Internet of Things could boost Australia’s GDP by $6.5 billion: Microsoft

Microsoft’s general manager for Internet of Things, Barb Edson, has outlined how the effective use of data by business, including data sets, analytics and the Internet of Things (IoT) can boost Australia’s GDP by $6.5 billion over four years, at a conference in Sydney this morning.

The Internet of Things is a concept commonly described as connecting household appliance or car components to the internet.

However, in a business context, the connected devices might include, for example, manufacturing equipment, traffic lights, rail cars, escalators, CCTV, weather stations, or vehicles being embedded with computers and sharing real-time information with the cloud over the internet.

Unlike end-user devices such as desktop PCs, smartphones or tablets, these devices are generally not used by people to browse the web, with the data instead used for real-time monitoring, control and integration.

Edson says the focus on the household appliance end of IoT, rather than in a business environment, had led to a lot of confusion about what the technology can offer.

“Within in the enterprises, most people hear about IoT and they hear that it’s big, and it’s also super-noisy so everyone’s talking about it… Frankly, that has the executives confused because their hearing about the connected fridge and the toaster,” she says.

“Microsoft’s begun talking about the devices that you have. How do you get one or two pieces of data of your data to get a big impact? We’ve been in the IoT industry for over 15 years… IoT is not a revolution; it’s an evolution of where the embedded industry has been.”

Edson gave the example of Jeep using internet-connected embedded devices to manufacture Wrangler SUVs without human intervention.

Edson says there could be a $6.5 billion increase to Australia’s GDP over four years if IoT is used effectively by Australian businesses.

Microsoft recently announced it is making its embedded operating system, Windows for Smaller Footprint Devices, available for free, with devices connected and controlled through Microsoft’s Azure Intelligent Systems Service platform.

The company announced a limited public preview of the platform as well.

Edson acknowledges there are many devices not running embedded versions of Windows, including simple sensors, embedded Linux, QNX or other embedded operating systems. Those devices connect through an agent on the device or through a gateway that allows it to connect to Microsoft’s cloud-based service.

“There’s a lot of brownfield implementations. There’s a lot of data on devices that we want to access on existing devices,” Edson says.

The tech giant says it sees IoT as an ecosystem play, connecting embedded assets businesses already have, working with implementers such as CGI, Infosys and others in the industry.

Systems integrator Talent demonstrated an implementation of the Azure Intelligent Systems Service platform in the London Underground, which currently has 451 IP-connected end-points including ball-bearings in escalators, video cameras and temperature monitoring devices. Embedded systems and sensors around the stations feed that information back into the system in real time.

The back-end of the London Underground’s system allows data from the embedded devices to be monitored in real-time, which can in turn be fed into an ERP system or be used to investigate where preventative maintenance is needed.

Meanwhile, Coca-Cola Amatil demonstrated a vending machine with embedded digital display screens, including a transparent front screen. The device was created in collaboration with agency TKM9 digital and is designed to comply with Australian Safety Standards. By being connected to the internet, the fridge can amend the prices or products it advertises in real-time based on external factors such as time-of-day or temperature. The fridge includes Kinnect sensors, cameras, embedded Windows, and apps remotely-deployed through the Windows Azure cloud service.

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