Microsoft Outlines Azure IoT Strategy & Updates

In a Monday blog post, Microsoft's Corporate Vice President of Azure IoT Sam George detailed the company's progress in integrating and securing its Internet of Things (IoT) platforms and resources.

The aim has been to make IoT easier for enterprises and industries. Microsoft's latest improvements, according to George, help customers "embrace IoT as a core strategy to drive better business outcomes." Specifically, these improvements include system security, new features aimed at energy use optimization, the ability to predict/prevent equipment failures, outcome tracking (for patients, worker safety or other issues) and supply-chain tracking, among others.

To this end, Microsoft added things like new templates, API support and data export options. It's also promising to deliver a new IoT pricing model sometime in "early 2020."

The announcement included a few IoT product milestones. For instance, Microsoft announced the February 2020 general availability launch of Azure Sphere, its coming Linux-based secure IoT platform introduced in April and previewed in September. Azure Sphere consists of three main elements: a microcontroller unit (MCU), an SDK (and related tools) for developing applications, plus the Azure Sphere Security Service. Pricing and licensing details are online here, and the preview can be accessed at this page.

Microsoft also emphasized its Azure Sphere partner efforts with chipmakers MediaTek, NXP and Qualcomm. MCU maker Renesas plans to use the Azure Real-Time Operating System (RTOS) in its Synergy and RA MCU products. The Azure RTOS is used to connect IoT devices and endpoints to Azure services, and has been enhanced by Microsoft's recent purchase of RTOS maker Express Logic

Also as part of this announcement, Microsoft released a major update to Azure IoT Central, its IoT app platform. Some of the updates include IoT plug-and-play support (announced in May), expanded API support, support for IoT Edge, new "industry-focused" application templates and multitenancy support, among other changes.

Microsoft's IoT Hub, which ties into IoT Central, also got updated. IoT Hub, described as "the core of our Azure IoT platform services," now integrates with Azure Event Grid on IoT Edge (in preview), which adds publish and subscribe messaging for applications. Additionally, the IoT Hub integration with Azure Event Grid can send telemetry data (in preview), on top of sending notifications. IoT Hub also now permits rich information to be added to messages via its new message enrichment feature.

Microsoft added new capabilities to its Azure Time Series Insights service, which is an IoT events analysis and visualization service, accessed through a browser. The service now permits access to frequently used data, as well as historical ("cold") data that gets stored in an organization's Azure Storage account. There's a new Power BI connector to bring Azure Time Series Insights queries into Power BI for analysis. There are also "rich query APIs" for more in-depth analyses using the Azure Time Series Insights service, and Microsoft improved its scalability performance.

Summing up, George wrote: "At Microsoft, we are committed to providing a trusted, easy-to-use platform that allows our customers and partners to build seamless, smart and secure solutions regardless of where they are in their IoT journey."

More IoT developments are expected to get announced at the Microsoft Ignite 2019 event, which will take place in Orlando on Nov. 4-8.

About the Author

Becky Nagel is the former editorial director and director of Web for 1105 Media's Converge 360 group, and she now serves as vice president of AI for company, specializing in developing media, events and training for companies around AI and generative AI technology. She's the author of "ChatGPT Prompt 101 Guide for Business Users" and other popular AI resources with a real-world business perspective. She regularly speaks, writes and develops content around AI, generative AI and other business tech. Find her on X/Twitter @beckynagel.