Microsoft reveals “full-blown” IoTs deployments across regional enterprises

"Leveraging IoT can give companies the leg up they need."

25 billion things - that is the number of devices that Gartner expects to see connected to the Internet by 2020.

This in itself represents a 5-fold increase from the 4.9 billion devices that are already connected today.

As evinced by the numbers, the Internet of things has without a doubt captured the imagination of organisations and individuals across the globe.

Whether it be concepts such as driverless cars, automated environmental controls or smart cities, all are promising to make life more convenient, efficient, and sustainable.

Consequently, analyst firm IDC estimates that the IoT market will be worth some US$7.1 trillion by 2020.

“IoT as a term was conceived by a MIT professor almost 20 years ago,” says Chaney Ho, President of Advantech, a global provider of embedded and automation products and solutions.

Taking the stage at the recent Microsoft Analyst Summit Asia 2015, Ho and a host of Redmond officials discussed the advent of IoT as a mainstream technology, with more than 80 attending analysts.

“Many people still think that the IoT is a thing of the future – and they could not be more wrong,” Ho claims.

For Ho believes that, across Asia-Pacific, including New Zealand and Australia, the IoT era is already here.

So much so he estimates that the IoT market segment in the Asia Pacific which Advantech is addressing is already worth over US$12 million today (excluding devices).

And that’s only the tip of the iceberg. IDC estimates the Asia Pacific market (excluding Japan) will drive IoT services and devices to be worth US$250 billion by 2020.

In October 2014, a Microsoft-sponsored survey of 291 CIOs in Asia Pacific showed that there is a sense of urgency amongst IT leaders in Asia Pacific to take advantage of what IoT has to offer.

It is viewed as the second most disruptive technology to organisations in the region; 79 per cent said that they already have or are planning to implement ambient technology solutions.

As a result, IoT was ranked 4th in terms of current CIO priorities (after Cloud, Mobility, Big Data) in the next three years.

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Indeed, IoT is at an inflection point today.

“There are billions of devices already installed,” adds Jerry Lee, Global Group Product Manager, Microsoft.

“As the price-point of IoT devices drops further, the proliferation of IoT will continue to grow.

“Furthermore, as awareness of the advantages of IoT becomes more widespread, so too does demand for solutions.

“At Microsoft we are already seeing more companies move from initial proof of concepts into full blown deployment of IoT across the enterprise.”

Does IoT adoption generate competitive advantage?

According to Lee, the driving force for IoT usage is the desire to make things work better.

For organisations which are already digital, IoT becomes the gel to connect and harness data harvested from across operations.

“Bottom line is,” he explains, “IoT enables organisations to be more competitive by being able to innovate faster, create new efficiencies and revenue sources.”

Closer to home in Australia for example, Dental Corporation deployed IoT to automate reporting processes across 220 offices, giving back precious time for staff at all levels to be more productive.

“In Asia, one of the fastest growing economies in the world, you have to create competitive advantage very quickly to stand out from your competitors,” Lee adds.

“Leveraging IoT can give companies the leg up they need.”

The advantages of IoT are further exemplified in a recent whitepaper published by analyst firm Telsyte on behalf of Microsoft.

It reveals that 65 per cent of Australian organizations that have deployed IoT report operational cost savings at an average of 28 per cent.

Furthermore, slightly more than half (53 per cent) reported that IoT adoption resulted in a 29 per cent increase in realised productivity.

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Making IoT a reality today

For Lee, Microsoft’s vision is to help companies thrive by delivering open, scalable platforms and services that any company, whether start-ups or the most established global enterprises, can use to create new value, right now.

Over the last 12 months, Microsoft has accelerated the roll out of its IoT portfolio to support market demands.

“Over the past 12 months Microsoft has been steadily adding new capabilities to Microsoft Azure IoT services to enable customers to build IoT solutions, this includes machine learning and Azure Stream Analytics,” Lee adds.

“Azure Stream Analytics allows for complex event processing while Microsoft Azure Machine Learning drastically simplifies the implementation of machine learning algorithms – effectively enabling a simple one click approach to deploying application program interfaces (APIs).”

Most recently Microsoft unveiled Microsoft Azure IoT Suite, at Microsoft Convergence 2015, an integrated offering that takes relevant Azure capabilities to help businesses connect, manage and analyse all of their “things.”

Available in preview later this year, Lee says this new offering will provide businesses with finished applications targeting common IoT scenarios - such as remote monitoring, asset management and predictive maintenance - to simplify deployment and provide the ability to scale their solution to millions of “things” over time.

Enabling an IoT ecosystem in Asia

Software and services are just one part of the equation however, with Lee addeding that Microsoft is moving to enable a partner ecosystem for IoT application and adoption very quickly.

“We offer Microsoft Azure IoT services, but we need customers and partners to build on top of that to truly enable customers to unlock great value from their Internet connected things,” he adds.

“Microsoft is working to prepare the local partner ecosystems for rapidly increasing demand for IoT.”

One such example would be the Microsoft Quick Start consultations.

Under the program Microsoft is working with select partners to provide free half-day consultations to qualifying enterprise customers.

Through these sessions, Lee says customers learn more about IoT and how they can be applied to their business priorities.