Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Microsoft simplifies route to secure IoT

Steve Rogerson
October 30, 2019

Microsoft this week announced  capabilities that simplify its customers’ route to delivering highly secured IoT products and services.
These should help them embrace IoT as a core strategy to drive better business outcomes, improve safety and address social issues by predicting and preventing equipment failures, optimising smart buildings for space use and energy management, improving patient outcomes and worker safety, tracking assets across a supply chain, and more.
The proliferation of IoT devices is letting companies bring cloud intelligence to the edge, to create services that are adaptive and responsive to their environments.
By 2021, 94% of businesses will be using IoT, according to a recent Microsoft IoT Signals research report and, in nearly every case (97%), those companies are concerned about potential security risks.
"At Microsoft, we are committed to building a trusted, easy-to-use platform that allows our customers and partners to build seamless, smart, secure solutions regardless of where they are in the IoT journey," said Sam George, CVP of Azure IoT at Microsoft. "That's why we are investing $5bn in IoT and intelligent edge technology that is accelerating ubiquitous computing and bringing unparalleled opportunity across industries."
The core focus is addressing the challenge of securing connected devices at every layer while advancing IoT to create a seamless experience between the physical and digital worlds. In the past year, Microsoft has launched more than 100 new services and features that make IoT more secure and scalable, reduce complexity, and create opportunities in new market areas.
IoT Central is a fully managed IoT app platform that provides system builders with built-in security, scale and extensibility needed to develop enterprise-grade IoT. Features in IoT Central simplify building and deploying scalable and affordable enterprise applications:

  • 11 new industry-focused application templates to accelerate builders across retail, healthcare, government and energy.
  • API support for extending IoT Central or integrating it with other products, including API support for device modelling, provisioning, lifecycle management, operations and data querying.
  • IoT edge support, including management for edge devices and IoT edge module deployments, which enable users to deploy cloud workloads, including AI, directly to connected devices.
  • IoT plug-and-play support, for rapid device development and connectivity.
  • The ability to save and load applications to enable application reusability.
  • More data export options for continually exporting data to other Azure PaaS services, such as storage for rich analytics.
  • Multi-tenancy support for building and managing a single application with multiple tenants, each with their own isolated data, devices, users and roles. And updates to that single application are visible to all tenants for easy manageability.
  • Custom user roles for fine-grained access control to data, actions and configurations in the system.
  • New pricing model for early 2020, designed to help customers and partners have predictable pricing as usage scales.
Azure IoT Hub helps enterprise developers reduce costs and optimise operations through IoT cloud applications. Capabilities with IoT Hub message enrichment add the ability to stamp messages coming from devices with rich information before they are sent to downstream cloud services, making integration easy. IoT Hub integrates with Azure Event Grid, making it easy to consume IoT Hub device messages from a broader variety of downstream services.
Azure Maps users can add geospatial weather intelligence into their applications to enable scenarios such as weather-based routing, weather-based targeted marketing and weather-based operations optimisation, in partnership with AccuWeather. Azure Maps will now be available on Gov Cloud, simplifying the onboarding process.
Azure Time Series Insights is announcing preview capabilities including:
  • Multilayered storage: This provides very fast access to frequently used data (warm data) and fast access to infrequently used historical data (cold data).
  • Flexible cold storage: Historical data are stored in a user's Azure Storage account, giving them complete control of their IoT data. Data are stored in open source Apache Parquet format, enabling predictive analytics, machine learning and other custom computations using familiar technologies including Spark, Databricks and Jupyter.
  • Rich analytics: Rich query APIs and user experience support interpolation, new scalar and aggregate functions, categorical variables, scatter plots, and time shifting between time series signals for in-depth analysis.
  • Enterprise-grade scale: Scale and performance improvements at all layers, including ingestion, storage, query and metadata and model.
  • Extensibility and integration: A Time Series Insights Power BI connector allows users to take queries from Time Series Insights into Power BI to get a unified view.
Through Microsoft’s Express Logic acquisition, Azure RTOS continues to enable more intelligent capabilities. It unlocks access to billions of connected endpoints and grows the number of devices that can seamlessly connect to Azure. Renesas is a Japanese microcontroller manufacturer that shares Microsoft’s vision of making IoT development as easy and seamless as possible, and Azure RTOS will be broadly available across Renesas' products, including the Synergy and RA MCU families. It is already integrated into the Renesas Synergy software package and will be integrated out of the box with the Renesas RA Flexible software package.
Features have been added to Azure Security Center for IoT with the announcement of a security partner programme and support for national clouds, and the upcoming general availability of Azure Sphere in February 2020.
Microsoft Azure Sphere is taking a holistic approach to securing the intelligent edge and IoT from the silicon to the cloud in a way that gives users flexibility and control. For example, Qualcomm recently announced a partnership with Microsoft to develop mobile hardware for the Azure Sphere IoT operating system.