Microsoft’s new business mantra seems to be “If we can’t do it, let’s just find someone who can.” The Redmond tech giant announced a new partnership bringing global navigation and mapping company TomTom to integrate location-based services into their cloud platform Microsoft Azure, to power applications in IoT (Internet of Things) that need to be aware of their location.
Microsoft already has a long time partner in HERE, which powers the company’s location data in Bing, Cortana, Windows and Office, while geographic information system (GIS) technology company Esri is already integrated with many Azure applications.
“Esri’s real-time GIS runs on Azure and can ingest any real-time, location-based data, including weather data, social media feeds, live sensor data and location services data from companies like HERE and TomTom.“ – Microsoft
As the utility of connected devices expands along with the impending explosion of IoT deployments, geospatial data is becoming more important than ever. Microsoft’s cloud platform has all the necessary parts to work on the collected data, and will form the backbone of all such applications by bringing its computing power into play. The gap they needed to fill is the technology needed on the ground to get that data, where TomTom, Esri and HERE will have a huge role to play.
“Internet of Things is a network of connected data-harvesting devices that can convert every measurable action into data and then collect, store, transmit, analyze and exploit that data to identify patterns and trends to ultimately create actionable intelligence – or, in some cases, cause actions to occur based on that intelligence.” – Shudeep Chandrasekhar
To support the rapid growth of IoT deployments around the world, Microsoft is looking to enable location-based services for customers through an open platform capable of handling large data sets and native integration to help developers deploy these systems and manage them more effectively. The company’s vision is a platform that provides enhanced customization that can be implemented for smart cities and large-scale IoT systems across industries ranging “from manufacturing to retail to automotive.”
Microsoft outlines a variety of scenarios such as connected automobiles that can deep-integrate weather, traffic and mapping data into the driver’s schedule, while providing for custom-tailored routing capabilities based on their needs. For example, if the driver needs to make an important business call on the way to work, the system should be able to use multiple factors to determine the shortest commute that also has good cell coverage from his or her carrier.
There are any number of use cases for such intelligent systems that can combine huge amounts of data and convert that into the “actionable intelligence” that I wrote about in my article on Intel’s IoT push in Seeking Alpha several months ago. This actionable intelligence is the first step in allowing these systems to make personalized recommendations based on actual user needs rather than mere predetermined cookie-cutter scenarios that are relatively easy to plan for and implement.
The real challenge is in building a platform that has the compute ability to not just envision possible scenarios, but “pro-act” rather than “react” to real-time, real-world eventualities. That’s real AI as far as IoT systems are concerned.
The application possibilities are, indeed, tremendous. And by partnering with specialists in areas where they do not have the expertise, Microsoft is being extremely proactive in bringing these technologies to reality.
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