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Alongside AI enhancements to Power BI, Microsoft today announced a collaboration with Carnegie Mellon University that’ll gift the Pittsburgh institute’s Living Edge Laboratory with edge computing services. Microsoft will supply an Azure Data Box Edge — a physical network appliance that taps artificial intelligence (AI) to analyze, process, and transform data before it’s uploaded to Azure — and Azure credits to CMU, and it’ll team up with Intel to donate Azure Stack hybrid cloud hardware.

Tad Brockway, general manager of Azure Storage and Azure Stack, noted that CMU students are already using Azure to design applications that help visually impaired people detect objects or other folks nearby, and that leverage AI to transform real-time video in “artistic” ways.

“This new paradigm of cloud computing requires consistency in how an application is developed, to run in the cloud and at the edge,” Brockway wrote in a blog post. “With the addition of Microsoft products to the lab, faculty and students will be able to use them to develop new applications and compare their performance with other components already in place in the lab.”

Carnegie Mellon’s Living Edge Lab was established over the past year through the Open Edge Computing Initiative, an organization dedicated to developing components that “offer resources through open and standardized” sensors and devices, and that enable computation on-device and at the edge. It counts among its members Microsoft, which is joining today, as well Intel, Nokia, Crown Castle, Vodafone, T-Mobile, NTT, and CMU.


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The partnership unveiled this week builds on CMU’s $27.5 million semiconductor research initiative to connect edge devices to the cloud, which was announced in January. It’ll fund the research of six scientists, who will actively collaborate at CMU’s Computing on Network Infrastructure for Pervasive Perception, Cognition, and Action (CONIX) research center, with the aim of creating an architecture for networked computing that “lies between edge devices and the cloud.”

It’s certainly on trend. Some analysts predict that by 2020, the number of internet of things (IoT) devices and smart sensors will exceed 5.6 billion, and that by 2023, the IoT market will reach $724 billion.

And it aligns with Microsoft’s broader AI-forward, edge-centric vision of computing.

“We are pushing the bounds in AI, edge computing, and IoT,” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said at the Ignite event in September, “while providing end-to-end security to empower every organization to build its own digital capability and thrive in this new era.”

CMU is nothing if not tech-forward. It has the distinction of being the first university to offer an undergraduate degree in AI, and it neighbors the ARM Institute, a $250 million initiative focused on accelerating the advancement of transformative robotics technologies and education in the U.S. manufacturing industry. Moreover, since 2008, 176 companies in the Pittsburgh area were directly or indirectly founded by faculty, students, and staff, and more than 100 of those have licensed CMU-owned intellectual property through CTTEC, Carnegie Mellon’s Center for Technology Transfer and Enterprise Creation.

“This is the beginning of an exciting new chapter of research at Carnegie Mellon — stemming from a collaboration on edge computing that began 10 years ago — and we cannot wait to see what new discoveries and scenarios come to life from the Living Edge Lab,” Brockway wrote.

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