Microsoft Corp. Thursday launched a fully managed Internet of Things as a service offering called IoT Central, giving enterprises what it said is an easy way to deploy Internet of Things applications without the need for any specialist expertise of their own.
The company explained that IoT Central lets developers build software and hardware without any cloud computing expertise, which has previously always been a requisite for large-scale IoT deployments. Microsoft didn’t explain exactly how it enables this, but promised to say so in later updates.
IoT Central is powered by the Azure IoT Suite, which is Microsoft’s main platform for IoT developers. The assumption is that Microsoft will automate whatever cloud aspects of the development process are involved.
“[The service] has the potential to dramatically increase the speed at which manufacturers can innovate and bring new products to market, as well as lower the barriers to creating IoT solutions that generate new revenue opportunities and better experiences for customers,” said Sam George, a partner director for Azure IoT.
Alongside IoT Central, Microsoft is updating its Azure IoT Suite with a preconfigured solution it calls Connected Factory. Microsoft said the solution “makes it easy to connect on-premises open platform communications UA and OPC Classic devices to the Microsoft cloud and get insights to help drive operational efficiencies.” The solution offers built-in security features that makes it safe to configure devices in the cloud, the company said. Microsoft added that it’s partnering with companies including Hewlett-Packard Enterprise Co., Softing and Unified Automation to create “turnkey gateway solutions” for Connected Factory that use Azure’s cloud services.
Also on Thursday Microsoft said it’s introducing two new data analytics tools in preview. Microsoft Azure Time Series Insights is a fully managed analytics, storage and visualization service that makes it easy to explore and analyze billions of events from IoT sources. Microsoft Azure Stream Analytics is designed to help companies get more valuable data from connected devices on the network edge, where connectivity is less consistent.
Microsoft isn’t alone in making massive investments in IoT, as both Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud Platform offer a range of services for their customers. Just as artificial intelligence is transforming customers’ expectations of cloud services, so too will the growth of connected devices, especially as some of the older companies that might benefit the most from this emerging technology ditch aging data centers for cloud services.