The Internet of Things (IoT) is a novel and exciting concept for consumer applications. I mean, who doesn’t want an internet-connected refrigerator that can generate recipes for you based on what foods are inside of it? Or better yet, send you push notifications when you get in your car to come home from work to pick up one or two more ingredients on your way home to complete the ingredient list for one of your favorite dishes.
While that might sound great, one of the most important and fascinating forefronts of this field is actually in business or enterprise applications.
If you’re a logistics company, wouldn’t it be amazing to deploy low-cost, super accurate transponders on delivery vehicles and shipments for real-time tracking? And what if you could program your delivery technology stack to talk to itself such that you could give up-to-the-minute delivery estimates that updated in real time automatically? Or at a more basic level, wouldn’t it be great to cut your energy bill and fatten your bottom line by installing motion detecting lights, thermostats, etc. that all communicate with a central dashboard your office manager can monitor and make changes accordingly?
If you make physical goods, wouldn’t it be great to monitor and track your entire supply chain remotely? Employing IoT devices and trackers throughout the supply chain could enable that. If you control your own production facilities, you could manage them more effectively via predictive maintenance, statistical evaluation, and measurements to maximize reliability.
While maybe not the sexiest topic, the ability to squeeze more productivity and efficiency out of your enterprise can mean a thicker bottom line, which is certainly exciting.
One of the biggest things standing between you and that sweet increase? The development cost of IoT — it takes time, expertise and stellar coders to make these things a reality. At least, until now.
Microsoft recently launched IoT Central, a new IoT service that gives enterprises a “fully managed solution for setting up their IoT deployments without needing the in-house expertise necessary for deploying a cloud-based IoT solution from scratch. It’s basically IoT-as-a-Service”, as reported in TechCrunch.
With a service like this, much of the legwork required to set up and deploy an IoT solution would fall to the enterprise experts at Microsoft, instead of on you and your team to build it from the ground up.
Microsoft is also sweetening the pot by bringing its Azure Stream Analytics to edge devices, replete with a new analytics service for time-sensitive data.
As the TechCrunch article further elucidates:
Azure Time Series Insights, which is now available in preview, is actually a new database offering from Microsoft that is based on the same technology the company itself uses to log every single event on Azure (and we’re talking billions of events a day here). While there are plenty of exceptions, IoT data tends to arrive in a time-based fashion and Time Series Insights is purpose-built to store and interactively visualize and analyze this type of data to find anomalies. For developers, the service also offers an API to integrate it into existing workflows.
Microsoft also announced that its Azure Stream Analytics service can now run on edge devices. This basically means that those devices will be able to run real-time analytics locally without having to send all of their data to Azure first. While the cloud solution is meant to parse data from millions of devices, a single device doesn’t actually produce all that much data and even a very basic Raspberry Pi has enough power to run this service locally. Thanks to this, these devices can function even when they don’t have a reliable connection to the Internet.
While we haven’t gotten under the hood to confirm everything Microsoft is selling here, it’s still an exciting development in the field of enterprise IoT. As more platforms commit to the maturity of the IoT market, more services like this will spring up, bringing IoT advances closer to businesses large and small alike. And with the power to analyze all the data your IoT swarm generates, it could be that much more useful a tool.