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Unlocking industrial data for AI: Microsoft partners with leading connectivity providers


Microsoft is partnering with leading industrial connectivity partners Advantech, PTC, and Softing to unlock industrial data for AI and accelerate digital transformation for industrial customers leveraging Azure IoT Operations through Azure’s adaptive cloud approach.   

We are committed to empowering customers to achieve more with their data and unlocking new insights and opportunities across the industrial ecosystem. This includes overcoming the challenges of proprietary interfaces and data models from an array of industrial assets on the factory floor. We believe that the key to addressing those challenges is enabling data to flow consistently and securely to the people and places where it’s needed to drive collaboration and better decision-making, leveraging open standards like OPC UA and MQTT. This is why we are working closely with our connectivity partners, who play a vital role in bridging the gap between legacy or proprietary assets and our standardized edge interfaces. They provide data translation and normalization to open, standardized data models across heterogeneous environments.   

The adaptive cloud approach brings just enough Azure and its capabilities to any environment, from the factory floor to both 1st party and 3rd party cloud infrastructure, using Kubernetes and other open technologies. We enable interoperability and integration across diverse edge devices and applications, providing a single control and management plane using Azure IoT Operations (Preview), enabled by Azure Arc. We aim to unify siloed teams, distributed sites, and sprawling systems and to provide our customers with an open, interoperable, and secure Industrial IoT platform that can scale to meet their current and future needs quickly.   

We are leveraging leading solutions from our connectivity partners Advantech, PTC, and Softing to achieve the necessary frictionless data flow that our customers need. Each connectivity partner is integrated with Azure IoT Operations to enable data interoperability and management across the industrial edge and cloud.  

Advantech is a leader in Industrial IoT, providing comprehensive system integration, hardware, software, and customer-centric design services. Their iFactory solution offers device-to-cloud visibility and a strong hardware-led connectivity story. Advantech has integrated their iFactory solution with Azure IoT Operations, enabling data flow from their edge devices and applications to Azure. They are also exploring to build an Akri connector for LoRaWAN, enabling an integration with Azure Resource Manager and benefiting from Azure's security, monitoring, and management features.

“Azure IoT Operations offers a highly flexible approach to swiftly onboard IoT assets within the same network hierarchy. Data from devices can be easily captured using Akri discovery plugins and visualized in Grafana for user consumption. With the Azure AIO solution stack, our customers can seamlessly transition to a digital operational environment with success.” – Ihen Tsai, Product Manager of WISE-iFactory, Advantech ​

PTC Kepware is a premier provider of industrial connectivity software, and their solutions access data from virtually any device – legacy or modern – and seamlessly and securely move the data to other OT and IT software applications. Their flagship product, Kepware+, enables secure and reliable data transfer between industrial assets and Azure IoT Operations, leveraging MQTT and OPC UA. Customers can ingest, process, and publish OPC UA data to services such as Azure Data Explorer or Microsoft Fabric, and can leverage Microsoft’s AI capabilities.

“PTC is proud of our long collaboration with Microsoft to accelerate digital transformation for industrial companies with our portfolio of manufacturing solutions. The announcement of Azure IoT Operations marks a significant milestone in empowering companies to leverage data for innovation and heightened efficiency. Together, PTC Kepware+ and Azure IoT Operations seamlessly and securely integrate to access, normalize, and process asset data at the edge and derive insights in the cloud.” – Ted Kerkam, Senior Director of Product Strategy, PTC Kepware

Softing is a leading provider of industrial connectivity. Their edgeConnector, edgeAggregator and dataFEED OPC Suite family of products offer access to process and machine data in PLCs from various vendors such as Siemens, Rockwell, Schneider, Beckhoff, Mitsubishi, Fanuc, Omron, and more. Softing has integrated their connectivity product portfolio with Azure IoT Operations, enabling data flow from OT assets via open standards OPC UA and MQTT. This allows customers to send their asset data to services such as Azure Data Explorer or Microsoft Fabric, and they can leverage Microsoft’s AI capabilities.

“Our customers require standards-based and scalable machine connectivity for their Industrial IoT solutions. Microsoft’s adaptive cloud approach supports Kubernetes, MQTT and OPC UA on edge level, so we can offer a seamless integration of our dataFEED products into the Azure platform meeting our customers' critical requirements regarding connectivity and efficient operation.”  – Thomas Hilz, Managing Director at Softing Industrial Automation GmbH

Engage with Microsoft on our adaptive cloud approach and data connectivity

We believe when working together across a robust partner ecosystem, Microsoft can deliver the best possible solutions to our customers and help them realize the full potential of their data across the industrial edge and cloud. We are also committed to supporting open standards and protocols and providing a single management and control plane, to enable a seamless and secure data flow from assets to the cloud.

To learn more, visit the Microsoft booth at Hannover Messe (Hall 17, Stand G06) from April 22-26.  We invite you to come see us and our partners, and we will be showcasing our connectivity partner solutions. You can learn more about our adaptive cloud approach and discuss your Industrial IoT opportunities with our experts.

We hope to see you there!

Written by Fabian Frank from Microsoft

Original published on the Microsoft Tech Community: