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Evolution of Windows IoT: The foundation for your intelligent edge

Written By published April 3, 2019

Woman makes presentation in conference room with this text box superimposed: IoT in Action Webinar Series, Windows IoT Business Transformation

It began more than 20 years ago, in the days before sensors monitored soil health, before smart shelves managed product levels, before artificial intelligence and IoT-enabled cameras reduced violent crime.

Before the term “Internet of Things” had been coined, Microsoft Windows was there—but not just on our PCs. It was quietly running on the smallest, embedded devices—the precursors to the intelligent, connected devices of today.

In fact, Windows IoT is more than two decades in the making, and now, Windows IoT is helping businesses of all sizes achieve digital transformation and delight customers with secure, modern experiences that bridge the physical and digital worlds.

Read on to discover how Windows IoT has evolved into one of the most trusted IoT platforms—and learn about the groundbreaking capabilities that are coming soon.

Windows IoT Core: a history of innovation

Since the 1990s, we’ve been innovating our popular Windows OS to meet the needs of device manufacturers, providing a familiar, cost-effective, and secure platform. We were already optimizing Windows for small, single-purpose embedded devices ranging from toys to telephones through our Windows CE and Windows NT Embedded products. Over the years, we have continued to build on this groundbreaking work.

Back when Windows IoT Core was introduced, it was the first time you could run the Windows OS on tiny computers, such as the Raspberry Pi. Designed for device makers, our initial focus was on development kits and building a community of Windows IoT developers. From there, we expanded to meet the needs of commercial customers who wanted long-term support, including a high-quality development environment.

Today, Windows 10 IoT Core is a mature product that enables manufacturers to go to market quickly with small-footprint devices that are secure, low cost, and built for the intelligent edge. Windows IoT Core provides a royalty-free OS for prototyping, developing and testing IoT devices.

Providing security and maintenance for a multitude of devices in the field can be extremely challenging, so one of the biggest additions we’ve made recently is Windows 10 IoT Core Services. Windows 10 IoT Core Services ensures long-term OS support and services for managing device updates and device health. Benefits include reduced operating costs with over-the air-updates for OS, apps, and drivers—plus 10 years of OS system support and enhanced security.

Additionally, with the release of Windows 10 IoT Core on NXP i.MX 6, 7 and now 8M series of application processors, we have support for industrial grade silicon. Meanwhile, we continue to work behind the scenes on products that haven’t been announced yet.

The evolution of Windows IoT Enterprise

For customers wanting the full power of Windows 10, Windows 10 IoT Enterprise provides a locked down, full version of Windows 10 that delivers enterprise manageability and security to IoT solutions across multiple industries. It shares all the benefits of the worldwide Windows ecosystem, including the same familiar application compatibility, development and management tools as client PCs and laptops.

Licensed for fixed-purpose, smart devices, Windows 10 IoT Enterprise features advanced capabilities that make it much easier to configure and lock down mission critical devices. This means that developers can spend more time creating outstanding solutions, without worrying about the nuts and bolts.

Like Windows 10 IoT Core Services, Windows 10 IoT Enterprise includes long-term support. With the critical nature of security, being able to get security updates over the course of ten years without having significant changes in the OS is of enormous value.

Both Windows 10 IoT Core and Windows 10 IoT Enterprise offer easy integration with the Microsoft Azure platform, simplifying scale and device management, as well as the implementation of advanced features like hardware-assisted machine learning inferencing and containers.

Bringing it all together with Azure IoT Edge

Azure IoT Edge extends cloud intelligence and analytics to edge devices, providing a secure and easy way for developers to move cloud and custom workloads to the edge and tap the power of Windows 10 IoT. Azure IoT Edge enables seamless deployment of AI and advanced analytics capabilities, and the Azure IoT Device Agent for Windows makes it easy for operators to remotely configure, update and monitor edge devices.

IoT Edge modules, implemented as Docker-compatible containers, enables management of device updates and the deployment of business logic at the edge. Multiple modules can be configured to communicate with each other, and custom modules can be developed to provide insights offline and at the edge. Again, 10 years of ongoing support, security and patch management add to the ROI as well as customer confidence.

The future of Windows IoT

In late February, we announced the availability of Windows Server IoT 2019, which can securely handle the largest edge computing workloads. Windows Server IoT 2019 brings the power of high-availability and high-performance storage and networking to the edge, addressing latency and connectivity requirements and enabling customers to maintain data on-premises while securely storing and analyzing large amounts of data.

Additionally, we’ve got some thrilling product advancements lined up over the course of the next 12 to 18 months, focusing on end-to-end security, simplicity and cost-effectiveness. We are working with OEMs to bring existing devices onto a new, modern OS—and helping them connect to the cloud. Microsoft is making substantial investments in cloud connectivity and using the power of Windows to accelerate our customers’ journeys to the cloud and the intelligent edge.

From a developer perspective, we are focused on efficiency and making Windows a great place for machine learning through innovations like AI at the edgeWinML allows developers to harness the capabilities of any Windows 10 device to use pre-trained machine learning models—both custom and off-the-shelf—making it immensely powerful and ideally suited to intelligent edge devices. WinML accelerates the evaluation of deep learning models on Direct X12-capable devices. It also evaluates on local hardware, enabling low latency and high performance for quick results.

A great example of the benefits WinML brings to IoT solutions is IoT-PREDICT. This predictive maintenance solution from ActionPoint runs on Windows 10 IoT Enterprise and uses machine learning, as well as data analytics and advanced capabilities, to help manufacturers reduce equipment downtime, save money and drive operational efficiency.

Windows Embedded and now Windows IoT have provided device builders and developers innovative products that offer security, simplicity and flexibility, backed-up with commercial grade support, including 10 years of support with our Long Term Servicing Channel. Windows IoT is accelerating digital transformation and enabling customers to build secure, connected products and modern experiences that delight customers.

We’re proud of how we have helped reshape the business landscape through IoT and the intelligent edge. And we’re thrilled about the road ahead. Stay tuned to see how we continue to lead global IoT innovation.

Meanwhile, be sure to tune into the IoT in Action on-demand webinar, Windows IoT: Business Transformation, to discover how Windows 10 IoT can help you get up and running quickly. You’ll learn how, with a platform that spans cloud, OS and devices, Microsoft IoT technology is uniquely positioned to simplify the IoT journey.

You can also watch the Windows IoT in Manufacturing webinar to hear how our partners are empowering device manufacturers to build secure, connected enterprise and consumer devices with Windows 10 IoT. Watch and discover how you can create trusted, connected solutions that improve business and customer experiences – regardless of company size, technical expertise, budget, or industry.