Microsoft recently announced a public preview of IoT Central, its software-as-a-service solution for the Internet of Things. IoT Central had been in limited preview for a few months with chosen customers who have been trialling the solution and providing feedback.
IoT Central is the result of the acquisition of the Italian company Solair, which Microsoft acquired in 2016. The Solair solution has been integrated with parts of the Azure IoT platform services to create a software-as-a-service solution that Microsoft claims is the first truly scalable SaaS solution for IoT.
Since IoT Central is built on the same infrastructure as the IoT platform services, it has support for the standard Azure IoT device SDKS in Node.js, C, C# and Java, and supports the same transport protocols, MQTT, HTTP and AMQP.
As a SaaS solution, IoT Central is designed to favor configuration over construction and provides an Application Manager to help organize your solutions. When logged in, you can create a blank application or start from two sample applications.
Once created, the application can be built using:
Device Template – describes a “class” of device including:
Measurements such as temperature, units and minimum/maximum values
Settings to configure devices
Properties that contain device metadata
Rules that allow alerts to be sent when thresholds are breached, currently only simple alerts such as greater than a value
Configurable dashboard showing information about the device, or telemetry over time
Device Set – defines a group of devices where telemetry and information can be viewed in one place
Analytics are available throughout the application and leverage Azure Time Series Insights to help visualize information such as trends and anomalies.
IoT Central has been built to integrate with Office 365 and Dynamics 365, but Microsoft has indicated that it will support integration with third-party providers such as SAP and Salesforce in future.
During a limited private preview, a few clients have been trying the service. Nate Hill, Principal Architect at Patterson Dental said of the service
Microsoft IoT Central joins IoT Suite, a pre-configured set of solutions aimed at making it easier to create and manage IoT solution. IoT Suite contains solutions for remote monitoring, connected factory, and predictive maintenance as a means to bootstrap IoT platforms but still require large amounts of configuration and customization for production use. With IoT Central, Microsoft’s Sam George, Director of Azure IoT, claims that the time to deliver IoT solutions can be reduced to a matter of minutes, allowing customers to concentrate on delivering early value from their efforts.
From release, Microsoft has offered 2 tiers for pricing for IoT Central. Users can provision a 30-day free trial that supports up to 10 devices and 100MB of data traffic, or choose a paid option which has a $500 fee per month with a limit of 100 devices and 1000MB of data traffic. Additional devices and data traffic overage are charged separately, $0.50 per additional device and $30 per additional GB of data.
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