Judson Althoff visits Kroger’s QFC store in Redmond, WA, one of two pilot locations featuring connected customer experiences powered by Microsoft Azure and AI. Also pictured, Wesley Rhodes, Vice President of Technology Transformation at Kroger.
Computing is embedded all around us. Devices are increasingly more connected, and the availability of data and information is greater now than it has ever been. To grow, compete and respond to customer demands, all companies are becoming digital. In this new reality, enterprise technology choices play an outsized role in how businesses operate, influencing how employees collaborate, how organizations ensure data security and privacy, and how they deliver compelling customer experiences.
This is what we mean when we talk about digital transformation. As our CEO Satya Nadella described it recently, it is how organizations with tech intensity adopt faster, best-in-class technology and simultaneously build their own unique digital capabilities. I see this trend in every industry where customers are choosing Microsoft’s intelligent cloud and intelligent edge to power their transformation.
Over just the past two months, customers as varied as Walmart, Gap Inc., Nielsen, Mastercard, BP, BlackRock, Fruit of the Loom and Brooks Running have shared how technology is reshaping all aspects of our lives — from the way we shop to how we manage money and save for retirement. At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) earlier this month, Microsoft customers and partners highlighted how the Microsoft cloud, the Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI) play an ever-expanding role in driving consumer experiences, from LGE’s autonomous vehicle and infotainment systems, to Visteon’s use of Azure to develop autonomous driving development environments, to ZF’s fleet management and predictive maintenance solutions. More recently, at the National Retail Federation (NRF) conference, Microsoft teamed up with retail industry leaders like Starbucks that are reimagining customer and employee experiences with technology.
In fact, there is no shortage of customer examples of tech intensity. They span all industries, including retail, healthcare, automotive manufacturing, maritime research, education and government. Here are just a few of my favorite examples:
Together with Microsoft, Kroger – America’s biggest supermarket chain – opened two pilot stores offering new connected experiences with Microsoft Azure and AI and announced a Retail as a Service (RaaS) solution on Azure. This partnership with Kroger resonates strongly with me because I first met with the company’s CEO in 2013 soon after joining Microsoft. Since then, I have witnessed the Kroger-Microsoft relationship grow and mature beyond measure. The pilot stores feature “digital shelves” which can show ads and change prices on the fly, along with a network of sensors that keep track of products and help speed shoppers through the aisles. Kroger may eventually roll out the Microsoft cloud-powered system in all its 2,780 supermarkets.
In the healthcare industry, earlier this month, we announced a seven-year strategic cloud partnership with Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA). Through the partnership, WBA will harness the power of Microsoft Azure cloud and AI technology, Microsoft 365, health industry investments and new retail solutions with WBA’s customer reach, convenient locations, outpatient health care services and industry expertise to make health care delivery more personal, affordable and accessible for people around the world.
Walgreens Boots Alliance will harness the power of Microsoft Azure cloud and AI technology and Microsoft 365 to help improve health outcomes and lower overall costs.
Customers tell us that one of the biggest advantages of working with Microsoft is our partner ecosystem. That ecosystem has brought together BevMo!, a wine and liquor store, and Fellow Inc., a Microsoft partner. Today, BevMo! is using Fellow Robots to connect supply chain efficiency with customer delight. Power BI, Microsoft Azure and AI enable the Fellow Robots to provide perfect product location using image recognition to offer customers different types of products by integrating point of sale interactions. BevMo! is also using Microsoft’s intelligent cloud solutions to empower its store associates to deliver better customer service.
Fellow Robots from partner Fellow, Inc. are helping BevMo! connect supply chain efficiency and better customer service. The robots are powered by Microsoft Azure, AI and Machine Learning.
In automotive, companies like Toyota are breaking new ground in mixed reality. With its HoloLens solution, Toyota can now project existing 3D CAD data used in the vehicle design process directly onto the vehicle for measurements, optimizing existing processes and minimizing errors. In addition, Toyota is trialing Dynamics 365 Layout to improve machinery layout within its facilities and Dynamics 365 Remote Assist to provide workers with expert support from off-site designers and engineers. Also, Toyota has deployed Surface devices, enabling designers and engineers to fluidly connect in real time as part of a company-wide investment to accelerate innovation through collaboration.
Digital transformation is also changing the way we learn. For example, in the education space, Law School Admission Council (LSAC), a non-profit organization devoted to law and education worldwide, announced its selection of the Windows platform on Surface Go devices to digitize the Law School Admission test (LSAT) for more than 130,000 LSAT test takers each year. In addition to the Digital LSAT, Microsoft is working with LSAC on several initiatives to improve and expand access to legal education.
Beyond manufacturing and retail, organizations are adopting the cloud and AI to reimagine environmental conservation. Fish may not be top of mind when thinking about innovation, but Australia’s Northern Territory is building its own technology to ensure the sustainable management of fisheries resources for future generations. For marine biologists, a seemingly straightforward task like counting fish becomes significantly more challenging or even dangerous when visibility in marine environments is low and when large predators (think: saltwater crocodiles) live in those environments. That is where AI comes in. Scientists use the technology to automatically identify and count fish photographed by underwater cameras. Over time, the AI solution becomes more accurate with each new fish analyzed. Greater availability of this technology may soon help other areas of the world improve their understanding of aquatic resources.
Shane Penny, Fisheries Research Scientist and his team using baited underwater cameras as part of Australia’s Northern Territory Fisheries artificial intelligence project with Microsoft to fuel insights in marine science.
With almost 13,000 post offices and more than 134,000 employees, Poste Italiane is Italy’s largest distribution network. The organization delivers traditional mail and parcels but also operates at the digital frontier through innovation in financial and insurance services as well as mobile and digital payments solutions. Poste Italiane selected Dynamics 365 for its CRM, creating the largest online deployment in Italy. The firm sees the deployment as a critical part of its strategy to support growth, contain costs and deliver a better, richer customer experience.
Poste Italiane’s selection of Microsoft is part of their digital transformation program that aims to reshape the retail sales approach and increase cross-selling revenues and profitability of its subsidiaries BancoPosta and PosteVita.
These examples only scratch the surface of how digital transformation and digital capabilities are bringing together people, data and processes in a way that generates value, competitive advantage and powers innovation across every industry. I am incredibly humbled that our customers and partners have chosen Microsoft to support their digital journey.