The ballooning internet of things (IoT) segment shows no sign of slowing down. According to IDC, 41.6 billion devices — including smartphones, smart home assistants, and appliances — will be connected to the internet by 2025. And by 2022, the market is anticipated to be worth $24.88 billion, growing with a 19.75% compound annual interest rate.
In an effort to capture a larger slice of it, at IoT Solutions World Congress today Microsoft announced new capabilities in Azure to “simplify” customer journeys and deliver “highly secured” IoT solutions. Azure IoT CVP Sam George said in a blog post that these are intended to help drive better business outcomes across its Azure IoT software-as-a-service (SaaS) suite, which is growing nearly 150% year-over-year and gained over 100 new features this past year.
Microsoft said last April that it intends to set aside $5 billion in IoT and the intelligent edge over the next four years, a substantial uptick from the $1.5 billion it spent on those initiatives prior to 2018. It’s an investment that’s already been put toward acquisitions like that of real-time operating systems developer Express Logic, and it’s likely to pay dividends. By 2020, Gartner predicts there will be more than 20 billion connected devices, and it’s estimated that 9 billion MCU-powered devices are built and deployed globally every year.
“We live in an increasingly connected world,” he said. “At Microsoft, we are committed to providing a trusted, easy-to-use platform that allows our customers and partners to build seamless, smart, and secure solutions regardless of where they are in their IoT journey.”
Azure IoT Central
Microsoft’s Azure IoT Central, a cloud service that enables customers to quickly provision and deploy IoT apps, is gaining a number of capabilities targeting development scenarios. Now, admins can define custom user roles for fine-grained access control to data, actions, and configurations, and they’re able to build and manage a single app with multiple tenants, each with their own isolated data, devices, users, and roles.
In related developments, beefed-up API and IoT Edge support for device modelling, provisioning, life cycle management, operations, and data querying allows users to extend IoT Central or integrate it with other solutions. It complements 11 new industry-focused app templates in retail, healthcare, government, and energy categories, along with newfound data export options and the ability to save and load apps for repeatability.
Lastly, Microsoft says it will roll out a new Azure IoT Central pricing model in early 2020 to “provide customers and partners predictable pricing as usage scales.”
Azure IoT Hub
By way of a refresher, Azure IoT Hub is a cloud service for registering, managing, and communicating with internet-connected devices. It launched out of public preview in 2016, and Microsoft is bolstering it with two new features this morning: IoT Hub message enrichment and integration with Azure Event Grid.
IoT Hub message enrichment adds the ability to append messages with rich information before they are sent in order to streamline downstream processing and deliver insights. As for the Azure Event Grid integration, it’s aimed at making it easier to send device telemetry events to Azure and third-party services.
Microsoft says that both will launch in general availability by the end of November.
Not to be outdone, Microsoft’s Azure Maps, a collection of geospatial services that use mapping data to provide geographic context to web and mobile apps, has been lightly refreshed. It now more tightly integrates with Microsoft’s Power BI business analytics service, and it’s available to customers of Government Cloud, a platform designed to meet the security and compliance requirements of U.S. federal, state, and local governments.
Additionally, courtesy of a partnership with Accuweather, Azure Maps customers can imbue apps with geospatial weather intelligence in order to enable weather-based routing, targeted marketing, and operations optimization scenarios. “This is a game-changer,” said AccuWeather founder and CEO Dr. Joel N. Myers in a statement. “This opens up new opportunities for organizations large and small to benefit from our superior weather data based on their unique needs.”
Azure Time Series Insights and Azure Sphere
Azure Time Series Insights is a fully managed analytics, storage, and visualization service for exploring and analyzing billions of IoT events. Its last major refresh arrived last year, and it’s gaining a slew of new storage and analytics features in the coming weeks.
Support for multi-layered storage will enable access to both frequently used data (“warm data”) and infrequently used historical data (“cold data”). On the cold data front, historical data is stored in Azure Storage accounts and in the open source Apache Parquet format, allowing for predictive analytics, machine learning, and other custom computations using Spark, Databricks, Jupyter, and other data science toolsets.
Now, Azure Time Series Insights boasts rich query APIs and user experience supported interpolation, as well as scalar and aggregate functions, categorical variables, scatter plots, and time shifting between time series signals. And there’s a new connector to Power BI that lets customers take queries from Time Series Insights into Power BI for a unified view.
As for Azure Sphere, Microsoft’s Linux-based operating system created for microcontroller-powered devices, the company today said that it will be generally available in February 2020.