Australia embraces cloud and AI to deliver a new class of intelligent solutions says Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella

16, November 2016 – Sydney, Australia – Artificial intelligence, machine learning and cloud computing are combining to deliver a new class of intelligent solutions able to tackle some of the toughest challenges facing society and business.

During his first official visit to Australia since becoming CEO, Satya Nadella on Wednesday said that Microsoft’s rich heritage as a platform company remains core as artificial intelligence (AI) enters the mainstream. He said Microsoft offered intelligent cloud services that deliver bot and intelligence capability to empower every developer, to build any app and experiences.

Speaking at the Microsoft Australia Developer Conference in Sydney, Nadella announced the public preview of a new Azure Bot service, which enables developers to build, deploy and manage bots on the Microsoft Azure cloud. He also announced that Azure’s high performance virtual machines, N-Series, will be available in early December to help customers run the most compute intensive workloads in the cloud, like AI research, complex rendering and neural network training – so they can bring intelligence and high performance computing to their businesses, and to their apps.

Azure N-Series is being used by OpenAI, the non-profit AI research organisation founded by Greg Brockman, Ilya Sutskever, Sam Altman and Elon Musk, focussed on developing safe AI solutions for widespread application. Nadella shared that Microsoft will partner with OpenAI to advance the frontiers of AI and tackle the world’s most challenging problems.

During his keynote Nadella showcased a number of intelligent and responsive innovations already being built in Australia using Microsoft technologies – at organisations including the Department of Human Services (DHS), Cricket Australia, and Webjet.

“At Microsoft, we aim to empower every Australian citizen and organisation to achieve more,” said Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft. “Core to this is empowering every Australian developer with the most complete platforms and technology to build new applications and experiences that will fuel and accelerate digital transformation in every industry.”

Australians innovate with Microsoft Cloud

Microsoft is delivering intelligent cloud services to Australian developers that will underpin a new generation of intelligent apps. Australia’s Department of Human Services is now leveraging these services to deliver a quantum leap in customer service.

In the largest Windows 10 deployment in APAC, DHS has upgraded to Windows 10 to boost the productivity and efficiency of all 35,000 employees. It is also leveraging Cortana Intelligence Suite, using machine learning and cognitive services, to build expert systems empowering its employees to respond faster and more effectively to citizen queries to better serve Australians.

Working with Microsoft, DHS will embark on a pioneering proof of concept to deliver intelligent customer experiences powered by deep learning. Using intelligent cloud technologies, it will infuse bots with deeper human context and conversational understanding, and help agents be more effective to ultimately improve and expand customer engagement channels.

“DHS is one of the first organisations outside of North America to implement Microsoft’s latest machine learning, AI platforms, and natural language technologies,” said Pip Marlow, managing director, Microsoft Australia. “We recognise that for technology to improve the lives of all, it’s crucial that industry and governments work together. The work undertaken by DHS and Microsoft is an example of this collaboration, and together we are guiding best practice globally around the use of intelligent applications to improve access to services for every individual and organisation.”

Besides the DHS initiative, Microsoft is working closely with a raft of other Australian organisations on solutions that deliver genuine intelligence and the opportunity to boost results for both enterprises and individuals;

  • Cricket Australia is one of the first sporting bodies globally to trial Microsoft’s team and player performance platform and use machine learning, predictive analytics and rich visualisation to manage and analyse its performance and player data. Using Microsoft Surface devices, coaches will have instant access to data visualisations and the ability to leverage machine learning and predictive analytics to fine tune development programmes. Sports analytics is evolving fast and Cricket Australia will be the code’s first user of the platform, in its bid to produce the world’s best teams, events and officials.
  • Webjet, Australia and New Zealand’s leading online travel agency, has built a first-of-a-kind blockchain proof of concept solution with Microsoftthat has the potential to transform the way the entire travel industry processes and manages online payments for hotel bookings. With the potential to save the industry billions of dollars, and empower Webjet to capitalise on a US$10 billion market opportunity[1], the solution resolves issues created by data mismatch to boost user experience and reduce costs.
  • The Eyenaemia app developed by Stat Innovations uses smartphones, cloud computing and machine learning to identify anaemia by taking a selfie of the eye and without taking blood – putting the power of modern medicine in the grasp of remote communities and developing countries. Azure’s machine learning capabilities mean that the system gets smarter every time it is used; a trial underway in Kenya is collecting up to 10,000 new data points that will further boost the intelligence of the application.

Automation accelerates digital transformation

Powered by advanced analytics and machine learning Dynamics 365 and Office 365, along with PowerApps, Flow and Power BI provide the foundations for developers to develop agile, intelligent solutions to meet current and future enterprise needs.

  • Beyond Bank is the first bank in Australia to embrace Dynamics 365 which is proving a key enabler of its strategy to deliver exceptional customer service. The bank is using Dynamics 365 to draw together key information from its core banking system to provide a 360-degree view of the customer ensuring effective efficient service. Hosted in Microsoft’s trusted Australian Azure data centre, the solution has also streamlined all customer interactions from opening an account to applying for a loan, with all processes managed through the simplified and consistent CRM.
  • Bupa has deployed Microsoft Dynamics 365 to build out its customer service offerings, empowering employees to resolve issues in real-time and improve the customer experience. Within one month of going live, Australia’s largest health-insurer witnessed a significant increase in customer satisfaction, and now intends to roll out the Microsoft Dynamics Suite across all services.

Powering a new era of intelligence for all

Nadella also reinforced Microsoft’s commitment to continue to push the boundaries of natural user interfaces, making software more intuitive and intelligent, and also to deploy mixed reality along with Windows 10 to foster an entirely new class of smart applications.

HoloLens, the world’s first self-contained holographic computer will be available in Australia this month providing a platform for developers to deliver ground breaking intelligent solutions that will have previously unthinkable impacts.  As Nadella noted in his presentation the power of mixed reality is that; “When you change the way you see the world, you change the world you see.”  Windows 10 will be updated in 2017 to include Windows Holographic to power mixed reality experiences to allow people to perceive the world differently, break down barriers and bring the virtual and physical worlds together.

  • Saab Australia which develops high technology precision systems for defence and civilian applications is working with HoloLens and has established a global mixed reality application development centre of excellence in Adelaide. Its initial mixed reality focus is on a system that provides military and security planners the opportunity to visualise complex data so that they can quickly comprehend and respond to complex operating environments. In the future, Saab Australia envisages using HoloLens in health applications to teach patients how to manage chronic pain.
  • Mixed reality platforms were also available to spur developers participating in Microsoft Australia and The Australian Network on Disability’s Hack for Good project, where Australia’s best developer organisations collaborated through a hackathon to develop accessible technology solutions removing barriers for people with disabilities. Read the full list of winners here.

Bringing the power of intelligence to the world

Nadella closed his keynote presentation by reflecting on the central and growing role that technology plays in all organisations and across all levels of society.

He said that Australian developers were in the vanguard in terms of leveraging Microsoft’s AI, machine learning and cloud computing solutions, seizing the opportunity to infuse intelligence into the systems that they designed, ensuring better outcomes for all.

Developers are the key players in terms of driving digital transformation through every sector he said, adding; “We are at this point in our industry when new computing platforms can empower profound transformations. It is for each of us collectively to imagine the future, build it and create it.”

[1] Gartner Reveals Top Predictions for IT Organisations and Users in 2017 and Beyond. October 2016. http://www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/3482117