This is a story about the digital transformation of Contoso HVAC Manufacturing, a virtual company that is growing its business from a traditional HVAC Chillers manufacturer, to delivering value to customers as a service. Contoso HVAC understands that the Internet of Things is a key ingredient to this transformation, but rapidly realizes that there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all IoT solution. Each industry, each company have their own constraints and requirements. Each are trying to navigate and understanding the vast list of IoT services and solutions which have often proved tricky to grasp.
Instead of listing a portfolio of products and services, let me tell you the story of how Contoso HVAC’s journey to introduce Azure IoT with a different perspective transformed its business.
Contoso HVAC manufactures HVAC Chillers, the big industrial ones used in large buildings and enterprises. The company has been manufacturing HVAC Chillers for 50 years. In recent times, to stay competitive the company is going through a digital transformation, expanding their support agreements to become remote operations and maintenance agreements. Customers of Contoso HVAC will no longer just buy an HVAC system, but instead will buy a fully managed “HVAC-as-a-Service” solution.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is changing the way industries around the world do business. And with recent advances in sensor platforms and intelligent analytic capabilities available from the cloud, the use of IoT has become even more mainstream. As we will highlight in Microsoft’s IoT in Action webinar series, there are many new and exciting ways that IoT solutions are being used across industries.
Using IoT solutions to deliver impactful experiences
In industries where there is so much data available, but not always the means to process and interpret it all, IoT solutions can have a huge impact. To start, IoT plays a crucial role in delivering a positive customer experience.
Consider the healthcare industry. While being able to better track and predict illnesses can benefit hospitals and clinics, it also results in a more seamless journey for the individual. For example, individuals can use wearable technology to monitor their health and well-being beyond their heart rate and physicians can use this data to monitor patients remotely. This means each patient receives a more personalized, rewarding experience.
Retail IoT solutions also revolve around using data to customize each experience to the individual shopper. While the insights gleaned from
The Azure IoT SDKs now have a new Long-Term Support (LTS) Branch. While we develop our SDKs on public GitHub repositories and ship a new version every other week to give developers access to the latest and greatest features, we now also offer a branch that will only get critical bugs and security patches, starting in July 2017. Developers can now leverage the latest LTS version, release in January 2018, to develop clients that work with Azure IoT Hub and Azure IoT Hub Device Provisioning Service.
The LTS branch offers customers a guarantee that they will benefit from any necessary security or critical bug fixes with minimal impact to their device’s code. At the same time, developers can access latest updates in the master branch of the repositories, staying on top of the technology and features, with a faster response and resolution time to posted issues. Best of both worlds!
The latest LTS version is accessible from GitHub under lts_2018_01 branch and from package managers such as NuGet, PiPy, apt-get, Maven, and NPM. All our SDKs follow semantic versioning. A major version change corresponds to a breaking change; a minor version change corresponds to adding functionality, and a patch version change corresponds to
If you are building an IoT solution in the cloud, chances are your focus is on the devices and what you can accomplish with them. You might want to process data coming from a network of devices in real time, analyze the data to gain insights, get alerted for special conditions, manage the devices themselves, and so on. What is less interesting to you is setting up and managing the infrastructure in the cloud, which will enable you to do the above. This is where serverless comes in.
Serverless technologies, like Azure Functions, take away the burden of managing infrastructure and enables you to focus on your IoT-powered business logic. IoT projects usually have variable traffic, which means accumulating infrastructure to account for peak loads, isn’t the best strategy. Adopting serverless allows your solutions to scale dynamically while keeping costs low.
This video shows a great application of a serverless architecture to receive data from a device, transform it in real time using machine learning, and send it back to the device. It is based on the DevKit Translator IoT project.
We recently released a new open source IoT extension that adds to the capabilities of Azure CLI 2.0. Azure CLI 2.0 includes commands for interacting with Azure Resource Manager and management endpoints. For example, you can use Azure CLI 2.0 to create an Azure VM or an IoT Hub. A CLI extension enables an Azure service to augment the Azure CLI, giving you access to additional service-specific capabilities. The IoT extension gives developers command line access to IoT Hub, IoT Edge, and IoT Hub Device Provisioning Service capabilities.
Azure CLI 2.0 enables you to manage Azure IoT Hub resources, device provisioning service instances, and linked-hubs out of the box. The new IoT extension enriches Azure CLI 2.0 with features such as device management and full IoT Edge capability.
The launch of this IoT extension means that we will be retiring version CLI 1.0 and the iot-hub-explorer tool. Azure CLI 1.0 and CLI 2.0 are at full functional parity.The Iot-hub-explorer and CLI 2.0 are at functional parity with the exception of CLI 2.0 currently missing event monitoring commands. We aim to provide event monitoring commands in early March 2018. We will deprecate the IoT extension for Azure CLI 1.0 and
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).
Here at Microsoft, we’re committed to helping our customers harness the power of IoT through our Azure IoT solutions. We’re also committed to helping customers take the first steps through our IoT in Action series. Our next delivery is coming February 13, 2018 in San Francisco, which I’d encourage you to attend.
But first, I’d like to introduce you to some recent updates to Azure IoT Suite that are making IoT solutions easier and more robust than ever.
Azure IoT powers the business revolution
With our long history of driving business success and digital transformation for our customers, it’s no surprise that we’re also focused on powering the business revolution through our robust Azure IoT suite of products.
So how does Azure IoT benefit businesses?
First off, it’s a quick and scalable solution. Our preconfigured solutions can accelerate your development process, so you can get up and running quickly. You can connect existing devices and add new ones using our device SDKs for platforms including
As companies continue to fully roll out their IoT projects, management of the various components of the solution becomes a critical part of their operations. The flexibility of Azure IoT Hub to enable customers to start small, paying only for the amount of IoT Hub capacity needed at any point along the device deployment curve, helps drive predictability in the cost of an IoT solution.
However, the potentially irregular rate of device and message growth in an IoT solution does add a unique challenge for operations. When the number of messages ingested from devices in a given day exceeds the limit of the chosen IoT Hub capacity, the IoT Hub will begin to reject messages until either the IoT Hub is scaled-up, or the time rolls over into the next day (UTC time). Wouldn’t it be nice to have IoT Hub just automatically scale up to a higher capacity when a certain threshold of messages is met, before this limit is reached?
While at this point, IoT Hub does not have this capability built into the service, we have published a sample solution for monitoring and automatically scaling your IoT Hub based on reaching a specific threshold of messages. The sample,
How do you go about answering those perplexing questions such as what secure hardware to use? How do I gauge the level of security? How much security do I really need and hence how much premium should I place on secure hardware? We’ve published a new whitepaper to shed light on this subject matter.
In our relentless commitment to securing IoT deployments worldwide, we continue to raise awareness to the true nature of security—that it is a journey and never an endpoint. Challenges emerge, vulnerabilities evolve, and solutions age thereby triggering the need for renewal if you are to maintain a desired level of security.
Securing your deployment as desired comprises planning, architecture, and execution main phases. For IoT, these are further broken down into sub-phases to include design assessment, risk assessment, model assessment, development, and deployment as shown in Figure 1. The decision process at each phase is equally important, the process must take all other phases into consideration for optimal efficacy. This is especially true when choosing the right secure hardware, also known as secure silicon or Hardware Secure Module(HSM), to secure an IoT deployment.
Figure 1: The IoT Security Lifecycle
Apache Kafka on the Azure HDInsight was added last year as a preview service to help enterprises create real-time big data pipelines. Since then, large companies such as Toyota, Adobe, Bing Ads, and GE have been using this service in production to process over a million events per sec to power scenarios for connected cars, fraud detection, clickstream analysis, and log analytics. HDInsight has worked very closely with these customers to understand the challenges of running a robust, real-time production pipeline at an enterprise scale. Using our learnings, we have implemented key features in the managed Kafka service on HDInsight, which is now generally available.
A fully managed Kafka service for the enterprise use case
Running big data streaming pipelines is hard. Doing so with open source technologies for the enterprise is even harder. Apache Kafka, a key open source technology, has emerged as the de-facto technology for ingesting large streaming events in a scalable, low-latency, and low-cost fashion. Enterprises want to leverage this technology, however, there are many challenges with installing, managing, and maintaining a streaming pipeline. Open source bits lack support and in-house talent needs to be well versed with these technologies to ensure the highest levels of