Intelligence in the Cloud and on the Edge with Azure IoT

Intelligence in the Cloud and on the Edge with Azure IoT


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The Internet of Things (IoT) is real and it’s here today, but to many of you, IoT may seem confusing and hard to understand how it applies to your business.

In this post, we hope to offer you further understanding on how Azure IoT could bring your business together in new, insightful ways – from generating new revenue streams, to increasing process efficiencies, and delivering better customer experiences.


What is IoT?

There’s a revolution underway that is positioning companies to take operational efficiency to new levels and inform the next generation of products and services. This revolution of course, is the Internet of Things (IoT).

IoT, however is not a technology evolution. It’s a business revolution, enabled by technology. With Microsoft’s long history of driving business success and digital transformation for customers, it’s no surprise that Microsoft is also focused on powering the business revolution through its robust Azure IoT suite of products.

Azure IoT is for every business—it powers digital transformation by unlocking insights from connected devices. You can transform those insights into action through powerful applications to create new revenue and business opportunities.

With Microsoft’s IoT platform spanning the cloud, OS and devices, we believe it is uniquely positioned to simplify the IoT journey so any customer—regardless of size, technical expertise, budget, industry or other factors—can create trusted, connected solutions that improve business and customer experiences, as well as the daily lives of people all over the world. The investment Microsoft announced just a couple of months ago will ensure that it continues to meet customers’ needs both now and in the future.

Microsoft’s IoT offerings today include what businesses need to get started, ranging from operating systems for devices, cloud services to control and secure them, advanced analytics to gain insights, and business applications to enable intelligent action. Microsoft has seen great traction with customers and partners who continue to come up with new ideas and execute them on their platform.

IoT isn’t one “thing”. It’s about an ecosystem of things or devices, the data and insights they generate, and the opportunity to take action based on the analysis of those insights.

  • Things: Build, manage, and monitor a network of physical objects by adding sensors and creating smart devices.
  • Insights: Collect data from your network and use advanced analytics to uncover new business insights and opportunities.
  • Action: Predict needs before they arise and act with precision based on unprecedented insights from your IoT network.

Why Azure IoT?

Microsoft has built a portfolio that supports the needs of all customers, and enables everyone to access the benefits of digital transformation.

Azure IoT Central is a fully managed SaaS solution that is best used when you need to get started quickly with minimal IoT experience. If your business is pursuing speed over customization, SaaS models could be the perfect fit for your IoT implementation needs. Organizations with fewer device models, more predictable scenarios, and limited IoT/IT capabilities can now reap the benefits of IoT through a SaaS approach. Those businesses that previously lacked the time, money, and expertise to develop connected products can now get started quickly with Microsoft IoT Central. Microsoft is leading the industry in providing a mature SaaS solution that meets common IoT implementation pain points.

azure iot lifecycle

Azure IoT solution accelerators is a customizable PaaS solution that is best used when you need a lot of control over your IoT solution. If your business is implementing IoT for connected operations, or have very particular customization requirements for your connected products, you can have the control you need with Azure IoT solution accelerators. Organizations with a large number of devices or device models, and manufacturers seeking connected factory solutions are examples of companies that can create highly customizable IoT solutions tailored to their complex needs.

In addition, Azure IoT Edge provides organization with the capacity to do local processing. When combined with a PaaS or SaaS solution, edge processing can offer faster calculations and reduce the cost of data sent to the cloud.


IoT Hub

IoT Hub is a managed service, hosted in the cloud, that acts as a central message hub for bi-directional communication between your IoT application and the devices it manages. You can use Azure IoT Hub to build IoT solutions with reliable and secure communications between millions of IoT devices and a cloud-hosted solution backend. You can connect virtually any device to IoT Hub.

IoT Hub supports communications both from the device to the cloud and from the cloud to the device. IoT Hub supports multiple messaging patterns such as device-to-cloud telemetry, file upload from devices, and request-reply methods to control your devices from the cloud. IoT Hub monitoring helps you maintain the health of your solution by tracking events such as device creation, device failures, and device connections.

IoT Hub’s capabilities help you build scalable, full-featured IoT solutions such as managing industrial equipment used in manufacturing, tracking valuable assets in healthcare, and monitoring office building usage.

  • Establish bidirectional communication with billions of IoT devices: Use device-to-cloud telemetry data to understand the state of your devices and define message routes to other Azure services without writing any code. In cloud-to-device messages, reliably send commands and notifications to your connected devices and track message delivery with acknowledgement receipts. Device messages are sent in a durable way to accommodate intermittently connected devices.
  • Enhance security with per device authentication: Set up individual identities and credentials for each of your connected devices, and help retain the confidentiality of both cloud-to-device and device-to-cloud messages. To maintain the integrity of your system, selectively revoke access rights for specific devices as needed.
  • Provision devices at scale w/ IoT Hub Device Provisioning Service: Speed up your IoT deployment by registering and provisioning devices with zero touch in a secure and scalable way. IoT Hub Device Provisioning Service supports any type of IoT device compatible with IoT Hub.
  • Manage devices at scale with device management: IoT Hub scales to millions of simultaneously connected devices and millions of events per second to support your IoT workloads. IoT Hub offers several tiers of service to best fit your scalability needs.
  • Multi-language and open source SDKs: Use the Azure IoT device SDK libraries to build applications that run on your devices and interact with IoT Hub. Supported platforms include multiple Linux distributions, Windows, and real-time operating systems. Supported languages include: C, C#, Java, Python, Node.js.  IoT Hub and the device SDKs support the following protocols for connecting devices: HTTPS, AMQP, AMQP over WebSockets, MQTT, MQTT over WebSockets.

Azure IoT Edge

Azure IoT Edge is a fully managed service that delivers cloud intelligence locally by deploying and running artificial intelligence (AI), Azure services, and custom logic directly on cross-platform IoT devices. You can run your IoT solution securely and at scale—whether in the cloud or offline.

Move cloud and custom workloads to the edge, securely: Azure IoT Edge moves cloud analytics and custom business logic to devices so that your organization can focus on business insights instead of data management. Enable your solution to truly scale by configuring your IoT software, deploying it to devices via standard containers, and monitoring it all from the cloud. With IoT Edge, your edge devices operate reliably and securely even when they’re offline or have intermittent connectivity to the cloud. Azure IoT device management automatically syncs the latest state of devices once they’re reconnected to ensure seamless operability.

Seamless deployment of AI and advanced analytics to the edge: IoT Edge allows you to deploy complex event processing, machine learning, image recognition, and other high-value artificial intelligence without writing it in-house. Run Azure services such as Functions, Stream Analytics, and Machine Learning on-premises. Create AI modules and make them available to the community.

Easily build AI at the edge with the AI Toolkit for Azure IoT Edge. Most data becomes useless just seconds after it’s generated, so having the lowest latency possible between the data and the decision is critical. IoT Edge optimizes for performance between edge and cloud while ensuring management, security, and scale.

Only a small fraction of IoT data acquired is meaningful post-analytics. Use services such as Azure Stream Analytics or trained models to process the data locally and send only what’s needed to the cloud for further analysis. This reduces the cost associated with sending all your data to the cloud while keeping data quality high.

Configure, update and monitor from the cloud: Azure IoT Edge integrates seamlessly with Azure IoT solution accelerators to provide one control plane for your solution’s needs. Cloud services allow users to:

  • Create and configure a workload to be run on a specific type of device.
  • Send a workload to a set of devices.
  • Monitor workloads running on devices in the field.

Compatible with popular operating systems: Azure IoT Edge runs on most operating systems that can run containers.

Code symmetry between cloud and edge for easy development and testing: IoT Edge holds to the same programming model as other Azure IoT services; for example, the same code can be run on a device or in the cloud. IoT Edge supports OS such as Linux and Windows, and languages such as Java, .NET Core 2.0, Node.js, C, and Python, so you can code in a language you know and use existing business logic without writing from scratch.

Secure solution from chipset to the cloud: Intelligent edge devices face security threats ranging from physical tampering to IP hacking. IoT Edge is designed for security that extends to different risk profiles and deployment scenarios, and offers the same protection you expect from all Azure services.


Azure Time Series Insights

Azure Time Series Insights is a fully managed analytics, storage, and visualization service for managing IoT-scale time-series data in the cloud. Instantly explore and analyze billions of events from your IoT solution.

IoT scale time-series data store: Time Series Insights manages the storage of your data. At its core, Time Series Insights has a database designed with time series data in mind. Because it is scalable and fully managed, Time Series Insights handles the work of storing and managing events. To ensure data is always easily accessible, it stores your data in memory and SSD’s for up to 400 days. If you’re building an application, either for internal consumption or for external customers to use, Time Series Insights can be used as a back-end for indexing, storing, and aggregating time series data.

Schema-less store, just send data: Today, many organizations are limited by siloed data that’s difficult to compare onsite in one location, let alone many. With Time Series Insights, you now have a view of your time-series data across all your locations. It’s built for IoT-scale data so that you can visualize and interact with billions of streams of sensor data from all your connected things.

Easy IoT Hub connection: Azure Time Series Insights requires no up-front data preparation. Connect to millions of events in your Azure IoT Hub or Event Hub in minutes. Once connected, visualize and interact with sensor data to quickly validate your IoT solutions. You can interact with your data without writing code.

Store, query and visualize billions of events: Time Series Insights provides a query service, both in the TSI explorer and by using APIs that are easy to integrate for embedding your time series data into custom applications. You can interactively query billions of events in seconds – on demand.

Get near real-time insights in seconds: Get more value out of your time-series data with storage, analysis, and visualization, all in one place. Time Series Insights ingests hundreds of millions of sensor events per day and makes up to 400 days’ worth of time-series data available to query within one minute to empower quick action. Gain deeper insights into your sensor data by spotting trends and anomalies fast, which allows you to conduct root-cause analyses and avoid costly downtime. Plus, unlock hidden trends by cross-correlating discrete data and viewing real-time and historical data simultaneously.

Build apps using Time Series Insights APIs: Integrate Azure Time Series Insights data into your existing applications or create new custom solutions with Time Series Insights REST query APIs. Adding Time Series Insights data into existing workflows will allow you to get more out of your time series data, and when you use this data to build custom solutions for your users, you’ll provide more value to your partners.


Azure IoT Central

Azure IoT Central is a fully managed global IoT SaaS (software-as-a-service) solution that makes it easy to connect, monitor, and manage your IoT assets at scale. It allows you to bring your connected products to market faster while staying focused on your customers and it reduces the complexity of IoT solutions because it doesn’t require cloud solution expertise.

azure iot central

Fully hosted and managed by Microsoft: Azure IoT Central applications are fully hosted by Microsoft, which reduces the administration overhead of managing your applications.

As an operator, you use the Azure IoT Central application to manage the devices in your Azure IoT Central solution. Operators can perform tasks such as:

  • Monitoring the devices connected to the application.
  • Troubleshooting and remediating issues with devices.
  • Provisioning new devices.

No cloud development expertise required: You can build production-grade IoT applications in hours, without worrying about managing infrastructure or hiring developers with specialized skills. Reduce the complexity of customizing, deploying, and scaling an IoT solution. Bring your connected solutions to market faster—while you stay focused on your customers.

Device connectivity and management: Easily build and configure your IoT solution using Azure IoT Central without cloud development expertise. The easy-to-use interface makes it simple for you to connect, manage, and control access to millions of connected products remotely, throughout their lifecycle.

Monitoring rules and triggered actions: To monitor and manage the devices effectively, users can define the different types of measurements emitted by it and displayed by the application. Microsoft IoT Central supports measurements types such as telemetry including device-emitted numeric values, often collected at a regular frequency (e.g. temperature), events including device-emitted numeric or non-numeric values generated on the device, with no inferable relationship over time (e.g. button press and error code), and state including device-emitted numeric or non-numeric values which defines the state of a device or one of its parts and maintained until the state change is informed by the device (e.g. Engine ON). 

User roles and permissions: Roles enable you to control who, within your organization, can perform various Azure IoT Central tasks.

Analytics, dashboards and visualization: Microsoft IoT Central integrates Azure Time Series Insights – a fully managed analytics, storage, and visualization service for managing IoT-scale time-series – to enable users to explore and analyze billions of events streaming simultaneously from devices deployed all over the world. Microsoft IoT Central provides massively scalable time-series data storage and several ways to explore data, making it super easy to explore and visualize millions of data points simultaneously, conduct root-cause analysis, and to compare multiple sites and assets. Within an application, time-series visualization is available for a single device, for a Device Set – with the ability to compare multiple devices – and as a multi-purpose Analytics tool.


IoT Solution Accelerators

IoT solution accelerators are a collection of complete, ready-to-deploy, IoT solutions that implement common IoT scenarios such as remote monitoring, connected factory, and predictive maintenance. When you deploy a solution accelerator, the deployment includes all the required cloud-based services along with any required application code.

azure iot accelerators

The solution accelerators are starting points for your own IoT solutions. The source code for all the solution accelerators is open source and is available in GitHub. You can also use the solution accelerators as learning tools before building a custom IoT solution from scratch. The solution accelerators implement proven practices for cloud-based IoT solutions for you to follow. The application code in each solution accelerator includes a dashboard that lets you manage the solution accelerator.

All the solution accelerators follow the same design principles and goals. They are designed to be:

  • Scalable: letting you connect and manage millions of connected devices.
  • Extensible: enabling you to customize them to meet your requirements.
  • Comprehensible: enabling you to understand how they work and how they are implemented.
  • Modular: letting you swap out services for alternatives.
  • Secure: combining Azure security with built-in connectivity and device security features.

Preconfigured solutions

Remote Monitoring: Use this solution accelerator to collect telemetry from multiple remote devices and to control them. Example devices include cooling systems installed on your customers’ premises or valves installed in remote pump stations.

Connected Factory: Use this solution accelerator to collect telemetry from industrial assets with an OPC Unified Architecture interface and to control them. Industrial assets might include assembly and test stations on a factory production line.

Predictive Maintenance: Use this solution accelerator to predict when a remote device is expected to fail so you can carry out maintenance before the predicted failure happens. This solution accelerator uses machine learning algorithms to predict failures from device telemetry. Example devices might be airplane engines or elevators.


You Can Trust Azure

Microsoft understands every company, organization, and industry has unique needs and requirements. This is why they’re continuing to invest in their global infrastructure to provide the scale and performance needed to bring applications closer to users, keep them running with robust resiliency features to better meet your local data residency and compliance needs.


Still Have Questions?

The professionals at Oakwood Systems Group, Inc. can help. We’d like to talk to you about how your organization can leverage the power of IoT!


Customer Cloud Success Story: Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev)

Customer Cloud Success Story: Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev)

If you’ve ever had a beer, more than likely it was an AB InBev product. This global company brews and markets one-third of the beer products sold around the world and stores massive amounts of data in order to do so. 

With siloed datacenters, AB InBev lacked integrated systems, cohesion between markets and regions, and the agility to get to market quickly. Like businesses of every size, they needed a robust cloud solution in their digital transformation journey.  

Watch this quick video to see why AB InBev chose Microsoft Azure and let Oakwood Systems Group, Inc. show you how you can also break down data silos, increase operational insights, and cut down on IT costs with a modern data platform.


Agile Transformation For An Insurance Provider

Agile Transformation For An Insurance Provider

OVERVIEW

A large insurance provider in the Northeastern US decided to implement an Agile Transformation initiative across their organization, as part of the implementation of a new policy provisioning system.


CHALLENGE

The Operations department were using a number of time intensive manual tasks to process client applications.  The Business and IT relationship had grown to be rather dysfunctional, with a series of failed or incomplete projects.  The business did not feel included in the initial development process, believed they needed to have the project scope identified in advance, and continued to build and support Microsoft Access databases to track work progress because the provided tools were not process focused.

 

SOLUTION

Partnering with the client, we were able to break the 12 month waterfall project into four separate 90 day releases, with 2 week sprint cycles per release.  The first release consisted of the technical framework, creation of an Agile development cycle, simple product sets, and simple quality assurance and training review steps.  The subsequent releases added product and client complexities, medical underwriting and other processes to the model.


The results was a successful deployment of the provisioning solution within their timeframe and budget, a large reduction in organizational risk, organizational acceptance and support of the Agile process, reduction in pre-production user acceptance testing from 3 months to 2 weeks, and client satisfaction and appreciation for our commitment to the initiative.


At A Glance

Large, nationwide disability insurer that lacked automated workflow capabilities or the ability to provision new policies.

Business Challenges:

  • Aging technology
  • Slowing growth
  • Company Scale
  • Lagging efficiency

Solution:

  • Workflow Engine
  • Business Process Analysis
  • Java Based UI
  • Agile Methodology Transformation

 

Benefits:

  • Total Scope – Delivered on time and on budget.
  • 500% improvement in provisioning cycle
  • $400,000 in first year savings
  • Full ROI achieved after 18 months

About Oakwood

Since 1981, Oakwood has been helping companies of all sizes, across all industries, solve their business problems.  We bring world-class consultants to architect, design and deploy technology solutions to move your company forward.   Our proven approach guarantees better business outcomes.  With flexible engagement options, your project is delivered on-time and on budget.  11,000 satisfied clients can’t be wrong.

Digital Transformation Within Hospitality – A Mobile First Case Study

Digital Transformation Within Hospitality – A Mobile First Case Study

Digital transformation within the hospitality industry has begun to push innovation in the mobile technology space. As a result, user experience and customer loyalty have become more important than ever before. Customers want to quickly make decisions and act upon them…all while on-the-go. Simple responsive websites are not enough to meet the needs for an ever-demanding demographic.

Why Digital Transformation?

A Mid-Western regional hotel brand, needed to make a meaningful change to the way users interacted with their booking and reservation system. They had a basic responsive website solution designed to allow mobile users to both make and manage reservations and learn about customer loyalty promotions on a website that automatically resized based on the device the customer used. In the past, companies would use this technique to meet customer needs in a cost-effective manner. Ten years ago, the concept of responsive design was introduced to meet the problems experienced by many business struggling to address the demands of the marketplace.  Google even started to demand companies offer users responsive sites if they wanted higher search engine rankings.

Why Mobile First?

For many companies, providing a mobile first experience meant having a responsive design that would handle this need. Unfortunately, most users found such websites very difficult and problematic to navigate. While they handled an immediate, need many of these responsive websites failed to engage and retain users. Previously, the cost of creating and maintaining native IOS and Android solutions were out of reach for most firms. Some even choose to develop a single solution or none at all. The cost of creating and maintaining two separate applications required numerous developers, a marketing team, and user experience experts. However, despite the costs, for the companies that invested in a mobile first strategy they were rewarded. Sources indicate that 90% of millennials state mobile devices never leave their side.

What happened?

The client partnered with Oakwood Systems Group to determine what solution would help solve their need to enhance customer loyalty through a digital transformation initiative. The solution needed to leverage existing infrastructure and be easily maintained by internal developers. Oakwood’s solution leveraged technology that allowed the creation of a single solution that compiles native code for both Android and Apple’s IOS. This means that developers only need to support a single language and can continue to maintain existing infrastructure.

Oakwood worked to create an exceptional mobile first experience that allows user to easily check availability, make reservations, manage their own user experience, and join their customer loyalty program.  Within the first 6 months the client reported over $500,000 in sales resulting directly from their new mobile application solution.
Want to launch your own digital transformation initiative with a proven leader? Contact us to get started!

About Oakwood

Since 1981, Oakwood has been helping companies of all sizes, across all industries, solve their business problems.  We bring world-class consultants to architect, design and deploy technology solutions to move your company forward.   Our proven approach guarantees better business outcomes.  With flexible engagement options, your project is delivered on-time and on budget.  11,000 satisfied clients can’t be wrong.