Archive for Agosto, 2019
I’m old enough now to have experienced several distinct waves of transformation brought by digital technology. As a kid, the personal computing revolution captured my imagination and energy with gaming and programming and new ways to create and do work. As a young adult, personal computers were everywhere and the internet and the World Wide Web connected them, and more importantly, the people using them, in ways that allowed communication and information to flow freely, and for work, commerce, creativity and leisure to be done in radically different ways. In my 30s, the smartphone and an incredible ecosystem of apps and services extended the internet to our pockets, making our connections to information and each other more ubiquitous, helping us navigate our way through the physical world, allowing us to buy almost any good or service we can think of, entertaining us in wonderful new ways, and making collaboration to get our work done more powerful than ever.
Even though that’s already a lot of transformation in a short period of time, and technology has never been more present in our lives, I feel like we’re just getting started. The next wave – one that’s already happening – comes when cheap connected devices with powerful sensors become truly ubiquitous in all of our physical environments, and when those devices become powerful enough to use the techniques of artificial intelligence (AI) to interact with their surroundings and the people in them. We call this combination of connected devices with powerful sensors and AI the Intelligent Edge. A year ago, I shared my belief that the Intelligent Edge would unfold as a platform over the next several years in ways that would surprise us by its breadth and diversity. And it already has.
The Intelligent Edge is proving to be the last mile in the convergence of the digital and physical worlds. –whether it’s a mixed-reality device like HoloLens providing a technician with a digital overlay of analytics, diagnostics and documentation for a piece of equipment they are servicing, or smart devices making the places where we live, work and shop more responsive and interactive, safer and more efficient. Intelligent Edge technologies are already making our homes smarter, improving the yields of our farms, monitoring the environment, helping us navigate our work more effectively, and improving our health and safety.
We’re in the middle of a revolution that is more than just smart speakers, security cameras and clever thermostats. Right now, we have in excess of 12 billion devices connected to the internet. It’s forecast that by the end of this calendar year, that number will rise to 20 billion. We anticipate that billions more of these devices are going to connect to the internet in the next few years. It’s a staggering thought. This Internet of Things (IoT) is already many times larger than the universe of personal computers and smartphones combined, and devices on it are becoming more powerful and more intelligent every day. With the advent of 5G, with its higher throughput, lower latency to the cloud, and higher device densities at the edge, we are likely to see the growth of the Intelligent Edge accelerate even further.
It probably comes as no surprise that I’ve been super stoked by each of the big technology platform waves that I’ve personally experienced, from PCs, to the internet, to smartphones. The Intelligent Edge is no different. I can’t keep from tinkering with these technologies, and I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that I’m using bits of the Intelligent Edge platform to build, of all things, an AI-powered siphon vacuum coffee machine. Instead of screens and buttons, my machine has a camera, a microphone, a speaker, a small digital brain and a connection to the cloud. When you focus your attention on it, it notices, and will ask “Would you like a cup of coffee?” When you respond “Yes,” it guides you through the brewing process with a short dialogue. And if you like, it will remember you and your preferences so that you can get your next cup of coffee more quickly.
My coffee machine probably won’t be commercially viable, and no one should mistake my weekend tinkering for a product that might one day show up in the Microsoft store. But one thing that’s become very clear to me as I build this machine is this: The Intelligent Edge parts of the device are neither especially hard nor expensive. I’m having a tougher time designing a safe steam boiler than I am with the AI! The hardware I’m using to run some of the local AI is cheap and readily available, and the software techniques I’m using to split the AI computations between the edge and the cloud are relatively straightforward. The Intelligent Edge and Intelligent Cloud platform that’s already out there for everyone to use is already quite capable. And even though to some, my coffee machine sounds like a crazy sci-fi project, making it a reality doesn’t feel as challenging as writing my first PC program, internet service or mobile app felt in the early days of those platforms.
What I’m most excited about with the Intelligent Edge is not what we’ve already done, nor even what I can imagine might be done with this new platform, but rather, what others will imagine and create as tens of millions of developers, entrepreneurs and innovative thinkers start building new products and businesses with this technology. Given the magnitude of growth ahead of us, and the fact that the platform is becoming more powerful every day, the opportunities for creators, entrepreneurs and businesses are huge. As with any successful platform, the true measure of the Intelligent Edge’s success will be in the breadth and diversity of the things built on top of it. There, I have infinite faith in the vision and ambition of others.
The IoT Signals Report (an annual research survey published by Microsoft) identifies key, industry-relevant trends in IoT. The survey, conducted by individual interviews with more than 3,000 IoT professionals based in Europe, Asia and North America, found that IoT is considered mainstream. Businesses are seeing tremendous value and opportunity in their ability to improve their bottom lines through IoT adoption. Right now, we’re seeing significant advancements in what I call a new world order with the demise of Moore’s law and the collapse of Dennard scaling. This means that compute is no longer becoming cheap at the exact same time that machine learning is becoming an insatiable consumer of compute power. But while this shift is impacting PCs, we will still see a few years where the power and compute capabilities of Intelligent Edge devices will continue to improve exponentially without much increase in cost.
IoT devices that are part of the Intelligent Edge provide businesses with invaluable insights on how to transform processes for operational efficiencies, such as improving the maintenance of vital of equipment before a costly shutdown and accelerating innovation while simultaneously improving safety, for example. As the IoT landscape continues to expand, we can bank on critical breakthroughs in areas that benefit humanity, such as healthcare, conservation, sustainability, accessibility and disaster recovery.
Today Microsoft is announcing the acquisition of jClarity, the leading contributor to the AdoptOpenJDK project, to support their continued contributions to open source while driving increased performance for Java workloads on Azure. The team, formed by Java champions and data scientists with proven expertise in data driven Java Virtual Machine (JVM) optimizations, will help teams at Microsoft to leverage advancements in the Java platform. At Microsoft, we strongly believe that we can do more for our customers by working alongside the Java community. The jClarity team, with the backing of Microsoft, will continue to collaborate with the OpenJDK community and the Java ecosystem to foster the progress of the platform.
In the last few years, Microsoft’s usage of Java has grown and now includes multiple large-scale deployments, such as Azure HDInsight and Minecraft. Additionally, Microsoft customers like Adobe, Daimler and Société Générale have brought their Java production workloads to Azure. With more than half of compute workloads running on Linux, Azure has become a great platform for open source, and that certainly includes Java.
The jClarity team are JVM experts who have helped their customers optimize their Java applications while also providing leadership and support within the Java open source community. For us, this is the perfect match. The relationship with this team is not new: since June 2018, Microsoft has sponsored the AdoptOpenJDK project to help build binaries of OpenJDK for different platforms, including Linux and Windows.
Microsoft Azure and jClarity engineers will be working together to make Azure a better platform for our Java customers, and internal teams, improving the experience and performance of the platform for Java developers and end-users.
The post Microsoft acquires jClarity to help optimize Java workloads on Azure appeared first on The Official Microsoft Blog.
Today we announced a comprehensive long-term alliance with Reliance Jio Infocomm Limited (Jio), a subsidiary of Reliance Industries Limited. This is an exciting advancement that will accelerate India’s digital transformation and bring the latest technologies to millions of businesses across the country. This alliance represents a unique collaboration between our two organizations.
Jio has transformed the communication and data landscape here in India, connecting more than 340 million people in the country with the power of affordable data. Microsoft has helped businesses revolutionize the global landscape of digital transformation with the worldview of intelligent cloud and intelligent edge. With a solid foundation of trust, we’re committed to accelerating the pace of innovation and delivering more value to every customer, be it large enterprises, SMBs, startups or consumers, and our partners.
This unique alliance also reinforces our commitment to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.
Earlier today, this announcement was shared as part of the Reliance Industries Annual General Meeting where Reliance Chairman and Managing Director Mukesh D. Ambani shared the news. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella shared his thoughts as well and reinforced our enthusiasm for the work we will do together and the potential benefits our alliance can bring to organizations across India, and to the country itself.
What this means for businesses
India has one of the largest small and medium business markets in the world, which continues to grow significantly. Small and medium businesses in India will have access to a range of cloud-based productivity, collaboration and business applications including Office 365, enabling them to compete more effectively in the Indian marketplace. This collaboration will accelerate innovation to create more affordable offerings for Indian SMBs and startups, including a new range of solutions for one-stop IT capabilities and allowing front-end applications on mobile devices, desktops and other tools.
Jio will build new custom solutions on Microsoft Azure for large enterprises who have already benefited from our technology platforms. Companies will also have easy and affordable access to best-in-class technologies like data analytics, AI, cognitive services, blockchain, IoT and edge computing to accelerate India’s digital transformation and enable grassroots innovation.
Jio will also leverage Microsoft’s speech and language cognitive services for its device ecosystem, providing support in 13 Indian languages, with the flexibility to add other languages. Its internal workforce will now leverage the cloud-based Microsoft 365 productivity and collaboration tools and all their non-network applications will also move to the Microsoft Azure cloud platform.
For the partner ecosystem in India, these new offerings create more avenues for greater innovation, deeper customer relationships and exponential growth for their businesses. And in a diverse nation of 1.3 billion people united by the power of digital, the solutions this collaboration will bring around connectivity, computing, storage and tech services will redefine how we empower employees, enable customers, transform products and optimize operations.
This joint effort is likely to unlock and accelerate digital innovation in India at an unprecedented scale. I look forward to working with and learning from our current and new customers and partners as we chart a new path with this alliance.
The post Microsoft and Jio: Accelerating India’s digital progress appeared first on The Official Microsoft Blog.
What did you have for breakfast today? Depending on where you are reading this, you may have started your morning with coffee and pastries; a smoothie and sourdough toast; perhaps a bowl of congee. Or maybe you skipped it altogether because you were in a hurry. Whatever you chose to do, you probably did not give it much thought.
Yet in a world with a finite amount of arable land, and a population that is expected to grow from 7.7 billion to nearly 10 billion by 2050, producing enough food to eat is a challenge today and a potential crisis in the future. As the population expands and diets change, farmers will need to increase food production by about 70 percent. The question is: how? Finding the right answers is one of humanity’s most pressing issues. AI can be part of the solution.
AI is already transforming agriculture
Already, AI is beginning to transform agriculture in important ways. Many farmers who manage large-scale operations are taking advantage of innovative technologies like self-driving tractors that use GPS, satellite imagery, and AI to plant more efficiently; and sensors and machine learning to make smarter decisions about when to irrigate and how much fertilizer to apply.
But what about the majority of farmers who have less than one hectare of arable land (or a little less than 2.5 acres), and who produce 70 percent of the world’s food supply? Many of them live in low-resource communities with limited access to even basic digital technology. Can AI improve their ability to grow food to feed a hungry world? Yes, it can.
The AI sowing app – How to improve a groundnut harvest
A pilot project in Andhra Pradesh on the southeast coast of India offers a hint of what is becoming possible. In an area of small, subsistence farms where growers have always relied on a combination of ancient traditions and guesswork to decide when to plant, Microsoft is working with the nonprofit International Crop Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) to enable farmers to take advantage of the power of AI to increase yields. Last year, ICRISAT received a Microsoft AI for Earth grant to support continued development of AI solutions that focus on sustainable agriculture in developing parts of the world.
The AI Sowing App we’ve developed together draws on more than 30 years of climate data, combined with real-time weather information, and then uses sophisticated forecasting models powered by Azure AI to determine the optimal time to plant, the ideal sowing depth, how much farm manure to apply, and more. That information is then shared with farmers through text messages that they receive on a basic feature phone.
In the pilot’s first year, 175 groundnut farmers participated. Most farmers in the region planted in early June, as dictated by custom and tradition. Farmers who used the AI Sowing App delayed planting by three weeks. For those who waited, the results were dramatic—on average they harvested 30 percent more per hectare than farmers who planted at the beginning of June. In the second year, the program was expanded to more than 3,000 farmers and covered a much wider range of crops, including maize, rice, and cotton. Average increases ranged from 10 percent to 30 percent, depending on the crop and the location.
Project FarmBeats – A more sustainable way to farm
Microsoft is involved in another project that has important implications for the future success of small farms. Called Project FarmBeats, the initiative was launched at Dancing Crow Farm, not far from Microsoft’s headquarters. There, on a few acres of rich agricultural land, Dancing Crow’s owner Sean Stratman is exploring a new approach to agriculture that uses sensors to measure soil moisture and temperature along with drones to gather aerial imagery, and then feeding all that data into cloud-based AI models that provide a precise, up-to-the-minute picture of the conditions on his farm, down to the square meter.
With this level of precise knowledge, Stratman is able to make pinpoint decisions about when to plant, when to water, how much fertilizer to apply, when to harvest, and more for each small section of his farm. It’s an approach that is saving labor, reducing costs, and improving output. And it is pointing the way toward a future where farms of all sizes can produce more food, operate sustainably, and generate greater profits.
Reducing our 1.3 billion tons of food waste
According to the UN, increasing production is only part of the answer to the problem we face in feeding the world’s growing population. Almost as important is to reduce the amount of food that is wasted every year. The Food and Agricultural Organization estimates that one-third of all food produced for human consumption—1.3 billion tons—is wasted annually. Here, I believe AI can play a huge role. One way it will have an impact is by ensuring that highly-perishable foods such as milk make it from the farm to the processing plant quickly and safely.
This is an important focus of a pioneering AI-based operations management system that is improving efficiency, ensuring safety, and lowering costs for a brand-new milk processing and manufacturing facility operated by ACM in Girgarre, a small town in Australia. Designed to handle 200 million liters of milk, the facility uses a state-of-the art information system built on Microsoft Dynamics 365 and Azure Cognitive Services to automate the process of pumping milk from tanker trucks to silos – monitoring quality, and creating a rich data trail so the milk can be tracked from the farm to the store.
ACM has also implemented a sophisticated temperature monitoring system that uses sensors and Microsoft technologies including Azure and SQL to detect temperature fluctuations in storage tanks and trucks, sending alerts to farmers and drivers. If the system senses an electrical failure on a farm, for example, it can automatically dispatch trucks to collect the milk before it spoils.
The potential economic implications of these technologies extend far beyond the farms currently being served. Australia ranks fourth in the world in global market share for dairy exports, behind New Zealand, the EU, and the United States. Overall, Australia’s (AUD) $4.3 billion dairy industry – the country’s third largest rural industry – employs more than 42,000 people. The opportunities to increase production and improve efficiency could bring more jobs and greater prosperity to rural communities in the dairy farming regions of southeastern and southwestern Australia where the climate is particularly suitable for raising cattle.
Initiatives like this one in Australia and the pilot projects in Andhra Pradesh and Washington State offer an early indication of how we can empower farmers on farms of every size and in every part of the world to increase yield in ways that are better for the environment. Taken together, I believe they offer a reason to be optimistic that we will be able to feed the world.
Read about how AI is also transforming healthcare.
The post Harnessing the power of AI to transform agriculture appeared first on The Official Microsoft Blog.