Microsoft is putting billions of dollars into its industrial cloud IoT strategy and recent agreements it has signed with the likes of Inmarsat and Volkswagen show it is determined to have every point covered, writes Antony Savvas.

Microsoft Azure and satellite services firm Inmarsat have just joined forces to offer cloud edge IoT services. The agreement enables Inmarsat’s customers to transfer data collected through their IoT solutions to the Microsoft Azure IoT Central platform for analysis, and for Azure customers to access Inmarsat’s global satellite network to connect their IoT infrastructure to cloud-based applications.

Global supply chain

The collaboration will initially focus on the delivery of Industrial IoT-based solutions to the agriculture, mining, transportation, fleet and logistics sectors, supporting digitalisation and visibility across the global supply chain.

Customers will gain access to a variety of tools that will help connect “anything to anything”, said the partners, bringing together assets in the physical world with applications in the digital world, “no matter how remote the location”. For those fleet firms serving remote areas that can not usually rely on getting an orthodox mobile signal to fully support their IoT operations, they now have a ready solution.

Tara MacLachlan, Inmarsat VP of industrial IoT strategy, said: “This collaboration with Microsoft Azure is central to our Industrial IoT strategy and will enable our customers to access the data generated and processed by our intelligent edge IoT solutions, regardless of where their infrastructure is located.”

Sam George, director of Azure IoT, said: “With Inmarsat, customers across industries, from agriculture and mining to the logistics and fleet sectors, will benefit from the power of the intelligent cloud and edge with global satellite connectivity in the most remote parts of the globe.”

Inmarsat says it offers a satellite network promising 99.9% availability with low latency data transmission.

Volkswagen

On a more down to earth note, Volkswagen and Microsoft have extended their automotive cloud agreement to China and the US, in addition to Europe. The original deal was announced last year, with Volkswagen saying its Volkswagen Automotive Cloud would connect over 5m vehicles to the cloud from 2020.

Like in the Inmarsat deal, services will be built on Microsoft’s cloud platform and services, as well as the Azure IoT Edge.

Volkswagen was already setting up a development centre in Microsoft’s home city of Seattle to support the partners’ efforts, and the companies say initial developer teams are already hard at work on project work. The workforce here is expected to grow to about 300 engineers in the near future.

Volkswagen envisages creating a fleet of cars that will become mobile IoT hubs linked by Microsoft Azure at the edge.

AT&T connects to Vodafone

It is certainly a busy market growth area, illustrated by the AT&T and Vodafone Business automotive IoT deal announced at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona last month. AT&T and Vodafone Business already provided connected vehicle services and products for the automotive, fleet and insurance industries.

“We will bring together our industry-leading expertise to develop superior and consistent connected vehicle solutions and experiences for customers across our combined footprints in North America, Europe and Africa,” they said.

They pointed out that automotive companies face many challenges when deploying connected vehicle solutions across countries. Each market has unique requirements and regulations, and it can be complicated for automakers to work across multiple network operators and vendors.

The goal is to simplify the deployment process, improve operations, deliver innovative solutions, and make the network certification process easier, they said.

Chris Penrose, president for IoT solutions at AT&T, said: “We each have rich experience in connected vehicle technology. By working together, we can innovate faster and help our global customers bring connectivity, entertainment and telematics to more vehicles across our respective footprints.”

The companies will prioritise projects to enhance safety, security and entertainment capabilities.

The author is freelance technology writer, Antony Savvas.

Comment on this article below or via Twitter: @IoTNow_OR @jcIoTnow