Satya Nadella: ‘The Era Of The Intelligent Cloud And Intelligent Edge Is Upon Us’

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Last week at Microsoft Build 2018, Microsoft‘s annual developer conference, the company’s leaders showcased new technologies to help every developer be an AI developer, on Microsoft Azure, Microsoft 365 and across any platform. Building for AI would be more important to developers than ever, as technology continues to change the way people live and work every day, across the cloud and across edge devices.

Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft

“The era of the intelligent cloud and intelligent edge is upon us,” said Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft. “These advancements create incredible developer opportunity and also come with a responsibility to ensure the technology we build is trusted and benefits all.”

Smart devices are proliferating in homes and businesses across the globe, with more than 20 billion smart devices expected by 2020. These devices are so smart, in fact, they are powering advanced ways to see, listen, reason and predict, without constant connectivity to the cloud. That is the intelligent edge, stated Microsoft, and it is opening opportunities for consumers, businesses and entire industries, from the operating room to the factory floor.

At Microsoft Build 2018, Microsoft has announced new capabilities for developers to extend to the edge – which include:

  • Microsoft is open sourcing the Azure IoT Edge Runtime – allowing customers to modify, debug and have more transparency and control for edge applications.
  • Custom Vision will now run on Azure IoT Edge – enabling devices such as drones and industrial equipment to take critical action quickly without requiring cloud connectivity. This is the first Azure Cognitive Service to support edge deployment, with more coming to Azure IoT Edge over the next several months.
  • DJI, one of the world’s biggest drone companies, is partnering with Microsoft – to create a new SDK for Windows 10 PCs, and it has also selected Azure as its preferred cloud provider to further its commercial drone and SaaS solutions. The SDK will bring full flight control and real-time data transfer capabilities to nearly 700M Windows 10 connected devices globally. As part of the commercial partnership, DJI and Microsoft will co-develop solutions leveraging Azure IoT Edge and Microsoft’s AI services to enable new scenarios across agriculture, construction, public safety and more.
  • Microsoft has announced a joint effort with Qualcomm Technologies – to create a vision AI developer kit running Azure IoT Edge. This solution makes available the key hardware and software required to develop camera-based IoT solutions. Developers can create solutions that use Azure Machine Learning services and take advantage of the hardware acceleration available via the Qualcomm Vision Intelligence Platform and Qualcomm AI Engine. The camera can also power advanced Azure services, such as machine learning, stream analytics and cognitive services, that can be downloaded from the cloud to run locally on the edge.

Data and AI Development

Using data, machine learning and cognitive intelligence, developers can build and manage AI-rich solutions that would be able to transform the ways people work, collaborate and live:

  • Microsoft has announced Project Kinect for Azure – a package of sensors, including our next-generation depth camera, with onboard compute designed for AI on the Edge. Building on Kinect’s legacy that has lived on through HoloLens, Project Kinect for Azure empowers new scenarios for developers working with ambient intelligence. Combining Microsoft’s industry-defining Time of Flight sensor with additional sensors all in a small, power-efficient form factor, Project Kinect for Azure will leverage the richness of Azure AI to dramatically improve insights and operations. It can input fully articulated hand tracking and high-fidelity spatial mapping, enabling a new level of precision solutions.
  • Microsoft has announced a Speech Devices SDK – which would deliver great audio processing from multichannel sources for more accurate speech recognition, including noise cancellation, far-field voice and more. With this, developers can build a variety of voice-enabled scenarios like drive-thru ordering systems, in-car or in-home assistants, smart speakers, and other digital assistants.
  • Azure Cosmos DB updates – include new and differentiated multi-master at global scale capabilities, designed to support both the cloud and the edge, along with the VNET general availability for increased security. With these new updates, Cosmos DB delivers even greater cost-effectiveness and global scale, further cementing it as the fastest-growing database service in the world.
  • A preview of Project Brainwave – an architecture for deep neural net processing – is now available on Azure and on the edge. Project Brainwave would make Azure one the fastest clouds to run real-time AI and is now fully integrated with Azure Machine Learning. It also supports Intel FPGA hardware and ResNet50-based neural networks.
  • New Azure Cognitive Services updates – include a unified Speech service with improved speech recognition and text-to-speech, which support customized voice models and translation. Along with Custom Vision, these updates make it easier for any developer to add intelligence to their applications.
  • Microsoft claims to be making Azure the best place to develop conversational AI experiences integrated with any agent. New updates to Bot Framework and Cognitive Services would power the next generation of conversational bots enabling richer dialogs, and full personality and voice customization to match the company’s brand identity.
  • A preview of Azure Search with Cognitive Services integration. This new feature combines AI with indexing technologies so it’s possible to quickly find information and insights, whether via text or images.

Multi Device Experiences

Microsoft also demonstrated mixed-reality capabilities to enable richer experiences that understand the context surrounding people, the things they use, their activities and relationships:

  • A new initiative, Project Kinect for Azure – a package of sensors from Microsoft that contains time of flight depth camera, with onboard compute, in a small, power-efficient form factor  – designed for AI on the Edge. Project Kinect for Azure brings together this hardware technology with Azure AI to empower developers with new scenarios for working with ambient intelligence.
  • With Microsoft Remote Assist – customers can collaborate remotely with heads-up, hands-free video calling, image sharing, and mixed-reality annotations. Firstline Workers can share what they see with any expert on Microsoft Teams, while staying hands on to solve problems and complete tasks together, faster.
  • With Microsoft Layout – customers can design spaces in context with mixed reality. Import 3-D models to create room layouts in real-world scale, experience designs as high-quality holograms in physical space or in virtual reality, and share and edit with stakeholders in real time.

Kubernetes, GitHub, Blockchain

Microsoft is empowering developers to build for “the new era of the intelligent edge”, across Azure, Microsoft 365 and other platforms, using the languages and frameworks of their choice:

  • With Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) – developers can simplify how they build and run container-based solutions without deep Kubernetes experience. Generally available in the coming weeks, AKS integrates with developer tools and workspaces, DevOps capabilities, networking, monitoring tools, and more in the Azure portal, so developers can write code, not stitch services together. In addition, Microsoft is now offering Kubernetes support for Azure IoT Edge devices.
  • Visual Studio IntelliCode – is a new capability that enhances everyday software development with the power of AI. IntelliCode provides intelligent suggestions to improve code quality and productivity and is available in preview today in Visual Studio.
  • Visual Studio Live Share – now in preview, lets developers “easily and securely” collaborate in real time with team members who can edit and debug directly from their existing tools like Visual Studio 2017 and VS Code. Developers can use Live Share with any language for any scenario, including serverless, cloud-native and IoT development.
  • Microsoft has announced a new partnership with GitHub – that would bring the power of Azure DevOps services to GitHub customers. At Microsoft Build 2018, the vendor has released the integration of Visual Studio App Center and GitHub, which provides GitHub developers building apps for iOS and Android devices to “seamlessly” automate DevOps processes right from within the GitHub experience.
  • The new Microsoft Azure Blockchain Workbench – would make it easier to develop blockchain applications by stitching together an Azure-supported blockchain network with cloud services like Azure Active Directory, Key Vault and SQL Database, reducing proof-of-concept development time dramatically.