When Microsoft IoT acquired Solair, an Italian company specialized in Internet of Things (IoT) services for the enterprise, earlier this year, there was a lot of buzz about where the software giant will position itself in the rapidly evolving world of IoT. Smart Industry caught up with Oliver Niedung, Senior Channel Executive, IoT Device Experience at Microsoft in Germany and talked with him about what people in Redmond are thinking lately.
What is Microsofts vision for an IoT world?
As Microsoft, our mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to do more and to achieve more. We are powering the IoT as a platform technology provider and support companies to embrace the digital age and deploy disruptive new IoT services. Our IoT technologies and services enable the retrofit of existing installations (brown field) as well as green field installations aimed to preserve investments. All of our products and services reflect our strong commitment to protecting customers in a mobile first, cloud first world. We ensure security to enable digital transformation through our comprehensive platform, unique intelligence, and broad partnerships.
Senior Channel Executive, IoT Device Experience Microsoft Deutschland
How far are you and what’s your timetable?
What we are hearing from our customers and partners is that we are providing the broadest portfolio of IoT platform technology already that helps them succeed. Scaling from development tools (Visual Studio), device technology (Windows 10 IoT), heterogeneous connectivity with SDKs (Azure IoT SDK on GitHub), device management, public and private cloud services, advanced analytics services with the Cortana Intelligence Suite to new scenarios with HoloLens. There is so much more we are working on within our worldwide partner network.
What, if any, is the difference between IoT and Cloud Computing?
There is quite a number of differences, depending on which definition you use. Cloud computing is basically internet-based computing on shared processing resources. It has grown from its infancy of infrastructure services (IaaS) to mature platform and software services that provide significantly higher value. IoT, on the other hand (there is a good definition from ITU) enables advanced services. Cloud computing is a key element of most IoT implementations, since cloud-based Machine Learning is an enabler of advanced services.
What are the major components you will put in place to help business customers make the transition?
Microsoft is offering hybrid cloud platform technology to enable innovation at our customers’ and partners’ terms. It is their business model, their disruptive services that we want to enable with our platform technology. We don’t want to interfere with their business model, instead, look at all the partners that are leveraging Azure, like SAP, Oracle or Red Hat. We want to empower them to compete with disruptive services on the highest level through innovation such as cognitive services or global hyper scale. And, we want to enable breakthrough global development through Visual Studio on all platforms and make Windows 10 the best choice for most devices in terms of security and manageability.
Many companies today lack fully networked end2end processes. Instead, their infrastructure resembles an archipelago of “digital islands” – unconnected systems, where information constantly needs to be re-entered, in the worst case by hand. Is this lack of true digitalization a serious roadblock on our way to an IoT world?
In most cases, it is a sign that business processes are not optimized. Operating procedures grow over time, and as long as they are not challenged, they continue to grow. IoT in fact provides ways to optimize procedures, e.g. through B2B wearables, digital assistants like Cortana and process optimization through Machine Learning. It also enables the integration of data siloes and better decisions based on near real-time, personalized KPIs. Microsoft is enabling this with Power BI.
Are certain European countries further along than others in this area?
In fact, we see companies across EMEA embracing IoT at different speeds. It is less a question of the country, but more of vision and execution of key decision makers and their influencers. Even within large companies, we see teams embracing IoT at very different speeds. But let me be clear: Some companies in Europe are building IoT solutions with amazing speed and are expected to have a significant impact in their vertical industry. They have the potential to become a global leader or maintain their leadership position with new, disruptive services. Some organizations on the other hand have for various reasons not yet taken a first step in the direction of digitalization.