• 3 min read

Azure Sphere guardian module simplifies and secures brownfield IoT

One of the toughest IoT quandaries is figuring out how to bake IoT into existing hardware in a secure, cost-effective way. For many customers, scrapping existing hardware investments for new IoT-enabled devices (“greenfield” installations) isn’t feasible.

One of the toughest IoT quandaries is figuring out how to bake IoT into existing hardware in a secure, cost-effective way. For many customers, scrapping existing hardware investments for new IoT-enabled devices or “greenfield” installations isn’t feasible. And retrofitting mission-critical devices that are already in service with IoT “brownfield” installations is often deemed too risky, too complicated, and too expensive.

This is why we’re thrilled about a major advancement for Azure Sphere that opens up the brownfield opportunity, helping make IoT retrofits more secure, substantially easier, and more cost effective than ever before. The guardian module with Azure Sphere simplifies the transformation of brownfield devices into locked-down, internet-connected, data-wielding, intelligent devices that can transform business.

For an in-depth exploration of the guardian module and how it’s being used at major corporations like Starbucks, sign up for the upcoming Azure Sphere Guardian Module webinar.

An image of Rodney Clark, VP of IoT and mixed reality sales.

The guardian module with Azure Sphere offers some key advantages

Like all Microsoft products, Azure Sphere is loaded with robust security features at every turn, from silicon to cloud. For brownfield installations, the guardian module with Azure Sphere physically plugs into existing equipment ports without the need for any hardware redesign.

Azure Sphere, rather than the device itself, talks to the cloud. The guardian module processes data and controls the device without exposing existing equipment to the potential dangers of the internet. The module shields brownfield equipment from attack by restricting the flow of data to only trusted cloud and device communication partners while also protecting module and equipment software.

Using the Azure Sphere guardian module, enterprises can enable any number of secure operations between the device and the cloud. The device can even use the Azure Sphere Security Service for certificate-based authentication, failure reporting, and software updates.

Opportunities abound for the Microsoft partner ecosystem

Given the massive scale of connectable equipment already in use in retail, industrial, and commercial settings, the new guardian module presents a lucrative opportunity for Microsoft partners. Azure Sphere can connect an enormous range of devices of all types, leading the way for a multitude of practical applications that can pay off through increased productivity, predictive maintenance, cost savings, new revenue opportunities, and more.

Fulfilling demand for such a diverse set of use cases is only possible thanks to Azure Sphere’s expanding partner ecosystem. Recent examples of this growth include our partnership with NXP to deliver a new Azure Sphere-certified chip that is an extension of their i.MX 8 high-performance applications process series and brings greater compute capabilities to support advanced workloads. As well as our collaboration with Qualcomm Technologies, Inc to deliver the first cellular-enabled Azure Sphere chip, which gives our customers the ability to securely connect anytime, anywhere.

Starbucks uses Azure Sphere guardian module to connect coffee machines

If you saw Satya Nadella’s Vision Keynote at Build 2019, you probably recall the demonstration of Starbucks’ IoT-connected coffee machines. But what you may not know is the Azure Sphere guardian module is behind the scenes, enabling Starbucks to connect these existing machines to the cloud.

As customers wait for their double-shot, no-whip mochas to brew, these IoT-enabled machines are doing more than meets the eye. They’re collecting more than a dozen data points for each precious shot, like the types of beans used, water temperature, and water quality. The solution enables Starbucks to proactively identify any issues with their machines in order to smooth their customers’ paths to caffeinated bliss.

Beyond predictive maintenance, Azure Sphere will enable Starbucks to transmit new recipes directly to machines in 30,000 stores rather than manually uploading recipes via thumb drives, saving Starbucks lots of time, money, and thumb drives. Watch this Microsoft Ignite session to see how Starbucks is tackling IoT at scale in pursuit of the perfect pour.

As an ecosystem, we have a tremendous opportunity to meet demand for brownfield installations and help our customers quickly bring their existing investments online without taking on risk and jeopardizing mission-critical equipment. The first guardian modules are available today from Avnet and AI-Link, with more expected soon.

Discover the value of adding secured connectivity to existing mission-critical equipment by registering for our upcoming Azure Sphere Guardian Modules webinar. You will experience a guided tour of the guardian module, including a deep dive into its architecture and the opportunity this open-source offering presents to our partner community. We’ll also hear from Starbucks around what they’ve learned since implementing the guardian module with Azure Sphere.