT Kearney predicts the IoT will lead to a $1.9tn productivity increase and $177bn in reduced costs by 2020.
“This effect will be pervasive, from connected homes and cars to manufacturers to smart cities and utilities, and everything in between,” she said.
The increased investment will support continued innovation in Microsoft’s technology platform, as well as supporting programmes. The technology giant plans to continue research and development in key areas, including securing the IoT, creating development tools and intelligent services for the IoT and the edge, and investments to grow partner ecosystem.
Microsoft’s IoT offerings today include what businesses need to get started, ranging from operating systems for devices, cloud services to control and secure them, analytics to gain insights, and business applications to enable intelligent action.
“We’ve seen great traction with customers and partners who continue to come up with new ideas and execute them on our platform,” she said.
Companies such as Steelcase, Kohler, Chevron, United Technologies and Johnson Controls are all innovating with Microsoft’s IoT platform, launching products and services.
For example, she said Johnson Controls had transformed the humble thermostat into a smart device that can monitor a range of conditions to optimise building temperatures automatically. Schneider Electric has built a way to harness solar energy in Nigeria using Microsoft’s IoT platform to do maintenance remotely on the panels, quite literally to keep the lights on. Kohler has created a line of intelligent kitchen and bath fixtures that are not only luxurious to use, but more economical as well. The Alaska Department of Transportation is working with Colorado-based Fathym to build smart roadways that monitor weather conditions and can alert drivers and state officials about treacherous conditions.
“These stories keep rolling in,” she said. “With each new implementation, we’re witnessing a unique transformation. We’re also getting a look into how both customers and partners overcome the specific challenges of building an IoT solution that harnesses massive amounts of data. Whether they’re building products that transform the home, office or factory floor, one thing remains clear: IoT is a collaborative, multi-disciplinary effort that spans cloud development, machine learning, AI, security and privacy.”
She said Microsoft was committed to helping its customers bring their vision to life across every industry.
“Today’s announcement is big for us and for the future of IoT and the intelligent edge,” she said. “It positions us to support customers as they develop new and increasingly sophisticated IoT solutions, which few could have imagined just a few years ago. We can’t wait to see what comes from our customers and partners next, and we’ll have more to share throughout the year.”
Microsoft is working with California IoT connectivity company Electric Imp to accelerate securing the IoT and simplifying connectivity for industrial and commercial users. Electric Imp will offer Azure-based managed services on its IoT platform. Commercial and industrial users can take advantage of the Azure IoT hub and Electric Imp’s scalable and secure connectivity platform to simplify retrofits of new and existing products for end-to-end IoT applications.
The offering expands Electric Imp’s cloud options to include a public ImpCloud on Azure, helping existing and new Microsoft customers implement Azure-based IoT services.