Microsoft Build 2021 is kicking off and whilst it tends not to be as announcement heavy as Microsoft Ignite, it’s still got some great things for manufacturers to pay attention to. You can read the full Book of news but this post gives a quick run down of the most important stuff you need to read about. Enjoy!
Applied AI Services
In our GoSmarter tools, we combine AI with business processes to make broader AI capabilities useful for a narrow use cases. Microsoft’s Applied AI Services is a new umbrella for bundled AI capabilities that is similar – each service fits a narrow use case and has a number of AI capabilities under the hood.
So the Azure Bot Service bundles NLP and speech AI to support conversational AI scenarios, Azure Form Recognizer performs text extraction and semantic meaning, Azure Metrics Advisor helps correlate multiple streams of data to uncover insights and anomalies, and Azure Cognitive Search bundles AI-powered ingestion with semantic search to make knowledge mining easy.
With the general availability of Azure Metrics Advisor, manufacturers can now streamline their process engineering and quality monitoring. If you are interested in piloting this capability, please book a call with me.
Coming into preview for manufacturers building custom machine learning models is the managed Azure ML model endpoints. Currently Azure ML spins up a Kubernetes cluster to host your models. This means a lot of extra hassle as it is somewhat Infrastructure as a Service like. The future of the cloud is serverless and by abstracting away from the Kubernetes clusters and giving you just the endpoint with the appropriate controls, Microsoft is making this a reality. All the benefits of scalable ML models, none of of the infrastructure burden.
Code-first solutions take time to write and test. No-code solutions still take time to author and test but because of the composability of components, it’s much easier. It’s like the difference between building your own factory line from parts or from using plug and play machines.
No-code tools like Azure Logic Apps can help your IT team move more quickly but working (entirely) in the cloud isn’t for everyone. Azure Arc is Microsoft’s distributed cloud solution that allows the running of Azure Platform as a Service capabilities on-premises. Now, you will be able to run Azure Logic Apps in Azure Arc so you can combine the speed of development with scalability for your IT infrastructure.
Microsoft Teams is a great productivity enabler and can integrate a number of appps available via the marketplace. The marketplace is being extended so that users and admins will be able to buy subscriptions for apps in-situ. Particularly, being able to manage these app subscriptions in the Teams Admin Center will help businesses manage any headaches coming from SaaS-sprawl.
Process Advisor, in the Power Platform, is a great new tool to help you identify time-consuming and automatable processes. Combining with the Robotic Process Automation capabilities it means more people in your business can be applying continuous improvement practices to their day job.
There are new licenses for the Power Platform aimed at your developers to help them better create apps for your business so that you can reduce the time they spend creating solutions for faster data collection and tasks.
Another useful capability is the new Azure Synapse Link for Dataverse. Azure Synapse is the modern data warehouse capability that allows you to analyse structured and unstructured data with a variety of tools. Dataverse is Microsoft’s integrated data storage backing no-code apps in Microsoft Teams. It’s a new way to enable business application development faster but you will still need to be able to analyse the data in the context of your wider organisation. The Azure Synapse Link for Dataverse will allow you to connect to data from Dataverse in Azure Synapse so that you can start getting additional value out of the data generated by operational processes.
Microsoft are also enabling connection to your Microsoft 365 data in Azure so that you can use this data to drive custom productivity analytics, improved search, or in automation contexts.
Later this year, you will also be able to connect your different search capabilities including Dynamics 365 and Azure Cognitive Search into your broader Microsoft 365 data helping reduce the effort of knowledge discovery, since this is usually a huge time sink inside back-office functions. They are also making this sort of capabilitiy available in the Windows search bar for connected sources in the Microsoft Graph.
Inside Power BI, the Premium tier (available both at business and user levels) now supports streaming real-time data to help you build more up-to-date reports that can be used as things like radiator dashboards around your business.
Reducing the carbon footprint of manufacturing is a big agenda item but if you start adding in AI, blockchain, and extensive compute capabilities you might be a bit worried about undoing all your hard work on your operational technology footprint.
The Green Software Foundation in a new initiative to help reduce the computational expense of software energy-wise so that our IT can be greener.
Most manufacturers won’t need to join as they tend to be software-purchasers not software-vendors but it is a good oppoprtunity for you to consider the impact of your IT capabilities in relation to your net-zero goals.