In December, we shared the State of Tech Intensity study, which highlighted a trend we are seeing in our work with customers: many organizations are going beyond simply adopting the latest tools and technologies and are building their own unique digital capabilities. This shift is accelerating change in these organizations and helping them propel their businesses forward in new ways. Leveraging innovative technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT) and machine learning built on Microsoft’s cloud, there were numerous examples this past quarter of initiatives our customers across multiple industries are pursuing — and how many are putting technology at the heart of their business strategies.
In automotive, manufacturers are redefining experiences to shape the future of mobility, while also helping address challenges that conventional computing alone cannot solve. Through our partnership with Ford, we’re exploring the potential for using quantum algorithms to solve urban traffic congestion. Bosch is leveraging Microsoft Azure data services to create one of the world’s first connectivity-based, wrong-way driver warning solutions aimed at helping drivers avoid serious accidents.
Global technology company ZF Friedrichshafen is transforming into a provider of software-driven mobility solutions, leveraging Azure cloud services and developer tools to promote faster development and validation of connected vehicle functions at a global scale. Ericsson is integrating its Connected Vehicle Cloud, which connects more than 4 million vehicles across 180 countries, with Microsoft’s Connected Vehicle Platform to accelerate the delivery of safe, comfortable and personalized connected driving experiences with our cloud, AI and IoT technologies. We are also helping Scania build a modern workplace foundation to break down communication barriers and meet ever-growing security requirements through cloud-based collaboration tools like Microsoft 365 and Teams.
In transportation and logistics, Danish company Maersk, one of the largest container shipping and supply vessel operators in the world, is leveraging Microsoft’s security capabilities in Azure and Microsoft 365 to streamline and automate classification for more than 6.6 million documents every month, improving communications and reducing the risk of data loss and regulatory non-compliance. Maersk has also implemented Identity Protection to further enhance its security posture.
In highly regulated industries like insurance, where regulatory compliance and high security standards are a top priority, customers are choosing Microsoft as their trusted cloud provider to help ensure these needs are met while building new digital capabilities. KPMG is bringing the latest advances in cloud and AI to highly regulated workloads in tax, audit and advisory. This move is helping its clients achieve greater accuracy and decision-making capabilities, increased productivity and cost efficiencies with tools such as Dynamics 365 and Teams. German-based Allianz, along with our partner Syncier, is reimagining the insurance industry experience by creating a new cloud-based marketplace built on Azure with customized platform solutions and related services tailored to the industry. Automobile insurer GEICO is turning to Azure to modernize its internal business applications and create a frictionless experience for its customers, from real-time updates to performance and security. AXA, an insurance provider spanning more than 60 countries, is reimagining how it engages with its 105 million customers around the globe using Microsoft 365 productivity tools for its workforce.
In the public sector space, we appreciate the opportunity to work with the Department of Defense to develop and deploy their general purpose enterprise cloud infrastructure. Under the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) contract, we look forward to helping the DoD bring the latest technology to our men and women in uniform in the years ahead.
Our customers in communications, services and media have a unique opportunity to meet the growing global demand within their industries — by advancing their business with cloud-centric strategies. Telstra, Australia’s largest telecommunications company, is using Microsoft Teams and the Microsoft Power Platform to work more collaboratively across the organization. They are also leveraging insights from PowerBI to break down data silos and create a unified source of truth to help meet the needs of more than 18 million customers. Japan-based NTT has chosen Microsoft Azure as its preferred cloud platform for modernizing its global IT infrastructure and customer solutions in the areas of advanced analytics for cybersecurity threat intelligence and the hybrid-IT management platform. Our strategic collaboration with Nokia will apply our cloud, AI, IoT and machine learning expertise across mission-critical networking and communications to drive economic growth and productivity for both enterprises and service providers. We also further expanded our partnership with AT&T by announcing our first joint-offering, AT&T Network Edge Compute (NEC) technology, which weaves Azure services into AT&T’s network edge locations closer to customers, unlocking new scenarios for edge computing across industries.
KKBOX Group is harnessing the power of our cloud for new music and video streaming experiences for customers as well as AI technologies to help people more easily discover and listen to music. And in October, SAP selected Microsoft Azure as its preferred cloud provider, deepening the relationship between our two companies in a differentiated way. Through this partnership, we have helped customers like Coca-Cola, Walgreens Boots Alliance and CEMEX with their transformation initiatives by successfully moving their SAP workloads onto Azure. This agreement signals a shared commitment to fostering the growth of the cloud ecosystem.
As we enter a new decade, I am extremely excited to see what new digital capabilities will emerge from our customers. From transforming businesses to advancing industries, the opportunity for our customers has never been greater, and we are ready to help them take the next step in their digital journey through close partnerships and new technologies.
The scientific consensus is clear. The world confronts an urgent carbon problem. The carbon in our atmosphere has created a blanket of gas that traps heat and is changing the world’s climate. Already, the planet’s temperature has risen by 1 degree centigrade. If we don’t curb emissions, and temperatures continue to climb, science tells us that the results will be catastrophic.
As the scientific community has concluded, human activity has released more than 2 trillion metric tons of greenhouse gases into the Earth’s atmosphere since the start of the First Industrial Revolution in the mid-1700s. Over three-quarters of this is carbon dioxide, with most of this carbon emitted since the mid-1950s. This is more carbon than nature can re-absorb, and every year humanity pumps more than 50 billion metric tons of additional greenhouse gases into the air. This isn’t a problem that lasts a few years or even a decade. Once excess carbon enters the atmosphere it can take thousands of years to dissipate.
The world’s climate experts agree that the world must take urgent action to bring down emissions. Ultimately, we must reach “net zero” emissions, meaning that humanity must remove as much carbon as it emits each year. This will take aggressive approaches, new technology that doesn’t exist today, and innovative public policy. It is an ambitious – even audacious – goal, but science tells us that it’s a goal of fundamental importance to every person alive today and for every generation to follow.
Microsoft: Carbon negative by 2030
While the world will need to reach net zero, those of us who can afford to move faster and go further should do so. That’s why today we are announcing an ambitious goal and a new plan to reduce and ultimately remove Microsoft’s carbon footprint.
By 2030 Microsoft will be carbon negative, and by 2050 Microsoft will remove from the environment all the carbon the company has emitted either directly or by electrical consumption since it was founded in 1975.
We recognize that progress requires not just a bold goal but a detailed plan. As described below, we are launching today an aggressive program to cut our carbon emissions by more than half by 2030, both for our direct emissions and for our entire supply and value chain. We will fund this in part by expanding our internal carbon fee, in place since 2012 and increased last year, to start charging not only our direct emissions, but those from our supply and value chains.
We are also launching an initiative to use Microsoft technology to help our suppliers and customers around the world reduce their own carbon footprints and a new $1 billion climate innovation fund to accelerate the global development of carbon reduction, capture, and removal technologies. Beginning next year, we will also make carbon reduction an explicit aspect of our procurement processes for our supply chain. Our progress on all of these fronts will be published in a new annual Environmental Sustainability Report that will detail our carbon impact and reduction journey. And lastly, all this work will be supported by our voice and advocacy supporting public policy that will accelerate carbon reduction and removal opportunities.
Taking a principled approach
Whenever we take on a new and complex societal issue, we strive first to learn and then to define a principled approach to guide our efforts. This has been fundamental to our work around the protection of privacy and the ethical development of artificial intelligence, and it’s the approach we’re taking to pursue our aggressive carbon goals as well. We’ve concluded that seven principles, or elements, will be vital as we continually innovate and take additional steps on an ongoing basis.
Grounding in science and math. We will continually ground our work in the best available science and most accurate math, as we describe further below.
Taking responsibility for our carbon footprint. We will take responsibility for all our emissions, so by 2030 we can cut them by more than half and remove more carbon than we emit each year.
Investing for new carbon reduction and removal technology. We will deploy $1 billion of our own capital in a new Climate Innovation Fund to accelerate the development of carbon reduction and removal technologies that will help us and the world become carbon negative.
Empowering customers around the world. Perhaps most importantly, we will develop and deploy digital technology to help our suppliers and customers reduce their carbon footprints.
Ensuring effective transparency. We will publish an annual Environmental Sustainability Report that provides transparency on our progress, based on strong global reporting standards.
Using our voice on carbon-related public policy issues. We will support new public policy initiatives to accelerate carbon reduction and removal opportunities.
Enlisting our employees. We recognize that our employees will be our biggest asset in advancing innovation, and we will create new opportunities to enable them to contribute to our efforts.
Grounding in science and math
It’s vital that our work as a company to address carbon issues stay grounded in ongoing scientific advances and an accurate reliance on the basic but fundamental mathematical concepts involved. And this is true for all of us as individual consumers and the business community more broadly.
In some respects, the situation is straightforward. As shown in the graph below, advances in human prosperity, as measured by GDP growth, are inextricably tied to the use of energy. This is true for the future as well as the past. If we’re going to continue to create more economic opportunity and prosperity, it likely will require even more energy use. This is true everywhere in the world, and it’s perhaps especially true among the world’s developing economies, which deserve the opportunity to catch up with the level of prosperity in more industrialized nations.
For more than two centuries and especially since the 1950s, economic development has required an ever-increasing amount of carbon emissions. This is the part of the past that we need to change. In short, we need to use more energy while reducing our emission of carbon.
The importance of this issue is underscored by the advances in scientific research during the past few years. These findings make clear both that the average temperature on the planet has risen by 1 degree Celsius during the past 50 years and that carbon dioxide emissions have been a primary driver of this and this temperature increase. Indeed, if we fail to change substantially and quickly, there is a high risk that average temperatures will increase between another one and four degrees Celsius by the end of this century. And the impact of such a temperature increase would be catastrophic.
A big part of the challenge is that as a society we have not committed sufficiently to reduce emissions. One conclusion we’ve reached is that we all need to learn – and get real – about “carbon math.” This is the basic mathematical concepts that are important to understanding how the carbon issue applies to each of us, whether as individuals, families, businesses, or other organizations.
One aspect of this is relatively simple but quite important. Scientists account for carbon emissions by classifying them into three categories, or “scopes.”
Scope 1 emissions are the direct emissions that your activities create — like the exhaust from the car you drive, or for a business, the trucks it drives to transport its products from one place to another or the generators it might run.
Scope 2 emissions are indirect emissions that come from the production of the electricity or heat you use, like the traditional energy sources that light up your home or power the buildings owned by a business.
Scope 3 emissions are the indirect emissions that come from all the other activities in which you’re engaged, including the emissions associated with producing the food you eat, or manufacturing the products that you buy. For a business, these emission sources can be extensive, and must be accounted for across its entire supply chain, the materials in its buildings, the business travel of its employees, and the full life cycle of its products, including the electricity customers may consume when using the product. Given this broad range, a company’s scope 3 emissions are often far larger than its scope 1 and 2 emissions put together.
This makes clear that we need to measure all three of these scopes. At Microsoft, we expect to emit 16 million metric tons of carbon this year. Of this total, about 100,000 are scope 1 emissions and about 4 million are scope 2 emissions. The remaining 12 million tons all fall into scope 3. Given the wide range of scope 3 activities, this higher percentage of the total is probably typical for most organizations.
There’s another aspect of carbon math that’s also essential. This is the difference between being “carbon neutral” and being “net zero.” While they sound similar, in fact they’re different.
Given common usage, companies have typically said they’re “carbon neutral” if they offset their emissions with payments either to avoid a reduction in emissions or remove carbon from the atmosphere. But these are two very different things. For example, one way to avoid a reduction in emissions is to pay someone not to cut down the trees on the land they own. This is a good thing, but in effect it pays someone not to do something that would have a negative impact. It doesn’t lead to planting more trees that would have a positive impact by removing carbon.
In contrast, “net zero” means that a company actually removes as much carbon as it emits. The reason the phrase is “net zero” and not just “zero” is because there are still carbon emissions, but these are equal to carbon removal. And “carbon negative” means that a company is removing more carbon than it emits each year.
While we at Microsoft have worked hard to be “carbon neutral” since 2012, our recent work has led us to conclude that this is an area where we’re far better served by humility than pride. And we believe this is true not only for ourselves, but for every business and organization on the planet.
Like most carbon-neutral companies, Microsoft has achieved carbon neutrality primarily by investing in offsets that primarily avoid emissions instead of removing carbon that has already been emitted. That’s why we’re shifting our focus. In short, neutral is not enough to address the world’s needs.
While it is imperative that we continue to avoid emissions, and these investments remain important, we see an acute need to begin removing carbon from the atmosphere, which we believe we can help catalyze through our investments.
In addition, we’ve identified another shortcoming that we and many other companies need to overcome. Historically we’ve focused on Microsoft’s scope 1 and 2 emissions, but other than employee travel, we haven’t calculated as thoroughly our scope 3 emissions. That’s why we’re committing to becoming carbon negative for 2030 for all three scopes.
Taking responsibility for our carbon footprint
Based on this science and math, we’re launching today an aggressive plan to reduce Microsoft’s own carbon emissions. It has three broad components.
First, we will drive down our scope 1 and 2 emissions to near zero by the middle of this decade through the following steps:
By 2025, we will shift to 100 percent supply of renewable energy, meaning that we will have power purchase agreements for green energy contracted for 100 percent of carbon emitting electricity consumed by all our data centers, buildings, and campuses.
We will electrify our global campus operations vehicle fleet by 2030.
We will pursue International Living Future Institute Zero Carbon certification and LEED Platinum certification for our Silicon Valley Campus and Puget Sound Campus Modernization projects.
Second, we will reduce our scope 3 emissions by more than half by 2030 through new steps, including the following:
In July 2020, we will start phasing in our current internal carbon tax to cover our scope 3 emissions. Currently this fee is $15/metric ton and covers all scope 1 and 2 emissions, plus scope 3 travel emissions. Unlike some other companies, our internal carbon tax isn’t a “shadow fee” that is calculated but not charged. Our fee is paid by each division in our business based on its carbon emissions, and the funds are used to pay for sustainability improvements.
Starting in July, all our business divisions will also pay an internal carbon fee for all their scope 3 emissions. We will start at a lower price per ton than our current fee for other emissions, but we will phase in increases over time until all our scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions are charged the same rate. This will both increase incentives across the company to reduce all scope 3 emissions and fund the added work to reduce our own scope 3 emissions and invest in carbon removal activities.
By July of 2021, we will begin to implement new procurement processes and tools to enable and incentivize our suppliers to reduce their scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions. We will work with our suppliers to implement consistent and accurate reporting and pursue effective steps to make progress against scientifically based targets.
Third, by 2030 Microsoft will remove more carbon than it emits, setting us on a path to remove by 2050 all the carbon the company has emitted either directly or by electrical consumption since it was founded in 1975. We will achieve this through a portfolio of negative emission technologies (NET) potentially including afforestation and reforestation, soil carbon sequestration, bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCs), and direct air capture (DAC).
Microsoft will form its carbon removal portfolio annually by assessing NET attributes pertaining to four criteria: (1) scalability; (2) affordability; (3) commercial availability and (4) verifiability. Given the current state of technology and pricing, we will initially focus on nature-based solutions, with the goal of shifting to technology-based solutions between now and 2050, when they become more viable.
Investing for new carbon reduction and removal technology
Solving our planet’s carbon issues will require technology that does not exist today. That’s why a significant part of our endeavor involves putting Microsoft’s balance sheet to work to stimulate and accelerate the development of carbon removal technology. Our new Climate Innovation Fund will commit to invest $1 billion over the next four years into new technologies and expand access to capital around the world to people working to solve this problem. We understand that this is just a fraction of the investment needed, but our hope is that it spurs more governments and companies to invest in new ways as well.
We will primarily deploy this capital in two areas: (1) to accelerate ongoing technology development by investing in project and debt finance; and (2) to invest in new innovations through equity and debt capital.
We’ll focus our funding on investments primarily based on four criteria: (1) strategies that have the prospect of driving meaningful decarbonization, climate resilience, or other sustainability impact; (2) additional market impact in accelerating current and potential solutions; (3) relevance to Microsoft by creating technologies we can use to address our unpaid climate debt and future emissions; and (4) consideration of climate equity, including for developing economies.
In addition to this new fund, we will continue to invest in carbon monitoring and modeling projects through our AI for Earth program, which has grown over the past two years to support more than 450 grantees across more than 70 countries.
Empowering customers around the world
We believe that Microsoft’s most important contribution to carbon reduction will come not from our own work alone but by helping our customers around the world reduce their carbon footprints through our learnings and with the power of data science, artificial intelligence, and digital technology. For many customers, sustainability is already a core part of their business, while others are just beginning their work to mitigate their carbon impact. Regardless of where organizations are on their journey, we’re committed to being of help.
Better tracking of carbon starts by creating greater transparency on the carbon impact of services and products. Today we’re launching a new tool, the Microsoft Sustainability Calculator that analyzes the estimated emissions from Azure services through a Power BI dashboard. This helps customers better understand the carbon impact of their cloud workloads, discover the potential benefits from fully migrating to Azure, and assists them in reporting their carbon footprint for IT services for the often hard-to-track Scope 3 emissions.
We will follow this with new solutions and offerings that go further, including providing insight across Scopes 1, 2 and 3 and material circularity related to all Microsoft Azure services. We will also provide greater transparency on the carbon performance of Teams, Edge and other services and solutions. This work builds on a foundation of science-based methodologies and transparency on environmental performance of our cloud infrastructure and supply chain.
We are also launching a new 24/7 matching solution with Vattenfall – a first-of-its-kind approach that gives customers the ability to choose the green energy they want and ensure their consumption matches that goal using Azure IoT. This new level of transparency can enable users to adjust their business operations to better fit the availability of the green energy they prefer, further decreasing their carbon footprint.
We are also committed to pursuing new partnerships with our customers to address carbon reduction. This will include co-innovating with customers and partners to develop low-carbon solutions, as we’ve done with L&T Technology Services, ABB, and Johnson Controls on sustainable smart building solutions capable of reducing energy consumption by 40 percent; embedding sustainability into our strategic alliances as we’ve pioneered with AT&T and NTT; driving cross-industry collaborations and coalitions to develop new standards and tools.
The significance and complexity of the task ahead is incredible and will require contributions from every person and organization on the planet. That’s why we are committed to continuing to work with all our customers, including those in the oil and gas business, to help them meet today’s business demands while innovating together to achieve the business needs of a net zero carbon future. Continued improvement in standards of living around the world will require more energy, not less. It’s imperative that we enable energy companies to transition, including to renewable energy and to the development and use of negative emission technologies like carbon capture and storage and direct air capture. All this must be paired together to achieve the growing energy needs of an expanding global economy.
Ensuring effective transparency
When it comes to carbon reduction, real progress requires real transparency. As we’re doing today, Microsoft will continue to disclose the carbon footprint of our services and solutions. We will support strong industry-wide standards for transparency and reporting on carbon emissions and removal, and we will apply these ourselves.
Today we are also signing the United Nations’ 1.5-degree Business Ambition Pledge, and we hope many other companies will also join. We will publicly track our progress in our annual Environmental Sustainability Report.
Using our voice on carbon-related public policy issues
We will also use our voice to speak out on four public policy issues that we think can advance all of the world’s carbon efforts:
The need to expand global basic and applied research efforts on carbon, funded by governments, and reorient them towards targeted outcomes and enhanced cross-border collaboration to develop the breakthrough technologies needed to achieve net zero global emissions.
The removal of regulatory barriers to help catalyze markets to enable carbon-reduction technologies to scale more quickly.
The use of market and pricing mechanisms so people and businesses can make more informed carbon decisions.
The empowerment of consumers through transparency based on universal standards to inform purchasers about the carbon content of goods and services.
Enlisting our employees
Finally, we’ll capitalize on the energy and intellect of our employees by inviting and encouraging them to participate in our carbon reduction and removal efforts. As we’ve found with Microsoft’s accessibility efforts, we believe that sustainability is a cause that is not only important to our employees, but an area where they can generate important insights and innovations across the company.
We will create more opportunities for our employees to become actively involved, both in company-wide activities and in the work of their individual teams. We’re launching today an expanded internal site where our employees can learn more. Each year this work will culminate during our annual weeklong hackathon event that will include a specific focus and call for proposals on carbon reduction and removal.
The world’s next moonshot
Reducing carbon is where the world needs to go, and we recognize that it’s what our customers and employees are asking us to pursue. This is a bold bet — a moonshot — for Microsoft. And it will need to become a moonshot for the world.
It won’t be easy for Microsoft to become carbon negative by 2030. But we believe it’s the right goal. And with the right commitment, it’s an achievable goal. We will need to continue to learn and adapt, both separately and even more importantly in close collaboration with others around the world. We believe we launch this new initiative today with a well-developed plan and a clear line of sight, but we have problems to solve and technologies that need to be invented. It’s time to get to work.
The last several years have brought massive change – and opportunity – for the retail industry. Gone are the days when retailers chose when, where and what to sell; now consumers are in the driver’s seat, and retailers are being challenged to figure how to best engage with them. Additionally, they’re juggling pressures driven by industry trends such as the drive for more sustainability in retail, the proliferation of data, increased energy around “anywhere commerce,” the need to better equip store associates with technology and much more. But change often accelerates innovation, and because of this I believe that there’s never been a more exciting time to be a retailer at the intersection of retail and technology.
Microsoft continues to innovate side by side with retailers to help them embrace their biggest opportunities and enable intelligent retail by empowering businesses to take control of their own digital evolution. Our solutions enable retailers to transform across all parts of their business – from how they better understand their customers and empower employees, to putting the right technology in place to deliver an intelligent supply chain and ultimately reimagine their businesses. In the last year and a half, we’ve established ourselves as a trusted partner to some of the world’s largest retailers such as Walmart, Kroger and Walgreens Boots Alliance, among others. And we’ve empowered their transformation by providing the platforms on which to build innovation for all parts of their businesses.
We’ve learned a lot along the way both through our retail customers as well as our own physical retail presence about how technology can help this industry both embrace its biggest opportunities as well as tackle its biggest challenges. And today we’re sharing how our first-party innovations are helping to drive the future of intelligent retail across all parts of a retailer’s business.
Gaining a better understanding of your customers
If customers are the heart of the retail industry, data is the oxygen. Data has the potential to profoundly impact every single aspect of retailers’ businesses, including – and perhaps most importantly – how they respond to customer demands with differentiated and unique experiences.
We’re helping retailers surface actionable customer insights with data solutions like Azure Synapse Analytics, which helps retailers not only analyze vast amounts of data, but also apply machine learning to quickly surface insights that can drive immediate impact for their businesses, and Dynamics 365 Customer Insights, which helps maximize customer lifetime value by surfacing a 360-degree view of the customer to drive personalized engagements at scale. This means that even the most complex retailers, with thousands of suppliers in their end-to-end supply chain and millions of item-store combinations, can quickly make the decisions needed to not only run their businesses most efficiently but also delight customers in the process.
And with Dynamics 365 Connected Store, retailers like Marks & Spencer – which is piloting the solution in a store in London – can generate data within its physical stores that produces the same kind of actionable business insights as it gets from its digital storefronts. M&S is achieving this by analyzing data from smart devices such as video cameras and IoT sensors to provide real-time and predictive insights on everything from the current length of the checkout line to the traffic around endcap product displays to help associates make better decisions. We’re welcoming new retail customers into our Connected Store preview every day, so sign up here to request access.
One of the customer demands becoming more and more evident as retailers reason over their data is the desire for a seamless shopping experience regardless of where, when and how they choose to buy. We’ve invested in helping retailers bridge embrace this concept of commerce anywhere (aCommerce) with Dynamics 365 Commerce, the evolution of Dynamics 365 Retail and a true multi-channel solution that transforms the customer experience by unifying retailers’ back-office, in-store, call center and e-commerce experiences. One experience across all channels – that’s what customers are demanding today. The result? More personalized engagement with customers, employees who are better equipped to provide the best customer experience possible and deep insights to empower advanced decision making across every piece of a retailer’s business. I’m excited to announce that Dynamics 365 Commerce, currently in preview, with become generally available to our retail customers on Feb. 3.
Empowering employees with the tools they need to better serve customers
Despite the rise of e-commerce over the past couple of decades, we know that most shopping – across generations even – still happens in person. Research from Forbes Insights shows us that 60 percent of consumers still prefer to shop in physical retail environments, and this number stays fairly consistent across generations. This means that first-line workers are still one of a retailer’s most valuable assets – many times, they are the first impression a shopper gets of your brand and they play a significant role in customer acquisition and retention.
Retail associates need modern tools and experiences in order to remain productive and deliver the best customer service possible while on the store floor. With Microsoft 365, the world’s productivity cloud, and new first-line capabilities coming to Microsoft Teams later this year, we are in a unique position to help this often-overlooked part of the workforce get their jobs done. Today I’m thrilled to announce that we’re adding even more productivity and collaboration value into Teams, including task targeting, publishing and reporting, new workforce management integrations to streamline shift management and a new Walkie Talkie feature. By building push-to-talk functionality into Teams, we’re helping our retail customers turn company-owned smartphones and tablets into a secure walkie talkie, extending the range of traditional walkie-talkie communication and streamlining licensing and provisioning for retailers’ IT staff.
Finally, as we extend modern tools and experiences across the first-line workforce, we know that we need to make it easy for IT to manage and help enable a secure and compliant experience for all employees. I’m excited to disclose enhanced identity and access management capabilities – such as shared device sign-out for Android and inbound provisioning from leading workforce management providers such as SAP SuccessFactors and Workday – that will make onboarding retail associates and operating shared devices more secure and scalable, something our retail customers have been asking us to add for some time now. And, later this quarter, retailers will be able to enable SMS sign-in to Microsoft 365 and custom applications for retail workers and empower their store managers with delegated user management capabilities, making it easier to reset passwords and manage workers’ identities without additional demand on IT staff.
Infusing more intelligence into the supply chain
A retailer’s supply chain can play a major role in customer satisfaction – outdated supply chain processes can mean delays, unfulfilled orders and more. By connecting devices and collecting data, retailers can analyze that information to create new insights and ultimately a truly intelligent supply chain that enables them to provide the best service possible to customers. This is the Internet of Things (IoT), and as IoT becomes more mainstream it continues to be a huge driver of data for retailers today. In fact, our IoT Signals for Retail study found that 92 percent of retailers have adopted IoT and are using it in various stages of trials and deployments, with the most common IoT scenarios being driving store analytics (57 percent), supply chain optimization (48 percent) and security and loss prevention (46 percent and 45 percent, respectively).
We’re making building and deploying IoT applications in retail environments easier than ever with new Azure IoT Central solution templates that help retailers simplify IoT deployments to start driving immediate impact. Today, the Azure IoT Central Micro Fulfilment Center template joins five existing retail-focused templates – including for scenarios across connected logistics, digital distribution centers, in-store analytics and smart inventory management – to help retailers more easily optimize their fulfilment processes through a managed service that includes everything a retailer needs to get started today.
Reimagining retail business models and customer experiences
The success of today’s retailers’ physical store environments rests on their ability to disrupt themselves and their own status quo by pushing into new business models and providing new experiences and formats that engage customers and keep them coming back for more.
We understand this better than most technology vendors, because we’re continuing to move through this same transformation journey with our own Microsoft retail stores. Over the past several years, we’ve digitally transformed and extended our physical retail store strategy from an exclusively consumer storefront to a commerce engine that connects with all customers – from commercial enterprises to small businesses and consumers. Partnering with enterprise sales, we’re offering new experiences in and through our stores targeted toward our enterprise customers such as J. Crew, Office Depot and Marks & Spencer. Our stores are also at the forefront of adopting new Microsoft technology across cloud, predictive analytics, machine learning, cognitive services and more to solve our most complex challenges – and we’re learning from those experiences to ultimately pass those lessons along to our customers. And of course, that’s a two-way street – we’re also learning from our retail customers to inform how we manage and operate our stores too, which is indicative of the true partnerships we strive to establish with every retailer we work with.
While reimagining retail can lead to the kind of business transformation we’ve seen in our own store, it can take different forms as well, such as how retailers are tapping into new revenue streams and digitizing their own physical stores to drive new customer and employee experiences.
Microsoft PromoteIQ is an end-to-end commerce marketing platform enabling retailers to create a new critical growth engine for their businesses through at-scale vendor marketing programs. With Microsoft PromoteIQ, retailers can empower their brand partners with powerful marketing technology to natively promote products to in-market shoppers, reaching them at the right time to increase digital sales – all supported by a deep analytics suite to deliver impactful audience insights. And now, thanks to the integration with Microsoft Advertising, we can offer our retailer partners a powerful new source of incremental demand for their programs. Take Home Depot, for example. While you may expect the world’s largest home improvement retailer to do most of its business in person, HomeDepot.com is the fifth largest e-commerce site in the U.S. Consequently, the company needed a solution to help it maximize the nearly 170 million visitors per month its site was seeing by integrating an end-to-end commerce marketing platform with capabilities to manage and scale its vendor-funded digital marketing. Since deploying PromoteIQ, Home Depot has seen very positive results, including double-digit sales growth for promoted products through this program.
Of course, reaching customers at the right time is only half the equation; a retailer must also be able to deliver on what that customer is looking for. In fact, 80 percent of shoppers will abandon a site that produces poor search results. And that’s why we’re investing in this critical piece of digital commerce – product search. Microsoft Bing for Commerce is an intelligent artificial intelligence-driven solution for product search, personalization and product recommendations that gives retailers the power to meet today’s shopper expectations and grow revenue through more relevant and customized results that drive conversion. We’re also enabling our retailers to meet customers where and how they want to shop through visual search innovation included in Bing for Commerce, to help capture sales from new, emerging shopping behaviors.
Connect with us at NRF
Microsoft will have a significant presence at NRF once again this year, headlined by our own CEO Satya Nadella’s keynote session to open the show. You won’t want to miss hearing his perspective on business and cultural transformation, and how our retail customers are putting our technology into action to reimagine their businesses. And if you’re attending the show, make sure you stop by our Microsoft booth (#4501) to see how we’re bringing intelligent retail to life across all parts of a retailer’s business and how you can achieve the same – we’re offering complimentary envisioning workshops, where retailers will have an opportunity to work directly with us to create a shared vision and digital road map to unlock a future of endless possibilities.
You’re also invited to attend one of our sessions on the show floor – I’m leading a Big Ideas session where I’ll share my thoughts on the increasing importance of sustainability to the industry and how technology can help accelerate retailers’ sustainability visions. In addition, my colleagues Alysa Taylor, corporate vice president for Microsoft Business Applications and Global Industry, and Emma Williams, corporate vice president of Microsoft Office Vertical Solutions, and I will participate in the FQ Lounge at NRF along with many other “women rocking retail” for panel discussions about diversity and inclusion in the retail industry (we’re proud to be a sponsor of this space as well). And of course, visit Microsoft’s NRF page to keep up to date on the latest developments.
If you worked on Wall Street like I did in the fall of 2008, you most likely can recall exactly where you were and what you were doing when the market crashed, leading to the financial crisis that shook the world.
Looking back over the last decade, its impact on the financial services industry has been profound. 2010 launched new legislation, international standards, regulatory requirements and provisions that financial organizations are addressing today. In the last 10 years, financial services have also been one of the industries most impacted by digital disruption.
Financial institutions gradually shifted their views of technology from a way to improve operational efficiencies – automating manual and paper processes – to enhancing customer service through mobile solutions, and now as a transformative tool to enable everything from new business models, to compliance, to combating financial crime.
As we prepare to enter the 2020s, what will the financial services industry need to succeed in the next decade? Below, I share a few predictions, learnings and tips to help financial organizations thrive.
The next decade of financial services
Looking ahead, financial services organizations will need to be at the forefront of both technological disruption and geopolitical shifts. Together, these influences will continue to bring new competitive pressures, change the nature of work, impact people’s major life purchases, evolve customer expectations, and create the need to adapt business models and products to reflect societal and economic norms. Banks will also need to foster trust with a new generation of customers and employees who have different preferences and expectations.
As technology enables business models to shift and products and services to evolve, competition will be fierce, and relationships will change. Who in the industry is now a friend or foe? The single biggest tension will be between the traditional financial services organizations – particularly banks – and new, non-financial services entrants into the market who are carving away large portions of business and customers. Among these disruptors, “digital natives” pose the largest threat. Their business models are enabling them to quickly build and adapt new, intelligent products and acquire dedicated customers at an incredible pace.
That said, innovations that are helping digital natives thrive will also provide industry incumbents with the ability and agility to enable cultural and digital transformation and keep pace with the changing world. As I meet with our global customers, a common focus is on moving faster with higher impact. So, is there a formula for future success?
Leading with tech intensity
At Microsoft, we believe what will determine an organization’s future success is an approach called “tech intensity.” We see tech intensity as an equation: Tech Intensity = (Tech Adoption X Tech Capability) ^ Trust, and as a company, we are focused on providing the inputs to help our customers solve it.
Speed technology adoption: First, every leader will need to tune their organization to become a fast adopter of best-in-class technology. The use of cloud, artificial intelligence (AI), advanced analytics, open APIs and blockchain are all key technology tools that can help financial services address ongoing challenges and modernize and transform the way they do business now and in the future. At the core of their success is the ability to tap into the volumes of available data —from both inside and outside their organizations — and use it in meaningful ways to unlock new value, insights, opportunities and revenue streams.
As an example, LV= General Insurance (LV= GI) is one of the U.K.’s largest personal lines insurers with more than $2.23 billion annual premium income and serving more than 4 million customers. Data scientists within LV= GI looked for opportunities to supplement their existing claims processing expertise with machine learning to increase certainty in claim resolution. The result was a pioneering AI solution that LV= GI believes is – not only U.K.-leading – but industry leading worldwide. The results of integrating the new AI-driven system exceeded LV=GI’s expectations by reducing the 20% of complex, unclear claims to an astonishing 3.9%. It’s a massive swing that delivers customers real value and a net benefit to LV= GI in excess of seven figures.
Build unique capabilities: Second and equally important, organizations will need to build their own unique digital capabilities, essentially becoming technology companies themselves. There’s a very important human factor here that starts with workers who are deeply knowledgeable about the latest technology, backed by a culture that encourages capability-building and collaboration to generate new, breakthrough concepts.
New York-based Mastercard, processing about $20 billion in transactions a day across more than 210 countries or territories, and Microsoft, one of the top e-commerce merchants in the world, both felt an urgency in shifting toward online payments – especially with the increasing popularity of mobile apps and devices, which has made security more difficult even as consumers expect greater ease of use. Bringing together teams of engineers, the two companies spent three days hacking together and came up with a new service to make shopping online easier and more secure around the world, not only for shoppers, but also retailers and banks. This tech-intensity collaboration kicked off a new way of thinking about innovation that promises to lead to even more developments to help e-commerce thrive.
Ensure trust is your priority: Third, leadership in the digital economy will be exponentially amplified by the level of trust created with customers, partners and stakeholders — for their organization and the underlying technology.
With the goal of creating legendary experiences for more than 26 million customers, TD Bank Group, one of North America’s largest banks, knows that keeping up with changes in customer expectations and anticipating their needs is critical. They also know just how important each step of the customer’s journey is to their feeling about the experience. They are using the benefits of the cloud and complex information processing capabilities to receive detailed results from their data about the factors influencing customer satisfaction — including the feeling of trust the customer has — to improve the overall experience and deepen relationships with its customers.
Today, we announced results of a new Microsoft study, which found broad agreement across industries that tech intensity is essential for their survival: 75 percent of those surveyed said it’s the most effective way to build a competitive advantage today, and 83 percent agreed it’s critical for future success.
Building the future together
Tech intensity is the motivation behind our mission at Microsoft to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. As the new decade brings new challenges and opportunities, we are committed to helping our financial services customers unlock the power of data and empower their tech intensity journeys, by providing them with the choice of a more secure and compliant platform embedded with pervasive intelligence.
Here are a few tips to help harness the benefits of tech intensity.
Adopt an entrepreneurial outlook that encourages risk-taking.
Be willing to look outside your organization – and even industry – to gain a broader perspective of what technology can make possible.
Stay up to date on the latest trends in software and applications so your IT team has access to the latest commercial platforms, tools and training. This way, they can avoid recreating technology that has already been commoditized.
While the new decade will bring many challenges for the financial services industry, I believe it will bring even more opportunities. We’re already seeing many of our customers leading in the industry with a tech-intensity approach, and I’m excited to see how it will help our customers grow their businesses even more.
What do you believe creates our future? We believe it’s imagination. Take a moment to imagine with us. What if the clothes you wear could be both beautiful and alert you to increases in harmful pollution? What if cloud technologies based on optics could make datacenters more affordable and more sustainable? What if we could use every bit of data on every species that ever existed, to help tackle our toughest conservation challenges?
Innovation and imagination rely on our ability to see things differently. Microsoft is full of people who do just that, and the result of their alternative perspectives are groundbreaking ideas that will help shape the future. We are proud to share some of their most exciting projects and visions to inspire you to imagine along with us – stimulating your own ideas to spark even more breakthroughs. This is the idea behind ALT: The future from an alternative perspective, an initiative designed to open a window to some of our projects through video stories, labs and online experiences and at events.
We want more people to experience our biggest, boldest bets and dive even deeper into how we are looking at the world’s greatest challenges from a different perspective.
Think about computing, for example. By 2025, a fifth of the world’s total power is expected to be consumed by datacenters. We need to rethink compute, storage and networking to fulfill the future needs and do it in a sustainable way. In one of the projects highlighted, the future of the datacenter, we explore how optics can address this challenge. An example of this larger effort is Project Silica, which provides the ability to store terabytes of data on a virtually indestructible, thin platter of glass.
But beyond ones and zeros, we’re also thinking about Gs, Cs, As, and Ts – the building blocks of DNA. Applying programming principles to biology has the potential to transform medicine, agriculture and energy at global scale. Within Microsoft Research, a team known as Station B has been working with partners to leverage our expertise in languages, compilers, machine learning and cloud to develop the tools that will allow scientists to uncover computation in living systems.
We will continue to share these and many more ideas to spark your imagination. Just today we are releasing a new story that I hope you find as inspiring as we do – “A planetary computer of Earth.” This story shares how through artificial intelligence (AI) the power of cloud computing we can convert massive amounts of data into the insights and information needed by researchers, academics and environmental experts to create a more sustainable planet, redefining areas such as agriculture, biodiversity, climate change and water.
All these stories share our principled approach to innovation. We believe innovation should be meaningful – developed for lasting impact. We believe technology should be created to make our lives better, but also that can be trusted. And lastly, we believe innovation should be applied, turning incubations into mainstream products and platforms that help you to do the same.
The magic that comes when imagination becomes reality – when breakthroughs become disruptive technologies – is incredible! Think about the many technologies that started with these principles in mind and are now available for you to use and build on top of. Azure Cognitive Services which is now used by more than 1.3 million developers, started as an incubation project called “Project Oxford” and now puts our AI innovations in the hands of every developer. Automated Machine Learning began as a research paper on how to use machine learning to create machine learning and is now included in PowerBI, enabling hundreds of thousands of business users to create their own AI models. Just last week we released our annual holiday ad which showcases Microsoft Translator – which doesn’t really translate reindeer but is used by millions of people through the power of Microsoft Office, Teams or Skype.
Think about the ambitious ideas, once considered unattainable, that are now part of our lives. Far-off visions coming out of “science fiction,” that were once considered fantasy are now reality. As a long-time “Star Trek” fan, I’m amazed that the replicators I saw as a kid are now 3D printers, that “virtual display devices” are wearable technology and the concept of “warp speed” continues to be explored as a way to make interplanetary travel possible. Looking at things from an alternative perspective gives us all license to imagine, dream and create. We invite you to join us on this journey of imagination and possibility. Visit ALT: The future from an alternative perspective to experience the stories, consider what’s important to you and set off on your innovation journey today.
Today, I’m sharing the progress we’re making toward our goal to increase diversity at Microsoft globally. Our 2019 Diversity and Inclusion Report is our most comprehensive to date, and reflects our data, our journey, our learnings, and our employees’ stories. With this year’s report, we renew our commitment to our mission to consciously and intentionally include everyone.
In 2019, we made progress on our diversity and inclusion objectives, as reflected in the numbers. But there is another part of our journey that year-over-year data can’t convey: the depth of our commitment and the range of programs in place to keep diversity and inclusion at the heart of the work we do. And although we’re gratified to see the movement, we know we cannot take our focus off the work that needs to continue.
In addition to the numbers, the report reflects day-to-day learnings, and how we’re applying this knowledge to build trust and adapt as we go. For example, this year we enhanced some of the ways we measure and analyze our data to give us a more detailed look at specific areas where we’re hoping to improve.
Here are some of the new additions to this year’s reporting:
The Inclusion Index, shared publicly for the first time in this report, is an internal sentiment measure that helps us understand the effectiveness of company efforts by measuring employee perceptions about their experiences at Microsoft.
Equal pay data is being expanded to reflect the global representation of men and women in the U.S. plus the five largest markets outside the U.S. based on employee population. This data represents almost 80% of our workforce, giving us a more nuanced understanding of our pay practices globally.
We’ve distinguished directors and executives from each other in the category we previously labeled as “Leadership,” and called out metrics for women and racial and ethnic minorities among managers and individual contributors, to better examine representation throughout the workforce.
I do want to note that the data listed below does not include our broader Microsoft family of companies — LinkedIn, GitHub, Compulsion, Playground Games, Ninja Theory, InXile, Obsidian Entertainment and Undead Labs. The full report shows snapshots of data with and without these companies as well as a look at LinkedIn’s and GitHub’s reports that were also released today.
From June 2018 to June 2019 we saw encouraging gains in the representation of our employees. In terms of race and ethnicity, we saw modest year-over-year growth in total representation in all categories, including in tech and in leadership roles at both the director and executive level. Overall, racial and ethnic minorities represent 46.7% of the U.S. workforce, up 2.2 percentage points from 2018.
This year, continuing a positive trend dating back to 2016, there were steady increases in the representation of women globally at the company in all the aspects we measured, including tech and leadership roles. Overall representation of women increased 1.1 percentage points to 27.6%. At leadership levels, women currently represent 37% of our company’s executives responsible for leading a geographic market, with women currently leading three of our largest global markets.
We aspire to a workforce and culture that truly reflects the societies where we work, around the world, and there is clearly more we need to do.
In the U.S. women earn $1.001 for every $1.000 earned by their counterparts who are men, and racial and ethnic minorities earn $1.006 for every $1.000 earned by their white counterparts. As we expanded our equal pay data to include data on women and men from the U.S. plus the five largest markets outside the U.S. — collectively representing about 80% of our workforce — we see that women in those combined geographies earn $0.999 for every $1.000 by their counterparts who are men. At Microsoft, we are committed to the principle of equal pay for equal work for our employees and strive to pay employees equally for substantially similar work.
Our Microsoft Inclusion Index, shared publicly for the first time, reflects that 88% of employees agree that they experience positive aspects of inclusion at Microsoft. With our scale and global reach, this is a positive indicator, but we know we have a responsibility to engage those who are not part of that 88%.
Our broad responsibility
With our corporate mission, our scale, and our global reach, we have a responsibility to do far more than just raise awareness about inclusion. We are uniquely positioned to drive the conversation, to have a meaningful, tangible impact on how people experience Microsoft products and services, and how they engage within our workplace and with the company in general. Our responsibility is not just to those who work with us, but to the larger technology industry, the industries we serve and the communities where we live.
I encourage you all to read the full report to explore much more detailed data, insights, employee stories, and initiatives, as well as our learnings to see how we’re applying this knowledge.
We’ve seen incredible growth of Dynamics 365 and the Power Platform just in the past year. This momentum is driving a massive investment in people and breakthrough technologies that will empower organizations to transform in the next decade.
We have allocated hundreds of millions of dollars in our business cloud that power business transformation across markets and industries and help organizations solve difficult problems.
This fiscal year we are also heavily investing in the people that bring Dynamics 365 and the Power Platform to life — a rapidly growing global network of experts, from engineers and researchers to sales and marketing professionals. Side-by-side with our incredible partner community, the people that power innovation at Microsoft will fuel transformational experiences for our customers into the next decade.
Accelerating innovation across industries
In every industry, I hear about the struggle to transform from a reactive to proactive organization that can respond to changes in the market, customer needs, and even within their own business. When I talk to customers who have rolled out Dynamics 365 and the Power Platform, the conversation shifts to the breakthrough outcomes they’ve achieved, often in very short time frames.
Customers talk about our unique ability to connect data holistically across departments and teams — with AI-powered insights to drive better outcomes. Let me share a few examples.
This year we’ve focused on a new vision for retail that unifies back office, in-store and digital experiences. One of Washington state’s founding wineries — Ste. Michelle Wine Estates — is onboarding Dynamics 365 Commerce to bridge physical and digital channels, streamline operations with cloud intelligence and continue building brand loyalty with hyper-personalized customer experiences.
When I talk to manufacturers, we often zero in on ways to bring more efficiency to the factory floor and supply chain. Again, it’s our ability to harness data from physical and digital worlds, reason over it with AI-infused insights, that opens doors to new possibilities. For example, Majans, the Australian-based snackfood company, is creating the factory of the future with the help of Microsoft Dynamics 365 Supply Chain Management, Power BI and Azure IoT Hub — bringing Internet of Things (IoT) intelligence to every step in the supply chain, from quality control on the production floor to key performance indicators to track future investments. When everyone relies on a single source of truth about production, inventory and sales performance, decisions employees make drive the same outcome — all made possible on our connected business cloud.
These connected experiences extend to emerging technologies that bridge digital and physical worlds, such as our investment in mixed reality. We’re working with companies like PACCAR — manufacturer of premium trucks — to improve manufacturing productivity and employee training using Dynamics 365 Guides and HoloLens 2, as well as Siemens to enable technicians to service its eHighway — an electrified freight transport system — by completing service steps with hands-free efficiency using HoloLens and two-way communication and documentation in Dynamics 365 Field Service.
For many of our customers, the journey to Dynamics 365 and the Power Platform started with a need for more personalized customer experiences. Our customer data platform (CDP) featuring Dynamics 365 Customer Insights, is helping Tivoli Gardens — one of the world’s longest-running amusement parks — personalize guest experiences across every touchpoint — on the website, at the hotel and in the park. Marston’s has onboarded Dynamics 365 Sales and Customer Insights to unify guest data and infuse personalized experiences across its 1,500-plus pubs across the U.K.
The value of Dynamics 365 is compounded when coupled with the Power Platform. In late 2019, there are over 3 million monthly active developers on the Power Platform, from non-technical “citizen developers” to Microsoft partners developing world-class, customized apps. In the last year, we’ve seen a 700% growth in Power Apps production apps and a 300% growth in monthly active users. All of those users generate a ton of data, with more than 25 billion Power Automate steps run each day and 25 million data models hosted in the Power BI service.
The impact of the Power Platform is shared in the stories our customers share with us. TruGreen, one of the largest lawn care companies in the U.S., onboarded Dynamics 365 Customer Insights and the Microsoft Power Platform to provide more proactive and predictive services to customers, freeing employees to spend more time on higher value tasks and complex customer issue resolution. And the American Red Cross is leveraging Power Platform integration with Teams to improve disaster response times.
From the Fortune 500 companies below to the thousands of small and medium sized businesses, city and state governments, schools and colleges and nonprofit organizations — Dynamics 365 and the Microsoft Cloud are driving transformative success delivering on business outcomes.
Partnering to drive customer success
We can’t talk about growth and momentum of Dynamics 365 and Power Platform without spotlighting our partner community — from ISVs to System Integrators that are the lifeblood of driving scale for our business. We launched new programs, such as the new ISV Connect Program, to help partners get Dynamics 365 and Power Apps solutions to market faster.
Want to empower the next generation of connected cloud business? Join our team!
The incredible momentum of Dynamics 365 and Power Platform means our team is growing, too. In markets around the globe, we’re looking for people who want to make a difference and take their career to the next level by helping global organizations digitally transform on Microsoft Dynamics 365 and the Power Platform. If you’re interested in joining our rapidly growing team, we’re hiring across a wealth of disciplines, from engineering to technical sales, in markets across the globe. Visit careers.microsoft.com to explore business applications specialist career opportunities.
Imagine an autonomous vehicle navigating a smoke-filled mine looking for survivors, personal belongings or any other clues to find anyone who might be alive. It identifies objects it sees and decides which paths to take first. As it reaches the limit of where it can explore, a drone sitting on the vehicle flies off to explore the hard-to-reach corners of the mine. All of this is done without any communication with the outside world. Believe it or not, this isn’t science fiction! Team Explorer from Carnegie Mellon University and Oregon State University did exactly this to win the first event of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Subterranean Challenge.
Today we live in the age of data-driven artificial intelligence (AI), where machine intelligence systems solve difficult problems by considering hundreds of millions of trials or training episodes. Hard problems in perception and decision making that were considered too tough by the community even in the recent past are today being successfully solved using techniques such as reinforcement learning (RL).
I’ve often thought about how advances like these in machine perception and automated decision-making could help us do things like build intelligent robots, and in particular tackle the challenges of optimal control of dynamical systems. And since my early days as a graduate student at Carnegie Mellon, I’ve been fascinated by the tight loop between perception — using computer intelligence to sense surroundings — and action — using this feedback and data to make decisions. Today, our work teaching computers to play games (e.g., mastering Ms. Pac-Man) has the ability to fundamentally change the way we will build control systems in the future. The potential applications could impact a wide range of industries with profound impact on safety and productivity — going well beyond just the self-driving cars that dominate today’s news cycles.
Today’s engineered devices and systems use rules-based logic to bring together the scientific principles, technology and mathematics which have been painstakingly discovered over time by subject matter experts and engineers. But what if our engineers of the future could build control systems infused with machine intelligence that go beyond rules-based logic, and respond in real-time to changing environments to accomplish their goal? Technologies such as RL that are seeing tremendous success in solving video games will be key to building real-world sequential decision-making mechanisms and will power our next generation of autonomous systems.
Helping engineers build action-perception loops for the real world Translating the success of RL in video games to real-world autonomous systems carries big challenges — for example, no one loses a life making the wrong move in a video game! AI can’t learn from its failures as easily in the real world, where the potential cost of mistakes can be huge. Additionally, newer AI techniques are data hungry. For example, it takes hundreds of millions of tries before a seemingly respectable policy can be trained for many of these gaming tasks. So, operating physical systems like machines or chemical processes for millions of cycles to generate data to train AI can be a very expensive proposition.
Today, I’m excited to talk about how new breakthroughs in the world of machine teaching and creating high-fidelity simulations will enable you to tackle these challenges.
Machine teaching – a new paradigm to infuse domain knowledge to help improve learning Our researchers have been hard at work on developing machine teaching, which infuses expert domain knowledge and harnesses human expertise to break a big problem into easier, smaller tasks. It also can give AI models important clues about how to find a solution faster, dramatically accelerating model training time. There’s still AI underneath the hood, but you as the expert provide examples, or lesson plans, to help the learning algorithms solve the task at hand. Since you are the one giving the lessons, describing the goals, desired behavior, and safety boundary conditions, the resulting AI models are also far more explainable and auditable once they are deployed. I know I wouldn’t want a “black-box” AI model running the control loop for my systems!
Borrowing a quote from Alfred Aho and Jeffrey Ullman, “Computer Science is the science of abstraction, creating the right model for thinking about a problem and devising the appropriate mechanizable techniques to solve it.” I think of machine teaching as the abstraction we are creating, the right model for thinking about applying domain expertise to AI systems. It can help you to bridge between the model-first mindset of engineers and the code-first mindset practiced by software developers.
High-fidelity simulations – A critical path to gather experiences at scale Similar to machine teaching, simulations offer a way to generate synthetic data that can train machine intelligence systems at scale and without taking unnecessary risks. Simulations are a safe and cost-efficient way to train AI models, if you can model the key elements like the devices, the sensors and the environment interacting with your system. That allows you to simulate all possible scenarios, including edge situations — such as when a certain sensor or actuator fails — to teach the AI how to adapt to those situations.
For example, we built an open source simulator for aerial and other robotic vehicles called Aerial Informatics and Robotics Simulation, or AirSim for short. AirSim allows the simulation of a wide variety of environments, lighting conditions, sensors and fusion of sensor data. AirSim’s ability to create near-realistic autonomy pipelines is how Team Explorer secured its win.
Most of our customers use highly specialized simulation software for their specific use cases. We’re working with leading simulation makers in the industry like MathWorks to bring these simulators to Azure. MathWorks is the leading developer of mathematical computing software, including MATLAB and Simulink, used by millions of engineers and scientists to design complex embedded and multidomain systems. These partnerships will enable you to easily produce the large volumes of synthetic data needed to quickly train AI models for your specific use case.
The possibilities are endless, and the time is now We’re continuing to bring AI to engineers and designers that will harness their expertise and trustworthy autonomy as the foundation for accelerated innovation. Customers like Delta, Shell and Toyota are already starting to use and benefit from this approach. From industrial applications to search and rescue operations like in the DARPA challenge, the applications of this technology will be endless. We hope you will join us on this journey to start inventing the future!
Today we live in a world where every company is a software company, and technology is deeply woven throughout company workflow and individual productivity. In this world, the role of IT and developers is becoming increasingly important, and that is why we are so excited to welcome more than 26,000 IT implementers and decision makers, developers, data professionals and other people across industries to experience the latest Microsoft technology at Microsoft Ignite in Orlando, Florida.
In the next week, we’ll unveil a broad range of new tools and services to help companies and individuals put their data to work for them, help employees build expertise quickly, and allow businesses to take advantage of key Azure tools no matter what cloud provider they’re using.
It’s also a time when intelligent insights and security are paramount. AI is infused into updates and powerful new features in many of the tools you already use every day, and so is our firm commitment to security and privacy. You’ll see how our approach of investing in built-in capabilities, cloud-powered intelligence and integration is helping customers address some of the biggest security and compliance challenges they face.
Here are a few highlights from today:
We’re announcing Azure Synapse Analytics, a new service that merges the capabilities of Azure SQL Data Warehouse with new enhancements that will help customers put their data to work much more quickly and securely by pulling together insights from all data sources, data warehouses and big data analytics systems.
We’re launching a preview of Azure Arc, which offers Azure services and management to customers on other clouds or infrastructure, including those offered by Amazon and Google.
We are sharing a public preview of a new robotic process automation capability in Power Automate (formerly Microsoft Flow) called UI flows, which lets users turn manual tasks into automated workflows by recording and playing back human-driven actions across software that does not support API automation, with point-and-click experience. With this update, Power Automate is a comprehensive, end-to-end automation platform.
We’re announcing Project Cortex, the first new Microsoft 365 service since the launch of Microsoft Teams, and a cornerstone of Microsoft’s vision to transform knowledge and learning for customers. This new tool is a cross between a powerful organizer of enterprise content and a digital concierge that brings people the information they need in the context of their workflow.
We’re delivering new experiences across Microsoft 365 that put people at the center so they can do their best work. A few of my favorite new experiences that will make my life easier are:
Play My Emails in Outlook for iOS Cortana uses natural voice and language recognition to intelligently read new emails aloud and share scheduling changes, making it possible to catch up and act on emails even when your hands are busy with other things.
New voice enhance in Stream uses machine learning algorithms to detect and eliminate unwanted background noise in any video with just one click.
We’re introducing the new Microsoft Edge and Microsoft Bing, enhanced with unique solutions including one that brings together the internet with your intranet via Microsoft Search in Bing, as well as powerful default privacy protection and the ability to move from web research directly into Microsoft Office applications.
If you aren’t able to join us in Orlando this week, you can watch CEO Satya Nadella’s keynote live or on demand, as well as check out all the highlights on our news page. And there are also more than 1,000 great sessions available to watch virtually.
Microsoft Ignite is the place to get a comprehensive look at the future of enterprise technology, as well as inspiration, training and connections that help attendees drive their businesses forward. It’s going to be a great week!
We live in an increasingly connected world. I commute to work in a connected car, one that gets over-the-air updates with new experiences. I’m connected to my work and personal life in real time with my smartphone and laptop. And I work in a connected office, one that knows how to automatically save energy and ensure security. From the moment I woke up today, I was immersed in an IoT world.
And so were you.
We are surrounded by connected devices, all of them collecting and transmitting vast amounts of information. That makes a seamless, smart and secure Internet of Things (IoT) important to us all.
This week at IoT Solutions World Congress we are announcing new capabilities that further simplify the customer journey and deliver highly secured IoT solutions. These solutions help customers embrace IoT as a core strategy to drive better business outcomes, improve safety and address social issues, such as:
Predicting and preventing equipment failures
Optimizing smart buildings for space utilization and energy management
Improving patient outcomes and worker safety
Tracking assets across a supply chain that is constantly being optimized
IDC expects that 41.6 billion devices — including smartphones, smart home assistants and appliances — will be connected to the internet by 2025.
At Microsoft, we are committed to providing a trusted, easy-to-use platform that allows our customers and partners to build seamless, smart and secure solutions regardless of where they are in their IoT journey.
Making IoT seamless: Delivering new IoT innovations from cloud to edge
In 2018, we announced our commitment to invest $5 billion in IoT and intelligent edge — technology that is accelerating ubiquitous computing and bringing unparalleled opportunity for transformation across industries. Since then, we have launched more than 100 new services and features in our IoT platform designed to make IoT solutions more secure and scalable, reduce complexity, make our platform more open and create opportunities in new market areas.
Azure IoT Central, our IoT app platform, reduces the burden and costs associated with developing, managing and maintaining enterprise-grade IoT solutions. With IoT Central you can provision an IoT application in 15 seconds, customize it in an hour and go to production the same day.
And today, we are excited to announce a set of breakthrough features to help solution builders accelerate time-to-value:
11 newindustry-focusedapplication templates to accelerate solution builders across retail, health care, government and energy
API support for extending IoT Central or integrating it with other solutions, including API support for device modeling, provisioning, lifecycle management, operations and data querying
IoT Edge support, including management for edge devices and IoT Edge module deployments
IoT plug-and-play support for rapid device development and connectivity
The ability to save and load applications to enable application repeatability
More data export options for continually exporting data to other Azure Platform as a Service (PaaS) services
Multitenancy support to build and manage a single application with multiple tenants, each with their own isolated data, devices, users and roles
Custom user roles for fine-grained access control to data, actions and configurations in the system
A new pricing model for early 2020 to provide customers and partners with predictable pricing as usage scales
A variety of partners are already using IoT Central to transform their industries. For example, C.H. Robinson, a Fortune 500 provider of multimodal transportation services and third-party logistics, is using Intel intelligent gateways and IoT tags managed by IoT Central, allowing it to quickly integrate IoT data and insights into its industry-leading Navisphere Vision product. Key retailers are using Navisphere, including Microsoft’s own supply-chain teams who are optimizing logistics and costs as we prepare to deliver Surface and Xbox products for the holidays.
Read more on our IoT Central blog about how partners are leveraging IoT Central to transform their businesses and their industries.
Making IoT smarter
Azure IoT Hub is the core of our Azure IoT platform services. It is used by IoT Central and acts as a powerful cloud gateway, enabling bidirectional communication with millions of IoT devices. We are excited to announce new features that will make IoT solutions using IoT Hub even smarter:
IoT Hub message enrichment adds the ability to stamp messages with rich information before they are sent, simplifying downstream processing and accelerating customer insights
IoT Hub integrates with Azure Event Grid, making it easier to send device telemetry events to Azure services. Azure Event Grid on IoT Edge is now available in Public Preview. IoT Hub message enrichment and telemetry events in Event Grid will be in general availability by the end of November.
Maersk, the world’s largest container shipping company, is using IoT Hub to move over 12 million containers a year all over the globe. “With Azure IoT Hub, we have seamless two-way communication between our IoT platform and devices,” says Siddhartha Kulkarni, digital solutions enabler, A.P. Moller – Maersk. “The ability to send commands from within Azure IoT Hub makes it a command and control system and not just a data ingestion system. Being able to set up Azure IoT Hub globally in different locations and regionalize data ingestion opens up many future options for us.” Read the Maersk customer story here.
And Danfoss, a Danish company that creates products and provides services used to cool food, heat and air condition buildings and more, is using Azure IoT Hub to build IoT solutions with reliable and secure communications between its IoT devices for refrigerators and an Azure-hosted solution backend.
Azure Maps inherits the goodness of Azure — including global scalability, robust security and data sovereignty — and provides location intelligence to IoT applications with mapping and geospatial services to drive insights and action.
For 12 consecutive years, Gartner has recognized Microsoft as a leader in analytics and business intelligence. With integration into Power BI, Azure Maps now enables Power BI users to easily perform Geospatial Analytics, enabling customers to build out Azure Maps solutions that don’t require developer resources. And to provide world-class security, protection and compliance to government customers, Azure Maps is now available on Government Cloud.
And now, in partnership with AccuWeather, Azure Maps customers can add geospatial weather intelligence into their applications to enable weather-based scenarios, such as routing, targeted marketing and operations optimization. “This is a game changer,” says Dr. Joel N. Myers, AccuWeather founder and CEO. “AccuWeather’s partnership with Microsoft gives all Azure Maps customers the ability to easily integrate authentic and highly accurate weather-based location intelligence and routing into their applications. This opens up new opportunities for organizations large and small to benefit from our superior weather data based on their unique needs.”
Azure Time Series Insights provides a turnkey, end-to-end IoT analytics solution with rich semantic modeling for contextualization of time series data, asset-based insights, and a best-in-class user experience for discovery, trending, anomaly detection and operational intelligence. It is purpose-built for IoT scale data, allowing customers to focus on their businesses without having to worry about manageability of their infrastructure, regional availability or disaster recovery. We are excited to announce the new capabilities, releasing soon:
Multilayered storage that provides the best of both worlds: lightning-fast access to frequently used data (“warm data”) and fast access to infrequently used historical data (“cold data”)
Flexible cold storage: Historical data is stored in the customer’s own Azure Storage account, giving them complete control of their IoT data. Data is stored in open source Apache Parquet format, enabling predictive analytics, machine learning, and other custom computations using familiar technologies including Spark, Databricks and Jupyter
Rich analytics: Rich query APIs and user experience supported interpolation, new scalar and aggregate functions, categorical variables, scatter plots and time shifting between time series signals for in-depth analysis
Enterprise-grade scale: Scale and performance improvements at all layers, including ingestion, storage, query and metadata/model
Extensibility and integration: New Time Series Insights Power BI connector allows customers to take queries from Time Series Insights into Power BI to get a unified view in a single pane of glass
Through our Express Logic acquisition, Azure RTOS (real-time operating system) continues to enable new intelligent capabilities. It unlocks access to billions of new connected endpoints and grows the number of devices that can seamlessly connect to Azure. Renesas is a top MCU (MicroController Unit) manufacturer who shares our vision of making IoT development as easy and seamless as possible and we are excited to announce that Azure RTOS will be broadly available across Renesas’s products including the Synergy and RA MCU families. It is already integrated into the Renesas Synergy Software Package and will be integrated out-of-box with the Renesas RA Flexible Software Package).
Making IoT more secure, from cloud to edge
Enabling a future of intelligent and secure computing at the edge for organizations, enterprises and consumers will require advances in computer architecture down to the chip level, with security built in from the beginning. Microsoft is taking a holistic approach to securing the intelligent edge and IoT from the silicon to the cloud in a way that gives customers flexibility and control.
Azure Sphere is quickly becoming the solution of choice for customers across industries — including Starbucks, Gojo and Leoni — as they look to securely connect existing mission-critical equipment and develop net-new devices and equipment with security built in. Today we are excited to announce the upcoming general availability of Azure Sphere in February 2020. Read more about the upcoming Azure Sphere general availability on the Microsoft Security blog.
Our mission is to set a new standard for IoT security that makes it easier to securely connect existing equipment and create new devices with built-in security. In April 2018, we introduced Azure Sphere as an end-to-end solution that includes an Azure Sphere-certified chip, the Azure Sphere Operating System and the Azure Sphere Security Service. The solution is designed to make it easy for manufacturers to create innately secure devices and keep those devices up-to-date over time with over a decade of security and OS updates delivered directly to each device by Microsoft.
Since we first introduced Azure Sphere, we’ve made tremendous progress delivering on our ambitious product vision, investing in partnerships and capabilities that help us serve customers wherever they are in their IoT journey. This includes our partnerships with silicon leaders to enable heterogeneity at the edge; our longstanding partnership with MediaTek, and our recent partnership announcements with NXP and Qualcomm, which will introduce the first cellular-enabled Azure Sphere-certified chip.
Discover how to unlock your own IoT opportunities
We have a number of ways to learn more, no matter what your goals are and where you are on your IoT journey.
Come see us at IoT Solutions World Congress 2019 in Barcelona, Oct. 29–31, 2019. We will be bringing IoT solutions to life in our booth (#D411), across various industries and scenarios:
IoT at Home, featuring ABB & EnOcean
IoT on My Commute, featuring Dover Oil & Accenture
IoT in the Office, featuring Bosch & Edge
IoT in Store, featuring Codit & Cognizant
IoT for a Drink, featuring Celli Group
IoT in the Factory, featuring Softing & PTC
You can also catch my keynote on Tuesday, Oct. 29, Unlocking the Next Frontier of the Internet of Things.