Following a successful limited preview, today we are announcing the public preview of Microsoft IoT Central. Microsoft IoT Central is the first true highly scalable IoT SaaS solution that has built-in support for IoT best practices and world class security along with the reliability, regional availability, and the global scale of the Azure cloud.
Microsoft IoT Central overview
Microsoft IoT Central allows companies throughout the world to build production-grade IoT applications in hours and not worry about managing all the necessary backend infrastructure or hiring new skill sets to develop the solutions. In short, Microsoft IoT Central makes it so that everyone can benefit from IoT.
Simplifying IoT means reducing the complexities related to customizing, deploying and scaling an IoT solution, and to ensure that these benefits can be leveraged by our enterprise customers, Microsoft IoT Central provides a comprehensible, yet growing, set of enterprise-grade features and leverages proven technologies and acclaimed Azure services.
Connectivity and security
To unleash the full potential of connected devices, Microsoft IoT Central leverages Azure IoT Hub as its cloud gateway, for securely connecting, provisioning, updating, and sending commands to devices. Microsoft IoT Central customers will be able to leverage features such as:
- Device authentication and secure connectivity: Each device uses its own security key to connect to the cloud in a secure way.
- Extensive set of device libraries: Azure IoT device SDKs are available and supported for a variety of languages and platforms such as Node.js, C/C#, and Java.
- IoT protocols and extensibility: Native support of the MQTT 3.1.1, HTTP 1.1, and AMQP 1.0 protocols for device connectivity.
- Scalability: Microsoft IoT Central automatically scales to support millions of connected devices and by millions of events per second ingested through its cloud gateway, and stored though its time-series storage.
Devices and device templates
Microsoft IoT Central provides the ability to create and persist a digital representation of your connected devices. Devices in Microsoft IoT Central are live and actionable logical representations of your connected assets with their own defining attributes. The creation of a device happens directly on the cloud, inside the Microsoft IoT Central Application Builder, a low-code environment where users can define device attributes and visualizations via drag and drop from libraries of assets. Even before connecting a real device, users can experiment and test their application by simulating a device through the simulation service embedded in Microsoft IoT Central. Devices are templatized to make it faster and easier to provision device identities at scale and templates are versioned to support DevOps.
To monitor and manage the devices effectively, users can define the different types of measurements emitted by it and displayed by the application. Microsoft IoT Central supports measurements types such as telemetry including device-emitted numeric values, often collected at a regular frequency (e.g. temperature), events including device-emitted numeric or non-numeric values generated on the device, with no inferable relationship over time (e.g. button press and error code), and state including device-emitted numeric or non-numeric values which defines the state of a device or one of its parts and maintained until the state change is informed by the device (e.g. Engine ON).
Device properties & settings
To track the non-frequently changing business data such as customer name, address, and last maintenance date, associated with devices, Microsoft IoT Central enables the use of metadata, persisted on the cloud and updated either by the device itself (device properties) or the user (cloud properties) to better identify and manage devices. Metadata persisted on the cloud can also be used to remotely control devices with Settings: when a setting is changed on Microsoft IoT Central, the desired change is sent to the device, which then takes the appropriate action and responds back with the progress and, eventually, reports that the change has successfully been applied.
A critical component of an IoT solution is the ability for users to be made aware when device conditions meet important criteria, whether it is pertaining to device health or just KPIs, and trigger appropriate actions.
To support this need, Microsoft IoT Central enables users to create rules – a set of conditions based on device measurements, properties and settings – by providing rule templates as a starting point.
Conditions are verified against streaming and persisted data through a real-time analytics service, automatically managed and scaled by Microsoft IoT Central, and trigger actions when verified. Actions include notifications and a wide range of extensions that are coming soon, such as Webhooks, Logic Apps, Azure Functions, 3rd party application integrations, etc.
To support customers in managing a large number of devices, and grouping them into smaller logical sets to help visualize and analyze their data, Microsoft IoT Central enables users to create Device Sets based on dynamic conditions such as device properties. Device Sets can be used to create meaningful Dashboards or as a starting point for time-series analytics.
Analytics and dashboards
Microsoft IoT Central integrates Azure Time Series Insights – a fully managed analytics, storage, and visualization service for managing IoT-scale time-series – to enable users to explore and analyze billions of events streaming simultaneously from devices deployed all over the world. Microsoft IoT Central provides massively scalable time-series data storage and several ways to explore data, making it super easy to explore and visualize millions of data points simultaneously, conduct root-cause analysis, and to compare multiple sites and assets. Within an application, time-series visualization is available for a single device, for a Device Set – with the ability to compare multiple devices - and as a multi-purpose Analytics tool.
Devices and Devices Sets have dashboards with a comprehensible set of tiles, which can be configured to represent all their characteristics – measurements, properties, etc. – in a simple, meaningful and compelling way. Dashboards tiles can be moved or arranged however you want to present your information: their dimensions can be changed by height or width, and they can be arranged next to other tiles to represent your data however you want.
Authentication and authorization
To ensure the maximum level of security and the flexibility to customize access privileges, Microsoft IoT Central supports authentication of enterprise users via Azure Active Directory and single users with a Microsoft account. To be authorized to access an application, users must be assigned a role, which defines the level of access and the privileges that each user has in the context of each application. Microsoft IoT Central also supports advanced security and user management features such as Two-factor authentication and Security Groups.
Application templates and free trial
To explore all its features and capabilities, and appreciate the full potential of applications created, Microsoft IoT Central provides a 30 day free trial. You can connect, or simulate, up to 10 devices and leverage all the functionalities of the solution. You can start with a blank application to create your own custom solution, or start from one of the available templates, like the fully featured Contoso demo app. You can also start by connecting a developer board, such as a MXChip Azure IoT Developer Kit or a Raspberry Pi.