Leveraging IoT and AI services to accelerate digital transformation

IoT in Canada: Customers and Partners leveraging Azure IoT and AI services to accelerate digital transformation

Originally posted on Microsoft News Centre Canada.

Helping people, helping businesses and helping the planet. That was the focus of stories shared by business and tech leaders at IoT in Action, an annual Microsoft event that helps organizations gain actionable IoT insights, build future business partnerships, and unlock the transformative potential of intelligent edge and intelligent cloud solutions.

Hundreds of some of the most innovative minds in Canada and from elsewhere around the world came together, to make new connections and share their knowledge right across the IoT ecosystem.

It became very evident that the explosive growth of IoT innovations and applications is accelerating at unprecedented rates. Gartner predicts that there will be 25 billion machine-to-machine connections worldwide by 2025. Here in Canada, the International Data Corporation (IDC) estimates we now have more than 114 million “installed autonomous intelligent and embedded systems,” and counting.

Despite the enormous business potential of IoT, a recent whitepaper Microsoft co-authored with the Boston Consulting Group found some of the greatest barriers to success are not just about technology – it’s also about business strategy and executive leadership. More than 60 percent of executives we surveyed indicated these to be bigger elements of success than technology. Our goal with events like IoT in Action is to help give businesses the confidence they need to start or accelerate their IoT journeys.

Every industry stands to gain from the “smart” movement, both visible and invisible. By connecting devices to the power of Azure’s intelligent cloud, these devices give companies a wealth of insights in a digital feedback loop that they didn’t have before.

The Internet of Things and this valuable digital feedback loop is giving rise to a new wave of tech innovation that our CEO Satya Nadella calls edge computing. Edge computing is the ability to take functionality running in the cloud and have it leave the cloud and run it on IoT devices. With innovations like smart cars, devices are becoming effectively small datacenters themselves. Edge computing enables a device to make decisions and take actions faster because it doesn’t have “always on” dependencies to the cloud, but still leverages intelligence trained in the cloud so it can act fast – unleashing an enormous amount of innovation across industries.

Accelerating customer innovation in IoT from cloud to edge across industries

What’s truly exciting is seeing our customers achieve real business outcomes with Azure IoT and intelligent edge-based solutions. Our IoT platform is powering customer solutions with thousands of devices, at scale, and the number of devices supported has grown nearly 150 percent year-over-year.

We heard about this from Canadian construction giant PCL Construction. They used Microsoft Azure and Azure IoT technologies to create the mobile-ready Job Site Insights™ application – which has gone from concept to reality and is now being deployed right across their operations to multiple job sites. By gathering and analyzing IoT data, PCL is improving its processes to increase efficiency, save energy, improve productivity and provide added value to clients.

By using IoT to monitor environmental conditions around the clock on construction projects, and within sensitive heritage preservation and manufacturing operations, PCL is able to set the stage for an optimal construction environment. While making its energy use smarter, their adoption of environmental controls and condition monitoring is proving to reduce issues, rework, warranty claims and potential schedule impact.

On their recent Sky Residences in Stantec Tower in Edmonton, they were able to reduce gas heater usage by 46% over a 6-month heating period, which resulted in over $180,000 in savings. It will also reduce their environmental footprint and make the industry more sustainable, which is an important goal for both PCL and Microsoft.

Known by families across Canada for their protein products, Maple Leaf Foods now utilizes IoT for its Animal Wellness Monitoring programs at one of its major pork processing facilities. Developed by Hitachi Consulting Corporation, this program leverages Microsoft tools like Microsoft Azure IoT technology to make the solution come together and provide valuable insights.

The new system helps Maple Leaf Foods estimate product bin volumes more accurately, keep products at safe temperatures throughout the production process, grade meat quality using smart cameras, avoid logistics errors using barcodes and send real-time information to production supervisors and operators on mobile devices. This means less food waste for Maple Leaf Foods, while delivering the best possible product to your table.

Relogix is a Sensors-as-a-Service company that combines innovative sensor technology with advanced analytics to help make more efficient use of commercial real estate space. By hosting the solution in our Microsoft’s trusted Azure platform, Relogix is able to process billions of data points at millions of requests per second and unlock valuable insights that were previously unavailable.

All of that data gathered in the Microsoft cloud tells managers how space is being utilized without invading the privacy of individual employees – and Relogix has discovered that 40 to 60 per cent of commercial space is not being used efficiently. By leveraging the IoT data which seamlessly learns how employees are moving about and using workspace, they can help businesses maximize their real estate. Not only can this benefit workplace functionality and creature comforts (i.e. use some space as a prayer room or comfort station), it also prevents unnecessary spread of new commercial development where it’s not actually needed.

Not all IoT benefits are tied to balance sheets and bottom lines. Sensor data and machine learning have enabled the development of a secure way of ensuring the safety of aging loved ones, while also remaining completely unobtrusive and respectful of their privacy.

Home Except, utilizing Microsoft Azure’s IoT technology, provides peace of mind for families caring for seniors, through a network of sensors without the use of cameras or wearables. Data fed into AI technology learns people’s movements and habits and can send notifications to family members’ mobile devices when a check-in or some urgent help might be required.

The impactful stories continue to roll in.

New innovations in our IoT platform

Last year, Microsoft announced our commitment to invest $5B in IoT and intelligent edge and in the last 12 months, we launched more than 100 new services and features in our Azure IoT platform. These tools are designed to make IoT solutions more secure and scalable, reduce complexity, make our platform more open and create opportunities in new market areas. Our core focus has been to address the industry challenge of securing connected devices at every layer, as well as advancing IoT to create a more seamless experience between the physical and digital worlds.

Looking ahead: Industry opportunity in IoT

Helping people, helping business and helping the planet. With the power of IoT, we are seeing businesses bring new possibilities to life in a wide variety of ways. We are proud to partner with companies on this next wave of innovation in IoT and look forward to accelerating impact across all industries in 2020.

To learn more visit our Azure IoT blog here.