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Windows for IoT adds expanded silicon support and new intelligent edge capabilities to accelerate digital transformation

Written By published October 14, 2019

The world of IoT is more exciting than ever, transforming every business on the planet, and that transformation is accelerating. Advances in AI and ML are helping companies across industries gain efficiencies; reduce downtime, waste, and errors; and improve customer satisfaction by harnessing the power of the Intelligent Edge and Intelligent Cloud.

"Windows for IoT connects the dots for you" in text next to an image of a woman pressing a large touch-screen

Windows has been powering enterprise-grade embedded devices for more than two decades, and during the keynote today at CEATEC Japan, I shared Microsoft’s strategy for how Windows for IoT helps device builders of all sizes quickly create IoT solutions that bring digital transformation to life for customers with smart and secure IoT devices. With a special focus at CEATAC on the evolution of smart cities, smart buildings and smart infrastructure under the “Society 5.0” framework, we’re excited that Windows for IoT delivers a scalable family of operating systems as the foundation for building intelligent edge devices. This family includes:

  • Windows 10 IoT Core is built for small-footprint smart devices, while still offering the manageability and security expected from Windows, and along with Windows 10 IoT Core Services ensures long-term OS support and services for managing Over-the-Air (OTA) device updates and device health. A great example of how Windows 10 IoT Core is being used is Hourfleet, a ride-sharing platform addressing urban mobility challenges faced by many cities, towns, and communities. The Hourfleet platform is a globally deployable, robust and cost-effective product underpinned by Windows 10 IoT Core and Azure IoT.
  • Windows 10 IoT Enterprise This full-featured edition of Windows 10 IoT delivers enterprise manageability and locked-down capabilities for fixed-function smart devices. Companies like City Beacon are building next-generation intelligent infrastructure based on Windows 10 IoT Enterprise. City Beacon has built a Smart Hub that can be located on city streets and venues; these multifunctional kiosks house a variety of IoT devices, connected to fast networks providing citizens with access to hyperlocal apps and services.
  • Windows Server IoT 2019 Windows Server IoT is for the most demanding edge-computing workloads, for connecting, storing and analyzing data from large databases of connected applications, networks and web services.

Expanding silicon choices

Today we are announcing the General Availability of the Windows 10 IoT Core Board Support Packages for the NXP i.MX family of processors, including i.MX6, i.MX7, i.MX 8M and i.MX 8M Mini application processor families. NXP is a leader in highly secure connectivity solutions for embedded applications and bringing NXP i.MX and Windows 10 IoT Core together provides device builders with additional choices for building secure, commercial-grade, connected devices.

Windows 10 IoT Core enables secure, power-optimized devices for the Intelligent Edge. Developers can quickly build new intelligent devices using the familiar and powerful Windows development environment and commercialize them using our powerful Azure IoT platform. By embracing the NXP family of processors, we’re bringing a whole new range of industrial-grade silicon choices to IoT project engineers.

“We are pleased to have reached the General Availability milestone and continue to build our partnership with Microsoft,” says Jeff Miles, vice president of Business Development, Secure IoT Edge to Cloud Products at NXP. “With this addition, NXP customers now have access to industry-leading edge-computing solutions, from i.MX 6 to i.MX 7 and i.MX 8M across Windows 10 IoT Core for advanced industrial and IoT applications, harnessing the full power of Azure in their intelligent edge products.”

Customers adopting NXP i.MX and Windows 10 IoT Core

We are already seeing boards and devices using the NXP i.MX processors with over 15 boards available or in development from the partner ecosystem. As an example, Diagramics has built an NXP i.MX8-based solution with Windows 10 IoT Core to build rich client devices, certified by Azure IoT Device Catalog, and enable IOT plug-n-play registration of these devices with Azure IoT Hub Device Provisioning Service. More information can be found on the boards and solutions.

During the keynote I also shared a brand-new solution from Smart Tower based on the combination of Windows 10 IoT Core, NXP, and Azure IOT. The solution is designed to improve reliability and reduce downtime for critical public infrastructure, such as cell towers or electricity distribution networks. Smart Tower designed the solution to take full advantage of edge processing, creating a sensor module attached to the tower and a ground control unit that analyzes the health of the tower in real time, supporting high latency or disconnected scenarios. Additionally, the solution leverages Azure IOT Hub to manage and connect the devices and enables historical analysis across the whole network of towers being monitored. Smart Tower chose the combination of NXP, i.MX and Windows 10 IoT Core because of the extreme operating conditions the device would endure, and the familiar Windows IoT platform reduced the development costs and time to market.

Continued Innovation at the edge

Earlier this year, we enabled support for Azure IoT Edge on Windows 10 IoT Enterprise and Windows Server IoT 2019. This makes it easy and seamless to integrate the IoT Edge runtime, making it possible to move machine learning algorithms and other similarly complex computing functions from the cloud to edge devices. Windows for IoT also supports Windows Machine Learning and Windows Vision Skills, which allows you to run advanced AI algorithms developed in Azure on any Windows for IoT device.

Industry-leading ML at the edge: New Windows ML Container

The new Windows ML container, available today as an insider preview, is specifically designed for delivering AI-inferencing workloads built using the Windows ML API. Windows ML container gives businesses a fast and agile platform to build enterprise-grade IoT solutions. It combines the advanced features of Windows with the security of the Windows 10 IoT platform and the manageability of the Azure IoT Edge service.

Windows ML containers provide hosted AI workloads with hardware acceleration and direct access to the host’s peripheral devices. Hosted workloads can use sensors or cameras connected using USB, I2C, SPI or GPIO. Hardware acceleration is available using any DirectX 12- capable GPU or Microsoft Compute Driver Model-compliant ASICs attached to the host.

By optimizing the container specifically for AI workloads, the on-disk size of the container is approximately 350 MB, significantly smaller than any other GPU-enabled inferencing container in the market. With this smaller size, customers can manage Windows ML containers more easily and at lower cost. Find out more about the Windows ML container Insider Preview.

Introducing SQL Server IoT 2019: Data storage and analytics on Windows for IoT

SQL Server has been available for embedded usage for many years, and we are excited to bring the latest SQL Server 2019 capabilities to embedded device builders. We are introducing SQL Server IoT 2019, which is the binary equivalent to SQL Server 2019 and will be licensed through the OEM channel and is specifically designed for dedicated-use, server-class edge appliances running application software. Coupled with Windows Server IoT 2019, Microsoft SQL Server IoT 2019 provides a comprehensive database platform for mission-critical data analytics and unmatched scalability, industry-leading performance and security and intelligence over all your data. SQL Server IOT brings real-time analytics on operational data with in-memory technologies with higher concurrency and scale through persistent memory. Microsoft SQL Server IoT 2019 will be available before the end of the year.

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. The innovations we announced at CEATAC and the real-world IoT solutions being built by our customers and partners are just the start of the exciting path ahead for Windows for IoT. If you’re at CEATEC this week, be sure to visit Microsoft booth A012 to experience these Windows IoT solutions firsthand or on the web.