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Microsoft eyes retail, manufacturing, health sectors in India in $5 bn IoT push

Microsoft eyes retail, manufacturing, health sectors in India in $5 bn IoT push
Rajesh Rege

Satya Nadella-led tech giant Microsoft plans to invest $5 billion into the Internet of Things globally for the next four years. The India division of the Windows-maker is eying a piece of that investment by providing IoT solutions to industry verticals such as manufacturing, auto, retail and healthcare in the country.

“According to a Nasscom and Deloitte report, the IoT market in India is expected to reach $15 billion by 2020, accounting for 5% of the global market. As demand for IoT in India is emerging across industries, we have already started investing in the space early,” Rajesh Rege, country general manager, cloud and solutions group, Microsoft India, said.

He added that the investment will go towards continued innovation in its technology platform and supporting programmes. “We are continuously conducting research and development in key areas, including securing IoT, creating development tools and intelligent services for IoT and the edge, and investments to grow our partner ecosystem,” Rege explained.

Microsoft’s IoT solutions

The Redmond-headquartered company began offering its IoT solutions and services from 2016. Currently, it offers the following:

Azure IoT Hub: This product allows customers to monitor and manage billions of IoT devices and establishes two-way communication to maintain network architecture.

Azure IoT Central: This service provides a software-as-a-service (SaaS) interface to connect and monitor IoT assets at scale for companies that don't have cloud solutions expertise.

Azure IoT Edge: This solution offers a fully managed service that delivers cloud intelligence locally.

Azure Sphere: This product securely connects microcontroller-powered devices to the cloud.

Azure Time Series Insights: This is an analytical service that scans billions of events streaming in from all over the world in seconds.

Azure Maps: This service combines geospatial application programming interfaces (APIs) with IoT solutions to provide customers add maps and search route traffic capabilities.

Other services such as Azure Machine Learning and Windows 10 IoT enable computers to learn from data and experiences and makes devices smart. The Dynamics 365 for Connected Field Service enhances the service experience.

Tie-ups with automakers

While Microsoft is not using its IoT capabilities to develop its own connected cars, it is working with multiple players via its connected vehicle platform. This is a set of services built on the Microsoft Azure cloud designed to empower auto manufacturers to create custom connected driving experiences.

“This is not an in-car operating system or a ‘finished product’ but a platform that aims to address five core scenarios that our partners have told us are key priorities: predictive maintenance, improved in-car productivity, advanced navigation, customer insights and building autonomous driving capabilities,” Rege added.

Besides this, Microsoft’s cloud ingests huge volumes of sensor and usage data from connected vehicles, thereby helping automakers apply that data in powerful ways.

In India, the company already has partnership agreements with Ola Cabs, Tata Motors, Uno Minda and Tyre Express. Microsoft helped Ola develop its in-car entertainment experience, Ola Play, which is already being offered as a service.

With Tata Motors, the company is offering drivers services such as shopping and route assist recommendations based on a driver’s profile, pre-emptive service alerts based on vehicle health data, firmware upgrades for cars, and live road and traffic information for customers.

Enterprise IoT solutions firm Tyre Express has developed a tyre lifecycle management solution for fleet owners by using Microsoft’s Azure IoT service.

Industrial IoT applications

Microsoft is also offering its IoT services to enterprises through a solution called Microsoft Industrial Internet of things (IIoT).

“Connected products, people and things produce terabytes of data every day that manufacturers can access and extract deep insights from to optimise business and manufacturing processes,” Rege said.

Data from IIoT services can help manufacturers identify new revenue streams by developing high-value offerings focused on how products and customers interact in the real world.

The company uses IIoT capabilities to monitor the quality of drinking water, for smart city street lights and agriculture.

Bengaluru-based TechSpan Engineering has implemented a monitoring system, which assesses water quality, built on the Azure IoT platform. It uses sensors provided by the Austrian firm s::can and their India Partner Aaxis Nano. Microsoft IoT data and s::can’s sensors provide measurements across 17 parameters, Rege explained.

“We are also behind the Smart Street Lighting Project for Jaipur. The Jaipur Municipal Corporation (JMC) operates and maintains over 100,000 public street lights within the city,” he added.

The project is expected to benefit 1.65 million people through improved street lighting and will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 36,750 metric tonnes/year. It will also result in $1 million per year in fiscal savings accrued to the government due to reduced energy consumption.

For agriculture, Microsoft is working on a research project called FarmBeats, which comprises two broad areas—one involves collecting data from various sensors, cameras and drones, and the other consists of analysing that data.

Microsoft has also provided machine learning capabilities to farm equipment-maker Escorts for its self-driving tractor.

Besides the above, the company also provides IoT solutions in healthcare, transportation and retail.

Microsoft competes with Cisco, Intel, Google and IBM in the IoT space among others.

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