IoT as an Agent of Change

BY ELLY YATES-ROBERTS from The Record – Issue 21:Summer 2021

As business leaders look to new markets and government agencies leverage technology to engage citizens, where will IoT, and the tools it can power, take us next? Read this interesting article about Microsoft’s Rodney Clark sharing his thoughts on IoT.

While its roots may be firmly planted in manufacturing, the internet of things (IoT) has grown in significance across all types of enterprise, including those in the public sector.  Market research firm IDC predicts there will be 55.7 billion connected IoT devices by 2025, generating 73.1 zettabytes of data, growing from 18.3 zettabytes in 2019. It also forecasts worldwide spending on IoT to pass the $1 trillion mark in 2022.

Microsoft and its ecosystem of partners are working to further drive the pace of innovation of IoT and help industry leaders to reap the rewards of the technology.

“IoT is playing a critical and expanding role for businesses, especially as they continue to navi-gate new experiences and challenges as a result of the pandemic,” says Rodney Clark, corporate vice president of channel sales and channel chief at Microsoft. “We are seeing customers expand from simply connecting assets, such as manufacturing equipment, to connecting entire environments, including factories, the supply chain and distribution networks, to further optimize productivity, operations and security.”

Many partners are building on these opportunities by creating industry-specific solutions to accelerate emerging opportunities, ranging from worker safety and automation to retail data and analytics. “We are also seeing even greater acceleration on solutions that represent a convergence of the physical and digital worlds – leveraging Azure digital twins, HoloLens and solutions such as Mesh, to accelerate time to value,” says Clark.

Take Bentley Systems for example. The infra-structure engineering software firm has built software solutions on Microsoft Azure which leverage digital twins. They are used by professionals and organizations worldwide for the design, construction and operations of roads and bridges, rail and transit, water and waste-water, public works and utilities, buildings and campuses, and industrial facilities.

Hybrid working, edge computing and the cloud have become integral factors of the modern business, and Clark believes that organizations could benefit hugely from using IoT in conjunction with these. “Cloud and edge computing are coming together to create new opportunities for organizations around the world, and we’re seeing increased innovation through connected environments that place digital twins, mixed reality and autonomous systems at the core,” he says.  “We can apply modern software techniques like analytics, simulation, autonomous control and interactions to digital replicas of physical environments to achieve previously impossible benefits that span across sectors.”

“A retail store can ensure inventory is tracked and shelves are always stocked, a supply chain can track and reduce carbon emissions, and a city plan can simulate various growth proposals to ensure the locality is making the best use of energy sources. This convergence of physical and digital spaces creates an abundance of opportunities for new, transformative solutions.”

With IoT becoming more commonplace, businesses and public sector organizations must address the challenge of managing and using the rapidly increasing amount of data that is available to them. This is where other technologies, like those related to the cloud, can work hand-in-hand with IoT.

Microsoft Azure and Teams are two products that not only fit into Microsoft’s Industry Cloud strategy seamlessly, but have also seen immense growth. In the third quarter of FY21, Microsoft saw Azure revenue grow by 50 percent and Teams usage continuing to rise, by 26 percent. “This speaks to both their impact and role in ensuring business continuity over the past year,” says Clark.

“IoT is playing a critical and expanding role for businesses, especially as they continue to navigate new experiences and challenges as a result of the pandemic”

Microsoft currently has specialized clouds for healthcare, retail, financial services, manufacturing and non-profit. “We believe that digital transformation can benefit any industry and our Industry Clouds allow customers to hit the ground running with industry-specific solutions, whether they are in early stages of their cloud journey or increasing their investment in cloud,” says Clark. “Post-Covid-19, in particular, we are finding a lot of companies that made that initial leap to the cloud are starting to ask themselves what’s next and what more they can be doing.”

Microsoft’s partners can be key to this next step, as Clark says: “They are a fundamental part of our Industry Cloud strategy since they are on the ground working day-to-day with customers and creating solutions, whether that’s through customized applications, analytics templates or collaboration models.”

While business continuity has been the main focus over the past 18 months, organizations are also increasingly focusing on operating more sustainably.

“Microsoft is deeply committed to sustainability and we are working closely with our customers and partners to drive change,” says Clark. “We collaborate with our partner ecosystem to develop solutions that enable customers to achieve business and sustainability goals. From reducing energy consumption, streamlined processes, waste management and much more, there are plenty of sustainable partner solutions available that are using technology such as Microsoft Azure, Microsoft 365, Dynamics 365, Power BI, Power Platform, data and artificial intelligence (AI), to help organizations achieve more through their sustainability goals.”

And IoT, data and the cloud also have an important role to play here.  “A great example of this is the work being done by Accenture, Avanade and Microsoft,” says Clark.

The three organizations are combining their expertise in cloud, data, AI, IoT, digital twins and digital transformation to help utility and energy companies in the UK transform their energy system and lower the cost of decarbonizing electricity, with the goal of achieving a net-zero target for carbon emissions by 2050.

To do this, the businesses will encourage the use of open industry data to provide secure and accessible information that will drive efficiency, support cross-industry innovation and improve asset performance. Renewable energy developer and operator SSE Renewables is working with the companies to reimagine its own operations.

“The scale of the net-zero challenge is so great and the significance of achieving it so important, we need all-hands-on-deck,” says Rachel McEwen, SSE Renewables’ chief sustainability officer, in a Microsoft article about the partnership. “The energy system – electricity in particular – must be completely decarbonized very quickly, so that trickier sectors like heat and transport can reach zero carbon emissions.”

“We collaborate with our partner ecosystem to develop solutions that enable customers to achieve business and sustainability goals”

“The answer to all the technological, market and regulatory challenges that result cannot possibly come from a single organization or sector. Partnerships, like the one between Microsoft and Accenture, are essential in bringing together an electricity utility like SSE with business and digital technology transformation specialists.”

Partner perspective


The cover story first appeared in The Record – Issue 21:Summer 2021 on Page 38. Interested in seeing the original article or the whole magazine? Click the cover below.