Peggy Smedley and Sam George, corporate vice president of Azure IoT, Microsoft, talk about the big announcements and certifications that came out of the company’s first digital event, Microsoft Build. They also talk about how the IoT (Internet of Things) strategy is very much partner led; the digital twin, the evolution of connected solutions, and the trend toward connected environments; and the typical journey of connected assets and IoT solutions.

Below is an excerpt from the interview. To hear the entire interview on The Peggy Smedley Show, visit www.peggysmedleyshow.com, and select 5/26/2020 from the archives.

Peggy Smedley:

…You’re past that couple decade mark with Microsoft, I mean, I don’t want to say that you’re long in the tooth there, but you’ve got a lot of experience at Microsoft and knowing so many things.

Sam George:

Yeah. It’s been a great journey and about half my career I was on the development side building the software and before I got into setting strategy and driving the engineering teams and making sure everything comes together. It’s been a great journey. I love this company and I’ve just been so delighted with the leadership of Satya Nadella. It’s been a wonderful, wonderful time at Microsoft.

Smedley:

Well, that’s what’s great. We’re going to talk about Satya because that was really exciting to see him talk at Build because you understand developers and you’ve been there. But he really, I think in my personal opinion, set the stage for doing something totally unique. We’ve all been worried about COVID-19. What was your impression of having to do your first virtual developers conference in a digital experience, so to speak, for everyone? I guess you’d have to say you didn’t really know how it was going to turn out, but he really put everybody in that right frame of mind at least by my personal thoughts of it.

George:

He really did. I felt like we as a company didn’t miss a beat with transitioning to these virtual events. I mean, we all recorded it from our homes. There was great guidance internally on how to do it. We even did live rebroadcast… not rebroadcast, but live versions of our talk in three different time zones so that we could connect with people. My first one I think was 8 pm at night and then I had one that was 10 am in the morning and then the last one was 2 am in the morning for Europe, which was about 11 am in the morning there.

We took live questions and we got to interact at least through questions and answers. I felt proud that we were able to connect with that many developers. You know what the final count that wound up connecting, I saw before it was somewhere around 130,000 but that was before. It was just great and the other thing that I’ve just been incredibly proud of is this company … Microsoft’s response to COVID-19.

I felt like very early on we jumped right in. Certainly for employees, we sent everybody home pretty quick to protect everyone. This company at least internally has been so great about ensuring employee safety. Anyway, it’s just been wonderful to see. That’s not including all the external things that we’ve been doing to help with the fight with COVID-19. Sort of on that topic, one of the things that I talked about in my talk at Build for those that have heard me before our IoT strategy is very much partner led.

There’s hundreds of thousands of types of vertical use cases in the IoT. It depends on the business solution and so when COVID-19 hit, one of the first things that we did, it was our natural instinct was to go work with all the partners and over about six weeks we put together over 160 solutions from partners, got them listed in the Azure marketplace, ones that will help customers deal with COVID-19 and that range from companies like Microshare that have Azure IoT solutions that help with tracking assets inside of hospital, ensuring safe social distancing, and really protecting frontline medical workers and then other solutions like PCL, which can actually drop ship an entire self-contained COVID testing station right to a business’s premises and there’s a whole bunch of others but it was just great to see the response from our partners.

Smedley:

I think that’s what’s really important to talk about. I like when you talk about what is Azure IoT’s response. I think people don’t realize everybody started panicking a little bit. I think in those first couple of weeks going, what are we going to do? We sent all our employees home and some companies are used to having employees work remotely, but for those companies that weren’t, there was a little bit of kind of a disarray figuring it all out, but then when you figure it out and you said, “Look, let’s kind of hunker down and figure out what we can do.” And then to figure out how do you use the IoT to its best. Companies like PCL that are in the construction space that say, hey, we can drop ship these containers for COVID and others to figure out how do they make masks and things like that.

Those are the partners that you sit down with and you say, “How can we help you help others?” Is that what you felt?

George:

Yes. That’s exactly right.

Smedley:

What’s really great about it is that you said these are companies that we’re constantly reinventing with and working with and that’s through your solutions. Correct?

George:

That’s exactly right. That’s exactly right. Yeah, we reached out to them immediately and some of them already had solutions that were relevant in the fight against COVID-19 that could be generalized for that, and some of them frankly built brand new ones, but it was wonderful to see. We actually met every day for, I think it was six weeks at 6 am in the morning with teams across the world and then with partners and put all these together. It was just great to see the partner ecosystem all come together.

We also have… I mean this is still an ongoing process and as I mentioned at Build for customers or partners that have solutions like that that they want to contribute. They can simply reach out at an email address, it’s just an iotcovid19@microsoft.com and we’ll get you involved in the process.

Smedley:

When you look at things like this, Sam, how important is it for you to get people to understand it’s not just about the scenario right now, but it’s looking about connected assets today. What’s emerging, what happens in the future? I think that’s when you look at Azure and IoT and you say that’s when it’s at its best, that we can look and be innovative and I think sometimes people kind of get like their boots are stuck in the mud. They don’t realize this is when you can really be innovative and that’s what I think an event like Build does, it fires up the juices for the most creative to start thinking outside the box and what can be created.

George:

That’s exactly right. I mean all of this technology and technology providers like Microsoft I think have a lot to offer in these times. One of the things that I talked about at Build was this pattern. It’s something you and I have talked about before. A few years ago Satya started talking about this notion of our mission to empower an intelligent cloud and an intelligent edge and it’s really about solutions that wind up spanning both of those. It’s not, everything’s moving to the cloud and it’s not, everything’s moving back to the edge.

It really is like solutions span both and technologies like the IoT and edge computing and AI, they wind up serving a really important role especially, in this case in the fight against COVID-19. Like for example, there’s partners that are putting together solutions that can detect whether people are wearing masks and businesses can get automatic alerts if they don’t. Those partner solutions then delivered into our customer can help keep everybody safer, but it’s a good example where something like that wouldn’t have been possible. You would have to have a human being monitoring that, putting themselves at risk versus a camera with AI running on it, out on the edge.

Smedley:

And looking at that, when we think about the edge right now and we think about the types of solutions, the sensors, they’re getting smaller, they’re getting more creative. How does that… because I’m going to bring it back to the developer side of this because I think that’s really where we get the best innovations. Where companies of all sizes and shapes can be creative but I think when everybody was panicking or think about healthcare, we think about security, we think about all of this. How important is it for IoT certifications and how did that change right now in the world of COVID or has it?

George:

Yeah.

Smedley:

Because I think sometimes that’s a really important thing because we saw a dynamic that we’ve never seen before that all of a sudden things were happening and we like, we wouldn’t have done that a couple of months ago, but we are doing it now only to get things quicker for people’s lives.

George:

Yeah. I mean that was an important thing that we announced to Build, was that all of our training for all of these services that we do across IoT and edge and AI, that they’re all available now up on aka.ms/mslearniot and you can go there. It’s all free training. You can learn about every service that we do and all of the things that we’ve been doing over the last five years to simplify the IoT, to make it within the reach of any developer on the planet, to get going quickly and not have to worry about will my solution scale to the millions of devices sending trillions of messages? Yes. Emphatically, yes it does and that’s already in production.

What that means is that I can go learn about some of these capabilities that we’ve brought to market for free, number one, and I can build a solution really quickly and then we also introduced a certification and what the certification is, is something where you can actually go and take a Microsoft certified assessment and then get certified and then you can prove to your employer, to your customers, the partners that you work with that you are actually an Azure IoT expert. Both of those are available as of this week.

Smedley:

Why are things like that, as I come to… people think about the customer, are those important and should they matter to the customer from let’s say a security standpoint or people are working from home I think we… you and I have talked about this. There’s always the bad guy out there, but are any of those kinds of certifications, trainings… why are those things so important these days?

George:

They’re important because there is always a set of best practices that might not be apparent. For example, it’s easy to build an IoT solution, but unless you realize that security is paramount in these IoT solutions and you’ve been through that training and then that certification, you might not realize like, hey, at this point, gosh, we’ve made it really easy to take advantage of industry leading security end points like Azure Sphere, right? That certification exposes you to those capabilities.

If you decide I’m going to go try to build something secure as your Azure Sphere, then at least you understand the ingredients that Azure Sphere uses, or hey, I’m going to monitor my IoT devices using Azure Security Center for IoT because now I’ve got something that’s automatically monitoring to see whether or not that devices open up a network connection to a botnet and maybe it’s been compromised, right? Instead of wondering, I get automatic visibility into that. Learning and certifications wind up being incredibly important to help make sure that everyone understands those best practices.

Smedley:

When you look at Build this past week and you were really diving into everything, there was a lot of discussion as you said, talking about the cloud to the edge and Satya really talked a lot about all of the IoT solutions and what it takes. When a customer is trying to make a decision about where they have to go and they’re thinking about the enterprise and they’re thinking about it and we’ve talked about this, of trying to help the customer understand it’s a journey, how do you really help them understand because right now COVID-19 got everybody. They stopped. Some stopped. I shouldn’t say everybody did. There was that moment of what do we do? Do we change our strategies or do we keep moving forward?

How do you help customers understand that you didn’t need to stop? You still need to go forward because technology’s always progressing and you have to keep on the cutting edge.

George:

Yeah. Well, part of how we help customers through this time, is we have a bit of a mental structure that we like to talk about. There’s the, hey, everyone needs to figure out the immediate response, right? It’s like how do I navigate what’s happening right now? And that means get my workforce back up and online where I can. Get them the safety that they need, and then there’s the plan for what’s next.

So much of what’s happening with COVID-19 and working from home has really helped customers think about how can I reimagine parts of my business so that I’m resilient to these things, and then there’s this sort of shape the future. What is it that we’re going to do in the future in response to this? The first thing that we do is talk about that sort of three-step program and then within that there’s… You and I have talked about this before. We always encourage customers to adopt technologies like IoT and edge computing and AI in an incremental fashion, right?

It’s understand the benefits that it can bring, understand how it can apply to my business and I and then importantly figure out some high value low investment I can make and go and implement that, gain value from it, and build the confidence within my organization, then to take the next step. We like to discourage from these giant three to four-year moonshots and instead work incrementally like let’s nail something this month and then as we gain confidence, then we’ll go onto the next month.

For many businesses working with software can be a new thing and software is one of those things that’s best done incrementally.

Smedley:

When we think about things, there’s been all… We talked about the IoT for a long time and you talked last time about the digital twin, but at Build you announced the next iteration of Azure digital twin. For someone listening, does it matter? Should they care? Or is this everyone goes, oh, digital twin, it’s just another marketing thing everyone says or is this something that you say no, you really need to understand when you’re replicating real-world events, assets, environments. Do they need to understand what that means?

George:

Yeah. It’s a great question and it is not… I can state emphatically, digital twins is not a big marketing concept. It’s a very real one. It helps for example, to provide a little bit of a frame of reference first before we start talking about digital twins. One of the things I talked about it at our developer conference is that we’re seeing this evolution of connected solutions, right? Many customers over the last several years have been focused on connecting to assets out in the physical world. Whether that’s industrial equipment or water pumps or elevator or agricultural machinery or any of the millions of different high value assets and they connect to those assets. They take the time to use the IoT to connect to those because it provides a level of insight on how those things are performing in realtime, right?

As I start collecting data, I can start seeing… determine the overall equipment efficiency for example or I can start to predict its maintenance. Like when is it going to break? I can start to correlate data that I’m receiving from it with its maintenance schedule and implement predictive maintenance and then many of our customers and partners have then gone on to implement new connected services for those assets. Like the majority of the IoT over the last few years has been used to connect to the assets themselves.

What we’re really starting to see is this trend toward something we call connected environments and what I mean by that, it sounds like a very broad term and in some ways it’s really meant to be because a connected environment could be an entire factory and not just the assets inside of it, right? Not just the factory equipment, but the building itself, the people inside of it and not just even the factory. It’s the supply chain that feeds it or the customer sentiment coming out of the products that are made there.

Some of our customers, like Unilever is a great example where they’ve built an entire connected environment across all three of those like supply chain, factory to customers, and sentiment and that’s what I mean by a connected environment. You can also look at smart energy, right? Where I’m not just connecting to the heavy assets that are generating power, but I’m connecting to the substations, the entire grid, to the meters themselves. You see this across real estates with campuses, right? Where you’re not connecting to occupancy sensors, you’re connecting to the entire environment of the building. Now, the reason why you do this is that it provides a lot of benefits like, once you understand what’s happening in an environment end-to-end, you can very much start to optimize things and reduce costs via new employee experiences.

Like one of the things that we talked about at Build was that Microsoft itself, we’re rebuilding part of our campus in Redmond, our headquarters, 17 new buildings and as we do that, we’re actually connecting the entire environment of those buildings and that’s where Azure Digital Twins comes in. Azure Digital Twins… I’ll pick on our campus for a second. We’re building a full Azure Digital Twin. There’s actually a digital twin of the campus running in Azure, right? That’s monitoring, it knows everything about the buildings, the floors, and rooms, and hallways, and kitchens, and service areas, and all of that and it’s wired into sensors that are in that building, but it’s also wired into business systems.

For example, we were going to provide experiences like our employees can order food from the cafeteria and be notified when it’s ready for pickup. To know how to order, I have to connect to a business system that says, what’s being served at lunch that day, right? Which is also connected to a business system that talks about the ingredients that are making its way to the cafeteria, and having a full digital twin, a living, breathing digital twin of the campus, what it does is it provides this common layer that then we can build all of those employee experiences on top of, right? Because today, the way most of these campuses, these connected environments are managed is with little digital silos, right?

There’s one digital solution for the badge readers to make sure that they’re working. There’s one digital solution for the HVAC units. There’s one digital solution for the parking systems, right? They’re not connected and Azure Digital Twin enables us to connect to all business system silos as well as IoT sensors, our assets inside the campus, and have a whole living digital twin in Azure that then we can build and control our own campus.

Smedley:

Can we talk about anomalies then? I mean, because what comes to mind-

George:

Absolutely.

Smedley:

…on all these are the weather. If we want it to say we want to do a digital twin of the weather, we can never really predict right now the weather because it’s just so unpredictable. Can we do a digital twin of the weather? Is that something that at some point we’re going to be able to do that and we would have more accuracy of knowing when there’s going to be a hurricane or tornado and save more lives? Will that at some point… or like what just happened, a dam breaks. We will truly be able to save more lives because of that.

George:

Yeah. Well, think about it like this… The other part of these connected environments and being able to apply as Azure Digital Twins to them is what digital twins are for is it’s to enable you to model anything, right? To create a live replica of that and then as that replica changes based on its physical counterpart, then you’re able to track its past, and then as you track its past then you can do things like simulate possibilities so you can predict the future. You can also control the present. Let me give you a great example about the weather. Let’s say for example, I’m applying Azure Digital Twins to a smart stadium, right? I’m connecting to all the different business systems in the smart stadium to the assets. I can employ or I can create some breakthrough fan experiences inside of it, but I can also track things like the weather in the area.

As I start tracking area and that’s being tracked in Azure Digital Twins, then over time that weather winds up just being part of the time series history coming off of that smart stadium digital. Now what they can start to do is I can start to say, “Hey, when the weather is like this my vending stations are selling that, or the vending cues are longer or shorter.” And then I can start to do predictions about, “Hey, what food should I be stocking for this particular game given all of the past that attracted the digital twin of that smart stadium.” That’s an example where I would start to incorporate weather.

Smedley:

I think all of that makes sense because we’re starting to think about doing all of this that you’re doing with the digital twin is you have all decided that we’re talking about interoperability now. We’re opening this up so that everybody can participate, and you have an open common language. You’ve joined a Digital Twin Consortium and does that help in the ability to start saying, look, if we open this and it accelerates the IoT making it easier to develop software to be able to do things better, faster, quicker, easier, is that the goal then?

George:

That’s absolutely the goal. Yeah. I’m glad you brought that up. Just this week we did join the Digital Twin Consortium with some founders, ANSYS, Dell Technologies, Lendlease, and of course Microsoft and then a big set of additional partners and other companies that joined it, including Bentley Systems and Willow Technology, two of our big partners. The whole idea with digital twins is the way you describe a twin, like we were just talking about a few examples. The way I describe a smart building or a smart stadium, there’s nothing differentiated in having… there’s nothing that a company stands to gain from having effectively their own schema of what a smart campus or a smart building is, right?

What there’s differentiation in is providing the unique experiences on top of the digital twin for that campus or stadium or electric distribution grid and all that, and so what the Digital Twin Consortium is all about is, let’s come together as an industry in an open source way and let’s define how are we all going to describe digital twins and what is a digital twin for smart energy? It’s often referred to as an ontology. Like how would I describe all of the different twins and how they relate to each other, the generators, the substations, the grid, the meters or the… in smart buildings, the buildings and rooms and floors and all of that, and to develop an industry standard common way to define industry specific digital twins or ontologies as well as what is the common language to describe all of those and so that’s what we’re doing in digital twin and the more we can standardize on these things the faster all of this can go.

Smedley:

That’s always been a problem in a lot of industries when we talk about manufacturing. It took them years to come up with certain standards and I think when you look at that, you move things with that common serialized link data. The syntax I think makes things faster and does that help when you’re thinking about the developers, what they want to do when they come up with new innovations on things? Does it move it along? Is the idea… you’ve been doing this a long time, is that helping their creativity as well?

George:

It helps so much. Yeah, it helps so much because you’re not starting from scratch. Let’s say for example, I’m a startup and I want to go build digital twin of a hospital to help track assets in it and trigger conditions where if someone needs something, they know exactly where it is. Just being able to start with a common ontology for a hospital is a huge time saver, number one because it means I can just get started right away with that. I don’t have to think about how should I describe all the different parts of a hospital.

It’s also a great fit for me as well because it means as I put together a solution, it’s going to be interoperable with other solutions out there. Because if I’m a hospital, I probably have lots of these types of digital solutions.

Smedley:

All of this is a part of the IoT plug and play. Is there part of things that I’ve left out that are critical that you announced here at Build because I know that that was a part of it. Are there other features that were announced that maybe we haven’t talked about?

George:

Yeah. Just to touch on that. What we did is… our IoT plug and play feature, which is really intended to make it as easy to use an IoT device as it is to use a plug and play device today. That uses a schema to describe the interaction pattern for a device and what we’ve done is we’ve lined that up with this new digital twin definition language. What that means is if I plug in a device to something that’s a connected environment using Azure Digital Twins, the device should act like another twin by default.

Yeah, there was a bunch of stuff that we announced. I mean, there were a couple big highlights for me. One of those was we announced the general availability of Azure RTOS. What Azure RTOS is, is a very, very tiny realtime operating system. I mean, this thing can run disconnected from the cloud in two kilobytes of memory and connected to the cloud in only 50 kilobytes of memory. This came from our Express Logic ThreadX acquisition.

Smedley:

Yeah, that was cool RTOS. Yeah. That was really super cool.

George:

Yeah. The best part about it is it’s really the fastest, smallest with the most compliance certificates of any RTOS in the industry. The other thing we did is we made it work grade first class with Azure Sphere. Azure Sphere is our hero offering for connecting to, or running secure microcontrollers, but if you look at an Azure Sphere chip, it has one core that’s being used for the Azure Sphere OS, which is a Linux kernel and then it has two other cores that are Cortex-MS that are built to run realtime operating systems, Azure RTOS now runs first class. It’s our hero realtime operating system on Sphere and so you get this better together between the two and you get a full software stack backed and supported by Microsoft.

Smedley:

How do you guys actually go about …to be able to do that, because that was really… fits in really nicely with what you’re trying to do as I said at the opening with what you’re managing. It just seems to fit really nice in snug and all the things you’re doing right now.

George:

Yeah. A lot of times what we do… one of the big motivators for anything we do is our customers and very much our partners. When we start to see someone is doing something that’s common, like everyone’s having to do it and it’s hard, that’s where we typically look at like how can we as Microsoft help with this and eliminate toil, right? Like if IoT was still at the phase where everyone was spinning up virtual machines and having to manage network connections to millions of devices, sending trillions and messages that would slow it down so we introduced IoT Hub to do that.

Azure RTOS was another where we saw customers really needing sort of full stack software stack for realtime operating systems that was backed by a large company like Microsoft.  There’s some open source alternatives and so what we did is we went and looked at some of those like, “Hey, should we just join those open source movements?” But part of what we noticed as we were looking in the open source movements was that what we wanted to do is to be able to really drive security forward in the RTOS space.

As we looked at that, we thought we could probably do this faster by buying a company and so we looked across the industry and Express Logic was just the clear choice. I mean, real clear market leader. Since we bought them, now we’ve put that code up on GitHub. There’s no magic formula to finding the right company besides a lot of research but it really starts with what do our customers need, what do our partners need? How can we make all of this go faster for everyone?

Smedley:

When you look right now, we’re moving out of I think slowly COVID-19. Everybody’s ramping up and they’re starting to say, okay, at least that’s the feeling we’re getting. Companies are saying, hey, we can’t sit on the sidelines anymore. We have to start looking. How do we become more competitive? How do we look at technology? How do we look… so a company comes and they say, we want to sit down with you, Microsoft. We want to understand that journey and we were talking about this earlier and we look at all of these things and they’re trying to figure out where they start and they look at all of this, and they’re trying to unlock the best insights into their operation and they say, hey, we want to look at these features right now. Is it marrying up partners that you have that say, hey, we’ve got to bring some partners in to look at what you’re doing in manufacturing, what you’re doing in healthcare?

How do you go about… because somebody listening says, yeah, these are great. You’ve got Azure Time Series Insights. I don’t even understand what that means or you’ve got Azure Maps and they’re going, I don’t know what that means. I heard all this, but I don’t get it. I mean they’re overwhelmed by it. There’s so much and maybe we should go back and talk about that, but it’s almost like there’s so much that people go, I’m excited to buy it all, but I don’t have a big team or right now some of my team, we had to let go because of all this and we’re ramping back up. I mean, I just had a conversation with one of the largest energy companies in the world and they just said, we’re going back to work in a week yet… and not everybody’s going back, right? Gradually.

I guess the question is how do you help them in a world that’s had a pandemic that we don’t even know how to get back to work… I guess the new normal, I guess this is a really long question.

George:

No. I think it’s a very good one. Fortunately we at Microsoft… Our company winds up talking to the majority of the world’s businesses. What we do is we have a conversation with them when they’re interested in figuring out how to optimize their operations or connect to assets and understand how to improve them and things like that. We have a conversation with them about like, this is what it looks like to do this, right? Here’s what’s involved and do you have for example, company? Do you have a software practice where you can do this yourself? And if you do, we can jump in and work with you to help implement that first use case and get you on your way, and if you don’t have a software practice, and if you’re interested in doing that, then hey, guess what? We have a huge number of partners. In your particular industry, here’s a couple that we love to bring in help you understand what they’ve done for other customers and get you on your way and so it really is up to the customer’s own unique aptitude.

Some of them are very hungry it’s like, hey, just tell me how this works. What are your reference architectures and best practices? And that’s where they’ll go out to MS Learn and figure out how to do things and some of them want to figure out who’s a partner that we trust. It’s really up to them but we work with all customers.

Smedley:

Talk a little bit about IoT Central and give our listeners a little bit of an update on that because when you talk about a software-as-a-service, an IoT app platform, I think and we’ve talked a little bit about Azure Sphere and IoT Edge. I think you can never talk about workloads and what’s happening there because I think when we talk about what’s happening, there’s going to be a lot more at the edge. I think we’re going to find as more and more devices we’re going… and just like we said, but I think people are going to wonder where do they go? Cloud, edge, what does that all mean? I think they’re still going to wrestle with that. How do we help them understand where they need to be with their enterprises?

George:

Yeah. Well, I’m glad you brought up IoT Central and just for the benefit of your listeners, the way that I describe it is we have a set of highly scale capable enterprise grade services for connecting and managing devices for storing data, for doing analytics, for business process integration but if you don’t know where to get started, what we’ve done is we put it all together for you and that’s IoT Central and IoT Central is fully managed though you don’t have to know the first thing about cloud solution development to use it. All you do is you very easily connect devices to it and it automatically scales so you don’t have to worry about how many devices can I connect to it, will it handle it? It will, and then we make it really easy to do what’s useful in IoT, which is to find insights from those devices that are connected.

For example, if I’m with a simple condition monitoring and I want to know is this device on or off. Like is this piece of equipment that I care about working or not? Right? You can take some of our certified devices, you can attach it to that device, connect it to the IoT Central and then set simple condition rules in Central. If it’s disconnected, I want it to send an email, right? And then within minutes I had that working. I can customize it in just a few hours. I’m doing IoT the same day, right? And I’m doing it in a way that means that as I add more and more devices or more use cases, I don’t have to start all over, right? And so it’s very progressive.

It really needs me where I am. There’s a bunch of extensibility points into it. If I get to the point where I say, “You know what? Now I want to start doing more analytics.” Great. Now I can take the data that’s in Central and have that continuously sent to Azure Storage and I can use the super, super easy analytics services that Azure has, like Azure Synapse Analytics to start mining what’s going on in that and so it enables the progressive user or progressive customer journey.

Smedley:

And that whole Synapse that you’re talking about right now, when you look at the analytics that come out of that, that’s really what we talk about when we say you’ve got to have the data. You’ve got to know what’s happening is do we… Are we at that point where customers are starting to understand what that really means when we talk about data, when we talk about really mining the right information? Are we getting to a point where they understand what that means?

George:

Yeah. I’d say we are. The typical journey that we see in these connected assets or IoT solutions are companies tend to start with, I just want to connect to this asset that I care about and know its operational state and then I start collecting data from it and then I find an insight. What we’re starting to see more is customers starting to show up with, “Hey, I know what I want to find about this asset from the very beginning so I know which data I’m going to send. I know that I’m going to store it in a certain way and I know that I’m going to perform certain analytics jobs on it.”

With things like Azure IoT Central and Azure Synapse Analytics, I have a great solution for connecting and managing devices as well as analyze data and with IoT devices like… IoT device support, like Azure Sphere. I’m effectively a turnkey SaaS (software-as-a-service) offering for a highly secure device as well. It really winds up being this worry free IoT experience and then of course it’s all backed by Microsoft.

Smedley:

I think you’ve talked in the past about it, removing these barriers between this operational database services, analytics, and creating these realtime connections between everything that’s going on. Are we seeing now with where we’re looking for, where we are today, and what will be coming out in the future, will there be more things that you’ll be introducing that you say to the customer, look, we’re going to make this better, faster, easier, so even more things that you’ll be able to look at and make realtime decisions as we talk about AI and machine learning. I mean, sky is the limit for everything that you want to be able to see.

George:

Very much. Another thing that we’ve done to help with this is IoT data as it winds up coming in, it comes in at a time series fashion like temperature repeated every 10 seconds and there’s a lot of this. It used to take companies a long time to wrangle data and rationalize it before they were able to find insights from it. We made that easy. I mean, that takes minutes now with offerings like Azure Time Series Insights. Look, there’s always going to be… we’re never going to be happy until IoT is completely turnkey for our partners, turnkey for our customers.

What I would say to your listeners is, it’s always a great time to get started. The way we build our services is always additive. You can start with a service today and then over time it just gets easier and easier. Like when we started with IoT Central, there was certain things you could do with the dashboards for example and every month we add new capabilities and those just work, right? All of a sudden there’s new capabilities just from using because it’s alive 24/7 service that’s constantly improving. Yeah, there’s a ton we’re going to be doing in the future to make connected assets and connected environments really, really turnkey and all those say it’s a great time to start, we’re right where we are. Thank you so much, Peggy. It’s always a pleasure to talk to you. To learn more, you can go up to azure.microsoft.com/overview/iot.

Want to tweet about this article? Use hashtags #IoT #sustainability #AI #5G #cloud #edge #digitaltransformation #machinelearning #Microsoft #AzureIoT #Azure #RTOS @Microsoft