Meet the Microsoft Azure IoT Suite that will accelerate your digital transformation
I am not here to reveal anything new by saying that IoT is one of the main tools used to accelerate digital transformation processes within companies. In the words of Satya Nadella, Executive Director of Microsoft: “Any sector, either petrol or gas, retail business, financial services or agriculture technology, is being transformed by the use of digital technology.”
The digital transformation of companies implies the comprehensive evolution of all its processes. The fundamental pillars to complete this transformation successfully within a company have to do with data. A first essential step is building on data; additionally, doing it proactively brings a benefit that organizations should not despise.
And, where does this data come from?
We can find multiple and very diverse data sources. Some of them have always been available, while others, such as IoT, have burst into the scene in recent years.
Microsoft is one of the largest technology companies, and they have bet on this technology intensely. This vision has materialized into the range of IoT services their public cloud Azure offers. The goal of this article is to land this suite of tools and synthesize its success.
The Microsoft Azure IoT Suite
If we were asked what the entry point into an IoT cloud architecture is, we would probably say that it is the virtual gateway, a service capable of ingesting the messages coming from devices and redirecting them to the relevant services. And that tool exists, but, would we be right in saying that it is the entry point from which to start describing the architecture?
In reality, Microsoft goes a step further when it comes to the cloud, bringing real solutions to the physical world. We are talking about Azure IoT Edge, a service that allows the implementation of workloads within IoT devices. I will not talk about the advantages Edge Computing brings, since there is a more extensive article in the blog; I will simply mention that this technology helps relieve the workload that cloud infrastructures may suffer as the number of devices connected rises.
Azure IoT Hub is the next service worth mentioning since it is the gateway in the cloud. It is capable of ingesting data, administrating and arranging devices and integrating with other Azure tools. It is an essential service in any IoT deployment since it allows the interconnection of all back-end services already deployed.
The next step is analysing the flux of data coming in. Do we want to analyse these messages one by one? Do we want to identify tendencies, bandwidth consumption peaks or any other parameter? Do we need alerts when data informs of conditions not complying with certain rules we have defined? Do we want to identify device disconnections? Thanks to Azure Stream Analytics, Azure Time Series Insights, Azure Functions and other tools integrated within IoT Hub we can carry out these tasks. Thus, our service can give a quick response to situations that require action. How? By sending emails and SMS messages, or directly communicating with the devices so that they execute the programmed tasks.
It even offers the possibility of executing automatic learning algorithms in historical telemetry data, enabling functionalities such as predictive maintenance, a service highly demanded by many companies.
Later, this data will be stored for its subsequent analysis and presentation through dashboards, web apps or other services. Azure offers a wide spectrum of storage services, such as Cosmos DB (when we want our data accessible from semi-active access routes), Blob Storage (low cost and easily accessible from other services), and SQL and MySQL database servers.
Tools such as CRMs, web apps (Azure offers a service of web apps hosted in its cloud) or Power BI may use this data. The success of the IoT suite Azure is in how easily it integrates with these services.
Beyond these services, we should also mention another essential aspect that should not be ignored, security. Azure Defender provides a comprehensive security solution and simplifies process control, threat detection and the response to them. Furthermore, the communications through IoT Hub are encrypted, and the devices have a key or token authentication.
And even if you need to deploy an IoT solution quickly and simply, without the need of programming code, Azure provides its solution IoT Central and its Solution accelerators. The first one is a SaaS service that deploys an IoT platform without the need of configuring the services it offers. The only thing the user must worry about is registering the devices and configuring them in the best way possible in order to take advantage of the data they provide. The second is a service that deploys, in an independent way, different configurations and combinations of the tools already mentioned in the article, the way they are all integrated and up and running without the need for any action from the part of the user. However, they will be able to be configured later, and it will be possible to implement any modification needed.
In short, IoT is one of the main catalysts of digital transformation that any company should implement to increase their competitiveness and Microsoft bets on it by offering tools that pave the way to this goal.