Microsoft Azure drives IoT deployments

The internet of things (IoT) is like a jigsaw puzzle—that is, a jigsaw puzzle with 7.8 billion pieces. Just like a jigsaw puzzle, each device in an IoT deployment needs to be in the right place and the correct orientation for the pieces to come together into a beautiful whole. Developers of IoT systems for major projects like industrial systems, smart buildings and smart cities face significant challenges keeping all the pieces in place, from provisioning, to updating software on specific devices, to managing maintenance notifications.

For the modern-day developer, cloud-based solutions represent an essential asset for deploying and operating of IoT systems, providing essential tools for securely connecting, monitoring and managing devices. Businesses are becoming increasingly aware of this trend, with the cloud playing an essential role in IoT deployments and digital products.

For example, the popular Ring Doorbell connects to a company-operated cloud to manage the device and to send security notifications to user’s smartphone or tablet. The Ring Doorbell also is capable of recording video in the cloud and making that video instantly available to thousands of users in a seamless end-to-end experience. Every day, additional Ring users put stress on the system to scale storage effectively. This requires a cloud solution that can easily scale to meet uptime and workload demands.

Using hyperscale cloud appliances like Azure—Microsoft’s open cloud-computing platform—engineers can develop and manage IoT deployments with unprecedented ease and sophistication, from system-wide firmware updates, to device-specific application revisions.

This article describes how two companies are leveraging Azure’s capabilities to drive the development of exciting new IoT projects—and even play a key role in the digital transformation of their businesses.

PCL uses Azure to gain deeper construction insights

Headquartered in Edmonton, Canada, PCL Construction encompasses a family of building companies employing more than 4,000 workers in the United States, Canada and Australia. To meet customer demand for digital solutions, PCL decided it needed to gain a greater understanding of the entire construction process, from planning, to the actual construction phase, to post-construction, to occupancy. To achieve this, the company has initiated a digital transformation strategy that involves the adoption of cloud computing, business intelligence and analytics, smart integration and mobility.

PCL is putting its technical acumen to the test with the high-profile Stantec Tower project in Edmonton, where it is implementing a smart-building infrastructure during construction. The company has developed an IoT-based smart construction platform called Job Site Insights based on Microsoft’s Azure, Azure Digital Twins and Azure Maps.

Digital Twins produces virtual representations of physical environments, allowing customers to access data for a space, rather than for separate sensors. This allows the creation of comprehensive digital models that represent any physical environment. By modeling the interactions among people, places and things, Digital Twins can create new efficiencies and improve the usefulness of spaces, according to Microsoft.

Azure Maps provides location application programming interfaces that enhances data with geospatial context, allowing the creation of location-aware apps.

As part of the project, PCL is installing various types of IoT sensors into the building during the construction phase. These sensors automatically monitor, temperature, humidity and air pressure in 483 units within Stantec Tower, a process that’s typically conducted manually. This data is streamed through the entire lifetime of the project, automatically identifying trouble-spots that can be instantly addressed during the construction phase.

The system allows PCL to focus its manpower on more value-added tasks and away from routine monitoring jobs. It also will cut an estimated 15% to 20% from PCL’s annual energy costs, which can total as much as $300 million annually.

WMF brews up IoT solution for coffee machines

WMF Group of Germany is a major seller of tableware and kitchenware products to consumers and businesses. Part of the company’s business involves the sale of professional, fully-automatic coffee machines used in hotels and restaurants. These machines that are maintained and repaired in the field by truck-borne service engineers.

To improve the efficiency of the process, WMF has developed a platform on Azure and Power Bi—Microsoft’s business analytics service—that offers all the elements needed for storing and analyzing data in the cloud. Using this platform—called CoffeeConnect—coffee machines in a hotel or restaurant can transmit repair information to the service engineers in advance, allowing them to prepare for the specific fix that needs to be performed.

Moreover, using Microsoft HoloLens, WMF’s customers can visualize CAD drawings interactively, helping them perform repair work in the field.

The fastest route to cloud-based IoT

With the cloud and IoT reshaping entire businesses and industries on a daily basis, it’s essential for companies to get on the bandwagon immediately to avoid being left behind. However, the complexity involved in selecting and adopting a cloud IoT solution can be daunting, causing delays in the migration.

When considering the adoption of a platform like Azure, companies need to work with a partner that can match their needs with quick-turn solutions that accelerate time-to-market. For example, Arrow’s Enterprise Computing Solutions group offers hardware, software and solutions for the private cloud, public cloud, hybrid cloud, cloud hosting and enterprise cloud technologies and services. These offerings include access to Microsoft’s suite of cloud applications and services, including Azure.

Arrow company eInfochips also provides support for companies engaging in cloud migrations. Specializing in product engineering and semiconductor design services, eInfochips can assist with digital transformation and connected IoT solutions across various cloud platforms, including Azure.

Arrow is an end-to-end technology platform that supports engineers, developers and IT infrastructures to power optimal delivery of IoT products. Using Arrow’ cloud services, customers can quickly deploy Azure-based IoT solutions, gaining access to the full range of capabilities offered by the Microsoft platform.

To solve the IoT jigsaw puzzle, businesses increasingly are turning to cloud-based platforms like Azure. Companies that plan to make a quick transition to such platforms should consider engaging with a channel partner that can facilitate the quick migration to a cloud-IoT solution.


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