Microsoft’s new IoT & AI Insider Lab

Propelling businesses and startups to success

Microsoft’s new IoT & AI Insider Lab

Businesses from small startups to large companies and entrepreneurs look set to save significant amounts of time and money when Microsoft’s state of the art IoT & AI Insider Lab launches in April.

Following the success of existing labs in the US and China, the new Munich-based lab will be perfectly placed to connect with every major tech hub and capital in EMEA.

Microsoft’s IoT and AI Insider Labs enable users to bring their early stage projects or solutions to an environment which allows rapid design, prototyping, and testing, with a team of dedicated Microsoft experts on hand every step of the way to provide guidance and assistance.

Specced to impress

As with its counterparts, the new Munich lab will offer 24/7 secure on-site access to users, and will be split up into separate, functional sections, including private office space for four customer groups for idea generation, designing, and problem solving in privacy.

Before the customer sets foot in the lab, the IoT & AI Insider Lab engineers confer with the customer to understand their goals, their problems, and their architecture.  By the time the customer arrives, the Lab team has built a sprint plan with them so that every moment in the lab is highly productive. Typically, customers feel that every week in the lab is equivalent to 1.5 to 2 months of time on their own.

Customers get hands-on engineering help with designing PCBs and creating enclosures.  In-house Electrical engineers, Electronic & Mechanical CAD, Pick & Place and reflow ovens mean that customers can try their boards, make changes and rebuild in hours instead of weeks.

Embedded engineers in the lab help customers to build drivers to help them interface with the latest sensors, to securely connect and to transmit to Azure.  Experience cloud engineers show customers how to build customized dashboards.  Finally, Machine Learning / AI developers show customers how to spot anomalous devices and predict failures.

Microsoft’s IoT Insider Labs on February 23, 2017. (Photography by Scott Eklund/Red Box Pictures)

One such partner is Cisco – the company’s IoT portfolio will be available in Microsoft’s lab to help users build innovative enterprise-class IoT solutions:

“Customers can get a first-hand experience of the combined power of Cisco IoT and Microsoft Azure IoT platform to develop innovative use cases in the IoT Insider lab. Customers can now securely connect devices, use intelligence at the edge and with Azure IoT achieve their business outcomes.” – Vikas Butaney, General Manager, Cisco IoT Connectivity.

Another partner, OPC Foundation, has also worked closely with the Insider Lab to bring its technology to customers:

“Microsoft’s Insider Lab in Munich provides customers with various technologies and technical experience to help connect and digitize their businesses. Microsoft is the strongest open source contributor for OPC Unified Architecture (OPC UA), which enables industrial compatibility. Microsoft’s open source integration of the OPC UA code with Microsoft Azure IoT allows companies to bring millions of devices and apps to the public cloud and manage them with one single application – regardless of what operating system they’re running.” – Stefan Hoppe, Vice President OPC Foundation

Cyra Richardson (left) stands opposite the workbench from (right to left) Barron Barnett, Sean Kelly and Marlina Hales as they examine a robot snake.

An invaluable tool

Companies of all sizes will be able to use the new Munich lab at no cost, with full access to Microsoft’s advanced technology and its machine learning, AI and Azure cloud experts.

Lab stints will run around one to three weeks, allowing users to refine their product architecture, unblock technical issues and build the skills to create a full end-to-end IoT solution.

A one-stop-shop for tooling and testing (as opposed to paying six or seven different vendors), companies whose applications are accepted will greatly accelerate their progress. No other IoT and AI industry acceleration programme in the world comes close to the full solution that Microsoft’s Insider Labs offer.

“Companies have said their three weeks in the lab was worth four, five or six months of coding on their own,” says Cyra Richardson, Microsoft general manager of IoT business development.

A number of companies have already proven how useful Microsoft’s Insider Labs can be:

Globatom

One company which has already found the Insider Lab at Microsoft’s HQ in Redmond invaluable is Globatom – a company which specializes in innovative cloud-based SaaS solutions that streamline the complexities typically found within the shipping and logistics industry.

Tommy Stephenson, CTO, Globatom states that “Due to our time in the Microsoft Insider Labs we saved ourselves easily 6 months of work while educating our team on all of the features possible within the Azure IoT Suite. We experimented with new features within Azure, learned how certain components within the IoT suite work with one another to rapidly collect messages from various IoT devices… into specific streams that can be rapidly ingested and made sense of on the fly.”

“In addition, we formed strong relationships within the Insider Labs group that have allowed us to continue working with Microsoft in way that help grow the Globatom business through events and working with other internal Microsoft groups.”

“Azure IoT Suite has extremely strong capabilities in the world of machine learning, so working with the Insider Labs team to ensure we were maximizing the use of Azure technology with our own predictive analytics engines was a huge value to us.”

Integral Analytics

Integral Analytics is a software applications company serving over 40 utilities and other “grid edge” stakeholders by providing critical forecasting, valuation and asset dispatch solutions to meet the challenges of the changing electric industry.  Its products provide nodal, long and short term forecasting capabilities and real-time operational controls to empower the modern smart grid.

During the company’s time at the Redmond-based lab, Microsoft’s engineers helped assist in creating a prototype framework for ingesting real-time data and analysing it on the fly using Azure IoT Hub and Stream Analytics.

“We spent two weeks in the lab, during which we accomplished what would have taken us two to three months to R&D and develop on our own. Even after our engagement had ended the lab team was still available to take our questions and provide additional assistance.

Cafection

Cafection Enterprises inc. is the largest North American bean-to-cup coffee machines manufacturer, founded in 1996 in Québec City, Canada. It introduced the first connected coffee machine that enables online assets management and video and media content push on the brewer’s screen.

“Choosing the right technology when starting a new project is a hard, but crucial decision to make. Microsoft Insider Lab helps you to make that decision. Rather than pushing the company to use a particular technology, the Microsoft team guides you and helps you choose the best for your project. They work with your company to help overcome the difficulties of the first stages of development. The Microsoft IoT team also offers training for a particular domain, if needed.”

“Participating in the Insider Lab saved us time and money. It also shortened the development time of our project by many months. Now, Cafection knows exactly how to handle the project and in which direction to go. The team has learned a lot on so many subjects. “ – Simon Gagné, R&D Director, Cafection