By Vasily Malanin, IoT and Advanced Analytics Lead, Microsoft Asia Pacific
At Microsoft, we believe that IoT, a concept first coined by MIT professors 20 years ago, is already here. Today the convergence of connectivity, cloud and mobile technologies is helping create a shift in enterprise models towards IoT.
This is evident, based on our recent conversations with government and business leaders at key IoT industry forums, where they have shown much greater urgency to discovering how they can better leverage IoT to innovate faster, create new efficiencies and revenue streams.
In fact, IT analyst firm IDC has recently said that the Asia Pacific region accounts for more than 40% of the worldwide spending on IoT technologies[i]. This is a clear indication that leading businesses in this region are already catching on to what a game changer IoT can be.
The Ecosystem is Making IoT Happen in Asia
The IT ecosystem partners play an important role in helping governments and leading organizations in Asia to realize a digital future transformed by IoT. At the end of the day, IoT growth is no longer a limitation of technology, but the creativity and innovation that independent software vendors, system integrators and application developers can bring to the table.
However, to make it easier for our customers and partners, Azure IoT Suite was launched in February 2016 to enable customers to quickly provision a working, end-to-end IoT solution. The IoT Suite includes preconfigured solutions that enable customers to quickly get started with and to explore the most common IoT scenarios, such as Remote monitoring and Predictive maintenance. These preconfigured solutions were designed as base implementations of common IoT solution patterns that help to reduce the time customers and partners need to develop their IoT solutions.
Microsoft is increasing our focus ramping up the IoT partner ecosystem in the region. One example is the recent roll out of the Azure IoT Red Carpet Program. Aimed at accelerating enablement and growth opportunities for partners, the program guides partners to fuller utilization of Microsoft’s resources and technologies.
Partners can gain deeper understanding and access to internal Microsoft resources, such as the Azure IoT Suite technical roadmap. This translates to improved technical capabilities, ultimately leads to improved go to market strategies for partners, and better business outcomes for end-users.
As part of the program, the ‘Azure IoT Practice Building Portal’ provides the relevant guidance for partners while the ‘Microsoft Azure Certified for IoT’ program built for the IoT momentum helps businesses get started on IoT projects quickly by connecting them to an ecosystem of partners with offerings that easily connect to the Microsoft Azure IoT Suite and IoT Hub. Over the past five months, nearly 30 industry leaders have joined the program. And today, even more are announcing their participation, including Dell, HPE, and Libelium.
We have a rapidly growing partner IoT ecosystem both in the region and globally. Recently in Australia we announced partnerships with nine IT companies to help develop expertise and applications to drive IoT. To date, there are over 30 independent software vendors developing cloud-based IoT applications on Azure, including Singapore companies, Astoria, Nextan and S3 Innovate who are working on Smart City solutions.
I am pleased to share 3 business areas where IoT solutions have been deployed on Microsoft cloud platforms:
Enabling Connected Forests with Accenture
Accenture teams with Microsoft globally and in Asia Pacific on the IoT. Through its Connected Operations practice, focused on the Industrial IoT, Accenture is helping organizations in manufacturing, natural resources, energy, transportation and agriculture industries to name a few, to create new insights and values from untapped data.
For example, Accenture is leveraging IoT and digital technology to bring value to farmers by deploying in-ground sensors and drones, combined with external data such as weather, to monitor and analyze crop performance and provide real-time economic decision support to increase yields and profitability. Click on Digital Agriculture Solutions to understand more about this Precision Agriculture case study.
Accenture is also working with a forestry company and leveraging Microsoft Azure to help create a connected forestry and agriculture system that involves drones and mobile devices to create real-time estate visibility, optimize production and standardize reports.
Precision agriculture is gaining prominence, with digital technologies and analytics driving it. Leveraging IoT with big data analytics, Accenture is enabling farmers to help enhance yield and profitability.Speaking about working with Microsoft on this project, Ani Bhalekar from the IoT practice in Accenture Mobility, part of Accenture Digital, based out of Singapore, said: “We’re continuously building IoT connected offerings for specific industries. Precision Agriculture is one we’re very proud of. Another one of them is the Connected Fleet offering that in one instance Accenture has built on top of the Microsoft Azure IoT platform. It’s a simple but extremely powerful tool for cargo ship operators that want to derive operational efficiency and maximize the total value of the fleet through its lifecycle, while potentially identifying new sources of revenue in the data being collected and analyzed.
“Alongside these two examples, we have also built a Connected Asset Management offering on the Microsoft Azure stack that manages and optimizes the universe of industrial assets, technologies and associated processes and is delivered as a managed service. These are exciting times for technology, IoT and the Accenture – Microsoft alliance,” added Bhalekar.
Creating Smarter Cities with Advantech
Advantech helps organizations in factory automation, healthcare, logistics and fleet management, warehouse management and retail sectors – and in collaboration with Microsoft, the company recently developed the WISE-PaaS IoT development platform. This platform enables customers to shorten their development time and roll out their IOT applications quickly.
David Soon, Regional Director for Advantech Smart City Sector, South Asia Pacific Region, said this about its partnership with Microsoft: “We collaborated with Microsoft to integrate the WISE-PaaS IoT software services with Microsoft’s Azure Cloud services. As a result, Advantech is able to tap into some of the rich features and functionalities of the Microsoft Azure Cloud thereby helping our customers to build their IoT applications seamlessly and quickly.”
“Microsoft Azure IoT suite provides us with a ready platform to proliferate our IOT solutions for the Industrial Automation, Intelligent Retail, Digital Healthcare, Digital Logistics and many others to make the smart cities vision a reality,” added Soon.
Safety at work with Astoria Solutions
Astoria Solutions has been one of Microsoft’s earliest ISV partners to adopt Azure and has developed solutions to help numerous companies in the oil and gas industry to improve their business operations and enhance safety and productivity.
One of Astoria’ award-winning solutions is SafeSmart™, which leverages Azure and combines RFID, sensor-to-cloud and software to pin-point location of a company’s workers in real time in an unobtrusive way and drastically improve the safety and accountability of the workforce. Equipped with built-in diagnosis and alert intelligence, SafeSmart™ sensors transmit worker location data to cloud via various options that include mobile broadband and Wi-Fi.
For IoT to happen on a massive scale, cities and businesses need to take a holistic approach – it is not just only about technology but about policy, infrastructure, data culture, skills and creativity. We also understand that organizations can accelerate their IoT journey by partnering with the right IT partners.