Next Monday, Microsoft will once again have a major presence at the Digital Factory Hall at Hannover Messe, the world’s largest annual manufacturing exhibition in Hannover, Germany. As we started planning, it struck me that the reason our booth is one of the largest in the Digital Factory Hall is because our most important manufacturing partners will join us and our customers to showcase innovations that are transforming decades-old businesses and opening doors to revenue streams, new business models and service offerings that didn’t exist five years ago.
Partners are not only an important part of a complex Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) ecosystem, they are critical to how we do business. More than 90 percent of our revenues come through our trusted partners. Every major IIoT provider, including ABB, Accenture/Avanade, COPA-DATA, EY, GE, ICONICS, Kapsch, GE, OSIsoft, PTC, Rockwell Automation, Schneider Electric and Siemens are joining forces with Microsoft to integrate and offer their manufacturing services and solutions on top of our global Azure cloud. Among the reasons partners choose to run IIoT services on Microsoft’s cloud are its scale — more than 42 regions across the globe — and the investments we’ve made in supporting open-source software and compatibility, which take our support of OPC UA standards to the next level, as well as our commitment to security and trust. Our cloud meets a broad set of international standards, compliance and IP requirements so partners don’t have to build their own cloud infrastructure.
For example, ABB has placed a tremendous bet on our Azure cloud. Its intelligent factory in Heidelberg, Germany, has integrated artificial intelligence (AI) and IIoT technology into its robots to self-learn and self-correct. For instance, the various stations in the factory can autonomously adjust their actions as the cameras visually compare each component. If something is off, it will trigger a response and self-correct the process. As a result, ABB can produce three times as many products and handle more than 8,000 variants of product components.
Outlined below are three key IIoT priorities we will drive with partners over the coming months.
Helping partners secure the factory of the future
By 2021, edge computing is expected to be an $80 billion market, presenting tremendous opportunities for partners to build innovative solutions for intelligent transportation networks, integrated energy systems and, on display this week: even smarter factories. The importance of building holistic security solutions that can handle the complexity of IoT systems — from cloud to edge — cannot be understated. Earlier this week at the RSA security conference, we announced a preview of Azure Sphere, the first holistic platform to provide industrial-grade security for connected microcontroller (MCU) devices, 9 billion of which will ship this year in devices ranging from home appliances to industrial equipment in factories.
We’ve made strong progress as an industry securing IoT devices, but as an industry we can do more as they only represent a small fraction of the 20 billion devices expected to be connected by 2020.
Investing in partners
Earlier this month, Microsoft committed to investing $5 billion in IoT over the next four years. While the investments will be used for IoT and edge computing research and development, they will also be used to expand our partners’ efforts. With our IoT platform spanning cloud, OS and devices, we are uniquely positioned to simplify the IoT journey so any customer regardless of size, technical expertise, budget, industry or other factors can create trusted, connected solutions.
Driving down IIoT costs for partners
Manufacturers already rely on the Azure IoT Hub for connecting billions of IoT devices and powering production IoT solutions across factories and industrial plants. Our goal is to drive down the cost of IIoT for the entire industry as partners continue to build and develop IIoT solutions. With Azure IoT Edge as the foundation between cloud and edge, partners can build higher up the value chain. Eventually, partners will develop an entire ecosystem of edge offerings ranging from simple services to sophisticated solutions for customers around the globe.
Leading in the intelligent edge for partners
Manufacturers want the freedom to deploy their Industrial IoT solutions where they want, whether in the cloud, on-premesis or a hybrid of both. Microsoft is leading the industry by providing the most comprehensive and open on-premesis and hybrid support for Industrial IoT solutions. We have introduced the most open edge platform in the industry with Azure IoT Edge. It enables any customer workload to be deployed, activated and monitored using Docker containers, which creates open portability not present in other edge platforms. We’re thrilled to announce that Azure IoT Edge will be open source as well. Finally, we are taking on-premesis Industrial IoT solutions to a new level by bringing Azure IoT Hub to Azure Stack. This is currently in development, and we will have future announcements on preview and general availability timing.
Come see our partners if you’re in Germany
Check back on Monday, April 23, when I share our Azure IoT announcements that we’ll demonstrate with 20 partners in the Microsoft booth in the Digital Factory, Hall 7, booth C40. Innovations spanning AI, IoT, machine learning and mixed reality will all be on display, showcasing how cloud technology has become mainstream in factories and industrial equipment has become predictive, self-adjusting and self-healing.
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