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Azure Internet of Things (IoT)

Today, technology plays one of the most important roles in shaping business growth, disrupting the verticals of the industry and driving business modernization – through optimizing the business operations, engaging their users and customers, empowering their workforce, or making changes and updating the products. Owing to their rich capabilities to gain quality insights through connected data-driven solutions, the Internet of Things (IoT) and analytics platforms today are transforming businesses towards innovative business models.
One of the major services that are allowing businesses to carry out this technological transformation is Microsoft’s Azure Internet of Things (IoT). The Azure IoT is a collection of cloud services managed by Microsoft that connect, monitor, and control billions of IoT devices and assets. To put it in simpler terms, an IoT solution is made up of numerous devices that communicate with each other and to one or more back-end services running on the cloud.
Microsoft Azure IoT platform currently is the world leader in its domain. Microsoft Azure IoT Suite is the platform that is most favored by developers for enabling connected devices in their projects. Almost, 29% of developers favor Microsoft’s Azure IoT Suite as the platform for their IoT projects.
Microsoft has carefully designed its Azure IoT Suite to integrate existing processes, assets, devices, and systems, which will help businesses and enterprises automate many workflows and create new opportunities for innovation. Some of the key features of Azure IoT that help businesses innovate are:
·         Accelerated Start-up – Azure IoT comes packaged with many solutions that are pre-configured. This helps businesses get their systems up and running quickly
       Flexible Connections – Azure IoT allows the connection of a broad range of existing assets, new devices, and common operating systems.
·         Predictive Intelligence – Azure allows businesses to add advanced analytics and apply machine learning to capture new insights from all the core data.
·         Legacy Integrations – Azure also allows businesses to integrate the already in place business solutions and automate various processes and use of data.
Enterprises and businesses are leveraging Azure IoT Suite to access, study, and analyze previously untapped data from sensors, devices, and applications. They are connecting new as well as already existing old IoT devices and applications using this service.
The Azure IoT hub allows businesses to establish a connection between millions of IoT assets. Azure IoT Hub establishes a secure and reliable two-way communication channel between IoT assets and the cloud. It allows for a device-to-cloud telemetry that helps organizations obtain device status and take actions as needed. It also allows for notifications and commands to be sent from the cloud to connected devices, allowing tracking of delivery statuses dependably with acknowledgement receipts. It provides open-source SDKs for Windows, Linux, RTOS, and others. Adding upon these features, Azure IoT supports standard and custom protocols like MQTT, AMQP, and HTTP.
With these feature packed systems, IoT and Analytics powered by Azure IoT can help businesses drive growth. Some of the major ways in which the growth is empowered are:
·         Real-time Management of Critical Systems – With extensively connected IoT assets, businesses and enterprises can capture a wide trove of real-time data that helps in day-to-day operations. These captured insights can further assist in tasks such as remote asset monitoring, real-time supply chain visibility, security and even fraud detection, which can translate to better and secure operations for an organization.
·         Extended Business-Critical Operations on Mobile platform – Today, enterprises are leveraging the Enterprise Mobility platform to enable the access to critical information through handheld devices from anywhere and in real-time. Cross-platform mobile apps integrated with IoT and analytics driven cloud solutions like Azure IoT deliver real-time insights on mobile devices. This data greatly helps enterprises and their consumers in taking better decisions in real-time.
·         Automated Work Management System – While automation forms the backbone process in most industries, it can be significantly improved when optimized with a platform like Azure IoT. It can pave the way for significant and major improvements in the work environment like remote field-force connectivity and employee security.
·         Disaster Planning and Recovery – Implementing IoT for disaster management using a platform such as Azure IoT can prove to be a game-changing trend. With IoT the harmony of sensors and warning systems, the real-time data can help in effective monitoring and accurate analysis. This helps industries or businesses in making educated and quick critical decisions.
·         Proper Utilization of Business Resources IoT and analytics can work in harmony to provide businesses with reports on the utilization of resources available. Based on the trends observed, predictive planning can aid businesses in managing resource allocations that translate to efficient performance.
Businesses also need to take advantage of Azure IoT consultants and analytics experts to securely connect IoT assets, analyse critical data, and present insights to the customers – in the way to drive business growth.
Gartner, Inc. recently predicted that the enterprise and automotive Internet of Things (IoT) market would grow to 5.8 billion endpoints in 2020, a 21% increase from 2019. 4.8 billion endpoints are expected to be in use by the end of 2019, up 21.5% from 2018.
Currently, Microsoft sits at a 23% market share of the IoT cloud market. This makes Azure IoT services the leader in the IoT market.
Azure boasts an enticing combination of Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS) services. IaaS enables enterprises to outsource their infrastructural needs on Azure and pay for just what they use and PaaS lets them create their own web apps & solutions without having the need to build and maintain the entire underlying groundwork.
 Applications that run without and hassle, without any issues and scale from 10 to 10 million users seamlessly can be created without any additional coding by using Azure. Azure Storage provides ductile, safe, secure and performance-efficient storage services for large data from devices and IoT assets in cloud. It makes the process of changing settings and using more processors for the application to use very simple.
Azure provides SQL and NoSQL data services and built-in support for digging deeper into data from various IoT devices and uncovering key insights for improving business processes and decision-making. Azure is also the only cloud platform that offers Blockchain as a Service (BaaS), Machine Learning, Bots, and Cognitive APIs capabilities.
With the aforementioned features and a plethora of other benefits, working with Azure and using the right feature set can take businesses and enterprises to the next step of growth and innovation, making them leaders in their respective industries.
Azure has several IoT-related services in its product list and it can be a daunting task to figure out which one of them is suitable for your needs. Some services provide templates to build your own solution and get started quickly whereas some allow you to fully develop solutions using other services available. It all comes down to what degree of help and control is required. Here is a list of services available:
·         Azure IoT Central – IoT Central is a SaaS solution that helps in the connection, monitoring, and management of IoT devices. To begin with, you select a template for the type of your device and create and use this template to test a basic IoT Central application that the operators of the device will use. The application will also enable you to monitor the existing devices and provision of new devices. This service is for simple and straightforward solutions that do not require customization of services in depth.
·         Azure IoT Solution Accelerators – This product is a collection of PaaS solutions you can use to accelerate the development of your IoT solution. The product allows you to start with a provided IoT solution and then fully customize that solution according to your requirements. Some Java or .NET skills are required to customize the back-end, and JavaScript skills to customize the visualization.
·         Azure IoT Edge – This service is built upon the IoT Hub. It can be used to analyze and study data that is on the devices itself rather than the cloud. Moving such workloads to the edge results in fewer messages being sent to the cloud.
·         Azure IoT Hub – This service allows you to connect from your devices in the IoT to a central IoT hub, and monitor as well as control billions of IoT devices. This is particularly useful if there is a need for bi-directional communication between your IoT devices and your back end. This is the underlying service upon which IoT Central and IoT solution accelerators are built.
·         Azure Digital Twins – This service specializes in creating comprehensive models for the physical environment. This service enables you to model the relationships and interactions between various assets in the IoT network. For example, you can use Digital Twins to predict when maintenance will be needed in a factory, or monitor real-time energy requirements for an electrical grid, or even model and optimize the use of available space for an office.
·         Azure Sphere – Azure Sphere is a highly secured, high-level application platform with communication and security features built-in for internet-connected devices in an IoT network. As a whole, it comprises of a secured, connected, crossover microcontroller unit (MCU), a custom high-level Linux-based operating system (OS), and a cloud-based security service.
·         Azure Time Series Insights – This service essentially enables you to store, visualize, and query large amounts of time series data generated by IoT devices. You can use this service in tandem with IoT Hub to study and analyze data to get greater insights.
·         Azure Maps – This service is used to provide geographic information to the web and mobile applications. Microsoft provides a full set of REST APIs as well as a web-based JavaScript control that can be used to create applications that are flexible and that work on desktop or mobile applications on Windows as well as Apple devices.
Some actual case studies can be found at the Microsoft Azure IoT Technical Case Studies.
Microsoft Azure offers a complete cloud solution that combines a plethora of integrated cloud services such as analytics, machine learning, storage, security, and networking. Microsoft Azure provides a commitment to the protection and privacy of the sensitive data of businesses and organizations. 
Microsoft's systems provide continuous intrusion detection and prevention, service attack prevention, regular penetration testing, and forensic tools that help identify and mitigate threats. Multi-factor authentication provides an extra layer of security for end users to access the network. In addition, for the application and the host provider, Microsoft offers access control, monitoring, anti-malware, vulnerability scanning, patches, and configuration management.
The solution accelerators of Microsoft Azure take advantage of the security and privacy built into the Azure platform along with the Security Development Lifecycle (SDL and OSA processes) that ensures a secure development and safe vulnerability-free operation of all Microsoft software. These processes provide protection of infrastructure, network, and identity and enable management features fundamental to the security of any solution.
The Azure IoT Hub within the IoT solution accelerators offers a fully-managed, end-to-end service that enables reliable and secure bi-directional communication between IoT devices and Azure services such as Machine Learning and Stream Analytics by using security credentials and access-control on a per-device basis.
Using Azure cloud services that are deeply integrated, enterprises can rapidly build, deploy, and manage simple to complex IoT applications with ease. Azure supports a wide range of programming languages, frameworks, operating systems, databases, and devices, allowing enterprises to leverage tools and deploy any technologies to grow their business. Some of the key reasons why Azure IoT can be the most optimal solution are:
·         Comprehensive portfolio – Microsoft has built a comprehensive portfolio that supports the needs of all customers, enabling everyone to access the benefits of digital transformation. The Azure IoT product portfolio contains various PaaS and SaaS services that include enterprise-grade preconfigured solutions to help enterprises get IoT applications up and running.  
·         Bring IoT to any device, any platform – Azure IoT supports a plethora of platforms so that enterprises and businesses can use the services offered on any platform they like without the need to switch over to a particular platform. The Azure IoT SDKs are a set of libraries that can be used to interact with the IoT Hub and the Device Provisioning Service. It has a broad range of language and platform support. The SDKs work seamlessly on most common and popular platforms and developers can port the C SDK to a desired specific platform by following the Porting Guidance.
·         Rely on a commitment to IoT – Microsoft has made a commitment to build a trusted, easy to use platform for businesses and partners to build comprehensive and sophisticated IoT solutions, regardless of where the business is starting in their IoT journey. Enterprises such as Starbucks, Chevron, Walmart, Walgreens, BMW, Volkswagen, Toyota Material Handling Group and more are leveraging Azure as their cloud platform with IoT and are satisfied with the solutions.
·         Get trusted support – Azure support provides businesses options to meet their needs whenever needed. Azure provides excellent documentation, Support FAQ, Azure Advisors, etc. They provide many support services ranging from testing, trial, and development to business-critical functions.
·         Microsoft is investing $5 billion in IoT – Microsoft in April 2018 outlined plans to make a substantial investment in IoT technology, setting aside $5 billion to grow its IoT ecosystem, develop an edge environment that is smarter and more intelligent and further build on existing products and services.
With the aforementioned benefits and features, Azure IoT is currently one of the most comprehensive, optimal, and high-quality IoT solutions available in the globe.
IoT has the power to change the way businesses work and operate like never before. From automating tasks to allowing machines to learn behaviour and carry out actions based on recorded data, all the technologies that makes these tasks possible are available with Azure IoT. Implementing IoT into the day-to-day processes and functions of an organization using a sophisticated platform like Azure IoT could mean the difference between sticking to the status quo and only maintaining sluggish growth and achieving exponential gains and expansion.
With Microsoft investing so heavily on IoT related services, it is an excellent time and opportunity for businesses and enterprises all over the world, however big or small, to adopt IoT into their operations and focus their vision on growth and expansion.