Hannover Messe, the industrial technology conference for manufacturers, is currently underway in Germany. Presenting at the event and gearing up for an Internet of things (IoT)-fueled industrial revolutions of sorts, Microsoft announced today that it plans to release a public preview of Azure IoT Hub's new device management features and a beta of the Azure IoT Gateway SDK (software development kit) on April 29.
"Our highly requested Azure IoT Hub device management provides a standards-based approach for administrators to maintain fine-grained control over the enrollment, configuration, update and monitoring of millions of devices," said Sam George, director of Microsoft Azure IoT, in an April 25 announcement. Meanwhile, the Azure IoT Gateway SDK will allow "developers and ISVs to build and deploy code to integrate legacy devices or incorporate new business logic and workflows for handling data as soon as it's collected from the device."
Fittingly, Microsoft also announced that Azure IoT Suite is now available via Microsoft Azure Deutschland, the German cloud data center operated in partnership with T-Systems, a Deutsche Telekom subsidiary, to satisfy the data residency requirements of the region's customers.
Microsoft has also joined the board of the OPC Foundation, a group responsible for industrial automation interoperability standards, said George. The software giant plans to incorporate support for the OPC Unified Architecture (UA) open-source software stack into the Azure IoT and Universal Windows Platform (UWP), he added.
Finally, the Microsoft Azure Certified for IoT program is gathering steam since its launch last fall. To date, "a total of 92 unique boards and gateways from 54 program partners" have been certified by the program, said George. Supporters include motherboard maker DFI, Pacific Control Systems and Panasonic, among several others.
Shedding light on why IoT technology providers are targeting manufacturers and their factories, last December IDC released a study revealing that manufacturers led IoT spending at $165.6 billion in 2015, followed by transportation at $78.7 billion.
"Manufacturing and transportation are both a good fit for IoT deployments. Both industries have been connecting their supply chains, products, customers, and even workers for some time now, and really embrace the value of business outcomes," said IDC Senior Vice President Vernon Tuner, in a statement at the time.
At Hannover Messe, during his keynote speech on digital transformation in the manufacturing industry, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella spoke of how IoT technologies will create a digital feedback loop he termed "systems of intelligence" that can improve operations and business outcomes.
Nadella told attendees that "what's new today is that the very thing you produce, the very thing you manufacture, for the first time is connected with all of the web of activity around it." In addition to increased interconnectivity and data produced by IoT devices, he said factories stand to "gain insight and predictive power that then can, in fact, be fed back to the operation of the thing that you manufacture."