Microsoft announces new Azure tech that could enhance smart buildings’ capabilities

Microsoft recently unveiled its new Azure Internet of Things (IoT) spatial intelligence capabilities at the IBcon/Realcomm conference in Las Vegas.

Spatial intelligence takes connected devices a step further in the world of IoT, by modeling how spaces, devices and people relate and interact with each other. As an example, a conference room spatial intelligence could enable better heating, cooling and room booking system management. The new Azure IoT capabilities include advanced sensor processing, support for multi- or nested tenants and role based access and control.

“What we’re saying now (with this announcement) is when you come into the physical space environment, how do you model the equipment in that space, how are people using that space and/or the equipment and how these interactions work,” Bert Van Hoof, Microsoft Partner Group Program Manager, Azure IoT told Connected Real Estate Magazine at the Realcomm/IBcon conference in Las Vegas on Wednesday. “We’ve seen lots of partners try to build these types of solutions and they have been built, but they typically get stuck in that proof of concept level, they’re complicated and they don’t necessarily scale.

“So we’re proofing through these new capabilities, we have a wide variety of partners show in a significantly reduced amount of time, they can build very advance solutions much more quickly.”

Van Hoof went on to say Microsoft’s partners will be able to create artificial intelligence experiences that will be uniquely relevant due to their ability to intersect users’ digital world with their knowledge of the physical world where they live, play and work.

“Explicitly representing spatial data along with digital data in the graph unlocks new opportunities to improve customer experiences, create new efficiencies and improve the space in which we reside,” Van Hoof said in a recent blog post.

Microsoft along with eight of its limited preview partners demonstrated at the conference how the new Azure IoT platform capabilities have accelerated time to results within their respective domain expertise.

“We’re excited about the partners in tow that have been on this private limited preview,” Van Hoof told Connected. “What we are most excited about is the diversity. That is not a coincidence, as we selected partners to work with, we looked at a cross section of the industry.”

The partners included Willow, whose platform gathers data from a built asset and develops a digital twin, L&T Technology Services, whose i-BEMS platform can show an occupant what rooms are occupied in a building or show building operator work orders and work cases and Winvision, a technological partner of BeSense that created an innovative sensor system to give property managers real-time insight into occupancy levels and workplace and space circumstances.

“We’re very happy and proud to be able to contribute to these services that will give a kick start to other organizations that want to develop a smart building solution themselves,” Winvision Senior Solution Architect Remco Ploeg said.

The Azure IoT will accelerate these partners’ and others’ smart building solutions that include office furniture companies, large global ISV’s and companies that span the tenant experience, facilities management, building infrastructure, construction and IoT solution provider industries.

Microsoft laid out a number of categories where the Azure IoT would be beneficial. For example, in the workplace design field, Steelcase’s new Steelcase Find app will help workers connect with the space, tools and people needed to do their best work.

In the tenant experience arena, Convene, which manages spaces and hospitality services in Class A office buildings that are activated by technology, has technology that uses mobile devices and real time data to connect people to physical spaces. The Convene-Azure IoT partnership will help tenants in Convene-enabled buildings to streamline their workday with technology and landlord will be able to receive data insights that will allow them to better manage their buildings.

“Convene is a good example of how to treat the office environment like a five-star hotel experience,” Van Hoof told Connected. “That obviously gets you into that tailoring to the tenant experience–how do you make the environment better for people, how do you improve communication and collaboration patterns and the productivity of people in general? Convene does a great job of all the way from the top-notch barista experience to bringing in technology and making it easier to find unoccupied meeting rooms.”

Meanwhile in facilities management, CBRE launched CBRE 360, a customizable, connected workplace solution that gives property investors and occupants a single, seamless access point to building amenities and services. Now that Azure IoT’s capabilities are powering it, the CBRE 360 mobile app will let users navigate the workplace, set up meetings, access food and beverage services, reserve workplaces and more.

Azure IoT also plans to be a factor in the construction, building infrastructure, IoT solution provider and hardware manufacturing industries, too.

Microsoft is also working to ensure Azure IoT users’ data stays secure, wherever it may live, from the cloud to the edge. In May, the company announced the preview of the Microsoft Azure Sphere, which creates highly secured, Internet-connected micro-controller devices.

As IoT continues to transform one industry after another and drive large growth in the adoption of connected and intelligent devices, it’s critical to be able to model both the digital and physical worlds.

“(IoT) will impact how building owners, operators, occupants and visitors interact with office, education, retail hospital, hospitality, stadium, campus and ultimately city environments,” Van Hoof wrote. “Cities won’t truly get smart until cross domain solutions are connected together and data is shared. Azure IoT is bringing in the spatial intelligence that will help unlock the value at broader scale, empowering spaces to be more efficient, sustainable, enjoyable and inclusive.”

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