With the presentation of a couple of interesting use cases at its Ignite conference on the Gold Coast last week, Microsoft is putting out some solid messages to support the capabilities of its recently released Azure IoT Suite.
Construction company, Laing O’Rourke, is using the suite to gather and present data from an experimental ‘Smart Hard Hat’ project where sensors and Zigbee wireless transceivers are fitted to construction workers’ hard hats to gather bio and environment data. A primary aim of the project is early detection of heat stress, which can often be at dangerous levels by the time symptoms become obvious.
With the help of software developer, MOQ Digital, Laing O’Rourke upgraded the system from one that gathered data from the construction sites and fed it into spreadsheets to one where data is displayed visually in dashboards developed using Azure IoT Suite.
Laing O’Rourke CIO, Ryan Macnamee, said: “The main limitations with the initial system design were reliable access to the data logs over 3G and subsequent manual analysis of large spreadsheets. So by using a store and forward process to put the data into the cloud and leveraging Microsoft’s Power BI platform, we can streamline analysis and make better informed decisions and projections about the data we’re seeing and then proactively warn people.”
The connected cyclist
West Australian cycle race organiser, Cycling Eventures, had a problem with its Tour of Margaret River. For most of the tour riders are out in the country and neither commentators nor spectators have any idea what is happening. It fed data from the devices many serious cyclists use that measure speed, cadence, power, heart rate to the cyclists’ Android phones, combined these data with GPS location data from the phones and fed all the data back over the cellular network into Azure IoT Suite. With the help of Satalyst, a Perth-based business specialising in Microsoft technologies it developed a dashboard in Azure IoT Suite to show the positions of all the cyclists and how they were performing.
Satalyst says development of the user interface was achieved by a team of four working part time over about a month.
Microsoft describes Azure IoT Suite as “A cloud-based offering with preconfigured solutions that address common Internet of Things scenarios, so you can capture and analyse untapped data to transform your business.” And, because it is cloud-based any pilot or experimental system developed using Azure IoT Suite is immediately scalable to a full production implementation incorporating a range of capabilities.
Preconfigured Azure capabilities
The preconfigured solutions “integrate relevant Azure capabilities, such as Azure IoT Hub, Azure App Services, Azure DocumentDB, Azure Stream Analytics, Azure Machine Learning, and Microsoft Power BI, to address common IoT scenarios such as remote monitoring, predictive maintenance and asset management.”
Microsoft has been promoting the product since early this year and it became commercially available on 29 September.
Microsoft has launched a web site www.internetofyourthings.com to promote its vision of IoT as embodied in the Azure IoT Suite. Barb Edson, general manager, Data Platform/IoT at Microsoft, told a press briefing at Ignite: “The internet of things from Microsoft’s perspective is not about ripping and replacing your existing systems. It is about using what you already have and augmenting it. You should not have to make huge investments to get value from the Internet of Things. Use what you already have, integrate with your CRM systems, the SCADA systems that you already have.”
Azure IoT certified devices
She said Microsoft was very focussed on enabling organisations to quickly ramp up usable IoT implementations and then scale them to production level, adding: “We’ve sometimes found it has taken months or years for somebody to trial an IoT implementation. … This is about delivering out of the box preconfigured solutions that you can quickly get up and running and do a proof of concept trial and then quickly go into production with millions of devices.”
She added: “One of the hardest things with IoT is how to assimilate the devices. So we have created the Azure Certified Program for IoT. It shows devices tested and proven to work with Azure IoT.”
Current partners include BeagleBone, Freescale, Intel Corporation, Raspberry Pi, Resin.io, Seeed Technology Inc., and Texas Instruments. To provide data analytics capability, Microsoft has integrated the Azure IoT Suite with its Cortana Analytics Suite.