Announcements, Azure IoT Central, Internet of Things
Azure IoT Central: Democratizing IoT for all solution builders
By Bert Van Hoof Partner Group Program Manager, Azure IoT
7 min read
For the last five years, our industry has buzzed with the promises of IoT. IoT has evolved from being a next-horizon term, to a common vernacular employed across industry conversations. In fact, earlier this year we surveyed 3,000 enterprise decision makers across the world and learned that 85% have developed at least one IoT project. Across four major industries (manufacturing, retail, healthcare, and government), more than 84% of enterprise decision makers consider IoT “critical” to success (read the full report here).
Despite this near consensus, the average maturity of production-level IoT projects remains extremely low. Over 90% of companies experience some failure in the proof of concept stage due to concerns and knowledge gaps around how to scale their solutions securely, reliably, and affordably. This finding is not surprising. Scaling a project not only increases the cost, it also introduces significant technical complexity—from knowing how to adapt an architecture as the number of connected devices grows to millions, to ensuring your security remains robust as your breachable footprint expands.
Having worked with thousands of IoT customers, our engineers have encountered these issues time and time again. We used these learnings to evolve Azure IoT Central and help solution builders avoid common pitfalls that prevent many projects from moving beyond the proof of concept stage. We explained these findings in our new report, “8 attributes of successful IoT solutions,” to help IoT solution builders ask the right questions upfront as they design their systems, and help them select the right technology platforms.
A fully managed IoT app platform
Azure IoT Central is our IoT app platform for solution builders (such as ISVs, SIs, and OEMs), to design, deploy, and manage enterprise-grade solutions that they can brand and sell to their customers, either directly or through Microsoft AppSource.
Azure IoT Central provides a complete and robust platform that handles the “plumbing” of IoT solutions. It is by no means an end-to-end solution. The value of IoT Central is brought to life when solution builders leverage it to connect and manage their devices, as well as to extend device insights into their line of business applications. This allows solution builders to spend their time and energy in their area of expertise, transforming their businesses through value-adding and brand-differentiating elements. With whitelabeling, solution builders can go to market with a resulting solution that reflects their brand. While many customers choose to design and build cloud solutions using individual Azure services (a Platform as a Service, or PaaS, approach), Azure IoT Central reduces the cost of building and maintaining a PaaS-based solution by providing a fully managed platform.
Today we’re announcing several major updates to Azure IoT Central. We’re confident these updates will inspire builders to develop industry-leading solutions with the peace of mind that their applications rest on a secure, reliable, and scalable infrastructure–enabling them to connect and manage devices, generate insights, and bring those new insights into their existing applications.
New app templates for industry-focused enablement
Today we are releasing 11 new industry app templates, designed to illustrate the types of solutions our partners and customers can build across retail, healthcare, government, and energy.
Innovative partners using Azure IoT across industries
From startups to established leaders, we are seeing solution builders across industries leverage Azure IoT Central to transform their industries.
One area where we're seeing solution builders use Azure IoT Central to design innovative solutions is healthcare. Every 20 seconds a limb is lost to diabetes. To tackle this issue, Seattle-based startup, Sensoria Health joined forces with leading orthopedic medical footwear manufacturer, Optima Molliter, to launch an IoT solution that enables continuous, remote monitoring of patients recovering from diabetic foot ulcers. Patients and physicians can leverage the Sensoria Core solution, a hub utilizing IoT and artificial intelligence (AI) based on telemetry from Optima footwear, to monitor real-time patient adherence to clinician recommendations via a mobile app.
Physicians can leverage the clinician dashboard, which provides a holistic view of their patient population, to manage patient interactions, understand patient adherence to recommendations over time, and to decide which patients are in most need of care at a given moment. By enabling real-time alerts, physicians can manage care escalation decisions to expedite the healing of foot wounds and reduce the risk of amputations. Azure IoT Central provided the IoT application infrastructure that allowed Sensoria to quickly build a globally available, secure, and scalable IoT solution. Furthermore, Azure IoT Central leverages Azure API for FHIR, enabling Sensoria Health to ensure healthcare interoperability and compliance standards are met when managing the health data provided by EMR systems and from Sensoria Core embedded microelectronic devices. Read the press release to learn more.
We're also seeing well-established solution builders like C.H. Robinson, an American Fortune 500 provider of multimodal transportation services and third-party logistics, are taking advantage of IoT Central. Using Intel intelligent gateways and IoT tags managed by Azure IoT Central, C.H. Robinson has quickly integrated IoT data and insights into its industry-leading Navisphere Vision product. The Navisphere solution is being used by leading retailers including Microsoft’s own supply chain teams to optimize logistics and costs as we prepare to deliver Surface and Xbox products ahead of the holiday season. Jordan Kass, President of TMC, a division of C.H. Robinson responsible for Navisphere described the challenges facing the industry; “Today, Retailers of all sizes need to know where their products are and where they are going … . Building with IoT Central offered us speed, scale, and simplicity to connect devices like Intel’s gateways and IoT tags.”
Vattenfall, a Swedish energy company investing deeply in renewable energy, and Microsoft are collaborating on solutions using Azure IoT Central to address challenges in energy markets to match supply and demand for renewable energy. “The IoT Central app platform has expedited our product development, providing fast and seamless device connectivity and device management, and built-in data storage, rule creation, and dashboarding for our operators,” says, Sebastian Waldenström, Head of Vattenfall’s IoT and Energy Management.
While many of our partners have established industry expertise within verticals, we’ve also seen IoT Central be used by solution builders with horizontal reach, such as Mesh Systems. Mesh Systems is a global expert in asset-tracking solutions, with customer applications spanning retail, logistics, banking, pest control, construction, and much more. “IoT Central helps us do what we do best–only now what used to take 3 months to build now takes 3 days” said Doyle Baxter, strategic alliance manager at Mesh Systems.
These partners and others are on a journey building with IoT Central. Read more about building retail solutions with IoT Central here, and follow along in the coming months as we feature more partner success across other industry segments.
New capabilities for production-level solutions
Expanding IoT Central portfolio with IoT Edge: Businesses can now run cloud intelligence directly on IoT devices at the edge managed by Azure IoT Central. This new feature helps businesses connect and manage Azure IoT Edge devices, deploy edge software modules, publish insights, and take actions at-scale–all from within Azure IoT Central.
Seamless device connectivity with IoT Plug and Play: Solution builders building with Azure IoT Central can select from a range of Azure IoT Pre-Certified Plug and Play devices and quickly connect them to the cloud. Customers can now build production grade IoT solutions within days without having to write a single line of device code, drastically cutting down the time to market and costs.
Range of actions within the platform: Azure IoT Central exposes various levels of extensibility from within the platform. A user can define rules on device data streams that trigger no-code (Microsoft Flow) or low-code actions (Azure Logic Apps). A solution builder could also configure more complex actions, exchanging data with an external service via a Webhook or Azure Functions based action.
Extensibility through data export: Continuous Data Export from Azure IoT Central can be used to integrate data streams directly into Azure PaaS services like Azure Blob Storage for data retention, or Azure Event Hub and Azure Service Bus for building rich processing pipelines for IoT data and insights into business applications, or into storage for Azure Machine Learning.
Public APIs to access features: Solution builders with extensibility needs beyond device data now have access to Central features through our public APIs. Users can develop robust IoT solutions that leverage IoT Central programmatically as the core for device modelling, provisioning, lifecycle management, operations (updating and commanding), and data querying.
Application repeatability: Today, solution builders can use application templates to export their investments and duplicate them for new customers, saving hours of time on configuration and customization.
Manageability and scale through multitenancy: We know that many solution builders need more than just repeatability; they also need manageability to truly scale their investments to customers. Which is why in the coming months, Azure IoT Central will support multitenancy; solution builders can build once and use a multitenancy interface to on-board, configure, and update many customers and organizations globally across regions, offering both device and data sovereignty without sacrificing manageability.
User access control through custom user roles: Organizational complexity varies across customer solution implementations. Custom user roles allow for clearly defined access control to the data as well as actions and configurations within the system. It gives users control over exactly what they need and nothing more.
Device and data scale: Azure IoT Central scales users' data processing pipelines and provides storage to support millions of devices. Solution builders can achieve device scale by seamlessly connecting devices with IoT Plug and Play integration and authoring IoT Central experiences for Plug and Play devices.
Pricing update: In early 2020, we're unveiling a new pricing tier that will make scaling solutions more affordable and will provide more flexibility for solution builders. IoT Central customers will soon be able to select between multiple pricing plans based on their specific message volume needs for their projects. Check back on our pricing page in the coming weeks for more details.
Azure IoT Central: your IoT application platform
Microsoft is investing $5 billion in Azure IoT over the next four years. Our goal is to simplify the journey in IoT, allowing solution builders to bring solutions to market faster, while staying focused on digital transformation.
Azure IoT Central offers a powerful example of how Microsoft continues to deliver on this commitment. By removing the complexity and overhead of setup, management burden, and operational costs, we can accelerate the creation of innovative solutions across all industries. Azure IoT Central provides organizations with the IoT application platform they need to create the next wave of innovation in IoT. And that means a more intelligent and connected world that empowers people and organizations to achieve more. To learn more, visit our product page.