Microsoft on Nov. 28 unveiled Azure Location Based Services, a set of APIs that allow developers to add location awareness to their cloud applications.
Azure Location Based Services marks a major milestone in the both the cloud computing and Internet of Things technology markets, according Sam George, director of Azure IoT at Microsoft. "This is the first time that a cloud vendor has integrated a location service directly into their cloud service," George told eWEEK.
The offering will provide Microsoft's enterprise cloud customers with APIs that allow their developers to endow their applications with mapping, routing, traffic, geocoding and time zone information along with location search capabilities. Location data used by the offering is being furnished by digital mapmaker TomTom, data that's "kept fresh by hundreds of millions of devices," added George.
"Location is increasingly becoming an essential component to monitor, analyze and optimize the vast amount of connected devices," said Anders Truelsen, Managing Director of Licensing at TomTom, in a Nov. 28 announcement. "Adding location based services to Azure will create a more fluid and flexible platform for developers to build and manage these location-aware applications."
Combined with Microsoft's suite of cloud-based IoT services, businesses can use Azure Location Based Services to build applications that track field assets, provide intelligent routing capabilities and drive efficiency in smart city systems, among the many use cases described by George. Microsoft envisions the location-aware APIs powering new services in the manufacturing, logistics, retail and automotive industries, among others.
Azure Location Based Services arrives amid a period of intensifying demand for industrial IoT technologies.
Business and consumers will spend nearly $1.4 trillion on IoT solution in 2021, up from $800 billion in 2017, according to a market forecast released by IDC in June. When 2017 draws to a close, the biggest industrial spenders will include organizations involved in manufacturing and freight monitoring, with IoT expenditures of $105 billion and $50 billion, respectively. Smart grid ($56 billion) and product asset management ($45 billion) implementations will also attract big investments in IoT devices and services, IDC predicted.
Microsoft, too, is witnessing the effects of this increased demand, reported George. The company is experiencing "a huge amount of [Azure] adoption from the commercial side of IoT" including oil and gas producers, pharmaceutical companies and scores of industrial giants, said the Microsoft executive.
Naturally, the idea of layering location data onto cloud and IoT applications raises some serious security and privacy concerns.
Microsoft is addressing these concerns by guaranteeing that its customers are fully in control of their Azure Location Based Services data. The software maker is focused on "privacy and data sovereignty" said George, adding that they are "core tenets" of Microsoft's approach to delivering cloud services. As an added assurance, he asserted that Azure holds "more compliance certifications than any cloud vendor on the planet."
Azure Location Based Services will available in early December as a preview release and followed by an official general availability release in 2018, said George.