Microsoft Ignite 2018 Key Insights

Another exciting Microsoft Ignite event has come to an end, but the computing giant’s announcements will have ripple effects for years to come. News ranged from new uses for AI and IoT to developments that will deliver virtually impenetrable security across Microsoft products. Microsoft created a detailed list of its Azure-related Ignite announcements, but we wanted to sum up the news we think will make the most noise in cloud services. Here are the four takeaways you need to know:


Security is the (pass)word

With ransomware and data breaches dominating headlines this year, it’s no surprise security was front and center at Ignite. Microsoft announced “the end of the password era” as it launched a multi-factor sign-in process for Azure AD-connected apps through Microsoft Authenticator. Sign in will now operate with a system of fingerprints, facial recognition and PIN numbers; according to Rob Lefferts, Microsoft’s Corporate VP for Security, this shift will reduce compromise by 99.9 percent.

Microsoft is also beefing up its IoT security offerings; with Azure Sphere, manufacturers can create highly secure microcontroller unit (MCU) devices that power IoT-enabled tools. Azure Sphere MCU is now available; Microsoft has also entered the preview phase on Azure Sphere OS, which adds a four-layer defense, in-depth software environment, and the Azure Sphere Security Service, which helps the solution maintain up-to-date threat protection.

Read the complete announcement here.

AI will take rote tasks off the table

We all wish we had a little more time in our day; paperwork and housekeeping tasks don’t help matters. Microsoft announced its Cortana AI offering will soon manage those tasks for us, with its Cortana Skills Kit for Enterprise. The Azure Bot Service drives the platform, and it leverages Language Understanding from Azure Cognitive Services. The platform is currently available by invitation only.

To demonstrate the technology, Microsoft programmed Cortana to file IT help desk tickets –a benefit that would free up employee time and effort. While the Cortana team is still determining the technology’s primary use cases, the sky is the limit, as users will be able to execute company-specific tasks through the platform.

Read the complete announcement here.

IoT development expands into the physical space

Microsoft found that when its customers developed IoT-enabled environments, they preferred to model the physical environment before connecting devices to the model – rather than focusing on the device first – according to Sam George, Partner Director at Azure IoT.

In response, Microsoft announced the Oct. 15 rollout of Azure Digital Twins. Digital Twins users will be able to create a model of any physical environment, and once the model is in place, can connect IoT devices and sensors that keep the model up to date. Actions in the physical space, such as blinds opening or lights dimming, will reflect changes in the digital model. Azure Digital Twins will also integrate with Azure data and analytics services to allow for better model tracking.

Read the complete announcement here.

IoT becoming a second pair of eyes for security, accuracy

At Ignite, Microsoft demonstrated how some of its partners are leveraging IoT to improve operations; specifically, it referenced Shell’s efforts to improve safety both at its oil platforms and at the pump. Using Azure IoT Edge, Azure IoT Hub and Azure Databricks, the gasoline provider is able to process data from closed-circuit video cameras without lag, allowing station clerks to respond to risky behaviors – such as smoking a cigarette next to a pump – as they occur. Shell is currently testing these capabilities in Thailand and Singapore.

In addition, Shell is developing technology that minimizes drilling risks. The AI-driven Shell Geodesic solution developed in-house, helps improve the accuracy and consistency of a horizontal well’s directional control. It also features a user-friendly drilling simulator, giving geologists and drillers a better view of oil and gas rock layers.

Read the complete announcement here.

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