A new study from Microsoft finds that businesses are rushing to use the Internet of Things - an exec explains why it believes it can win in the market
- Internet of Things (IOT), the tech industry term for hardware devices that are connected to the Internet, is already being used in manufacturing, construction, agriculture, oil and gas, and other industries.
- A Microsoft survey shows that the majority of leaders in enterprise companies who make decisions about Internet of Things are already adopting this technology and see it as critical to business success.
- Microsoft's head of Azure IoT Sam George explains what makes Microsoft stand out in its IoT technology, compared to its rival clouds.
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Whether it's tracking workers in risky environments or detecting contamination in food, Microsoft says it's making it easier for customers to take advantage of the rising trend towards internet-connected hardware.
This type of technology is called Internet of Things (IoT), the industry term for machinery that can connect to the Internet and be remotely monitored. IoT is finding uses in improving employee productivity, manufacturing efficiency, and supply chain management, as well as in improving safety and security.
"The most important thing is that IoT is really going mainstream," Sam George, Microsoft's head of Azure IoT, told Business Insider. "It's reaching that point where it's well recognized as a key ingredient in transformation and it's really happening now."
To George's point, Microsoft has released IoT Signals - a new report surveying 3,000 leaders in enterprise companies who are making decisions about IoT. Per that survey, 85% of respondents are already adopting this technology, and 88% of them see it as critical to business success.
Already, IoT devices can be used to track workers in fields like construction or oil and gas. If the worker faces a problem or gets injured, others can be alerted right away. Or, in the case of food production, IoT devices can better detect if there are any toxins using a combination of powerful cameras, UV lights, and artificial intelligence technology.
The idea is to use the power of the cloud, like Microsoft's own Azure, to make previously "dumb" devices like cameras or microphones a little smarter.
"IoT took advantage of cloud," George said. "What it meant was that if you want to build an IoT solution, you can take advantage of cloud data centers and cloud services."
A skills gap in IoT
Still, 97% of respondents to the IoT Signals study have security concerns about IoT. It's not stopping them from using the technology, but George says that this shows that the industry still has a ways to go to assuage user concerns.
There's also a skills gap in IoT right now. Nearly half of the respondents, at 47%, say there aren't enough skilled workers in IoT, which can slow down companies in adopting this technology.
"This was something we started seeing a few years back when we realized IoT will have a profound impact and devices across the planet," George said. "If you think about the number of developers that are required to power that transformation, it outstrips the number of developers that are available today."
Naturally, Microsoft isn't the only one chasing this technology: Amazon Web Services, the market-leading cloud computing platform, has its own IoT strategy, as does Google Cloud, which lags behind Microsoft as the third-place player in the cloud industry.
George says that what makes Microsoft's cloud stand out from its rivals is its hybrid cloud strategy. Specifically, its IoT technology works both on private data centers, as well as the cloud. That's important, because it means that it can work with a company's local servers, even if the connected device itself is in a situation where access to the wider internet is slow or otherwise unreliable.
"Hybrid and on premises is very important in IoT, especially given some sectors like manufacturing," George said. "When you walk through a giant manufacturing environment, you realize all these production lines, you have to keep going, even if there's a network interruption locally."
To address the skills gap, Microsoft is currently investing in developing an IoT School, which provides free online training about how to use this technology. It also recently launched IoT Plug and Play, which makes using this technology easier for users, without having to engineer and set up these devices on their own.
"We have a long history of taking complicated technologies and democratizing them," George said. "We're doing that for IoT to make it broadly useful for all these businesses."
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