Microsoft made a ton of announcements at and around the Microsoft Build 2020 conference. Included in all the announcements was a tone of news surrounding the Internet of Things (IoT) space and what innovations Microsoft is bringing to Microsoft Azure and Windows for building IoT solutions; including hardware, software, and cloud innovations!

Let’s dig into the top IoT related announcements from Microsoft Build 2020!

Microsoft IoT Vision and Roadmap

The head of Azure IoT at Microsoft, Sam George, presented an overall Microsoft IoT Vision and Roadmap session at Microsoft Build 2020. In this session, you’ll find the overall vision of the Internet of Things (IoT) landscape coming from Microsoft over the next year or so. This really wraps things up to give you a clear vision of where Microsoft stands with IoT, and all the various components the provide for building out and managing IoT solutions.

This all includes a massive portfolio of services, offerings, and products that will help you build every aspect of your IoT solutions using Microsoft technologies. It’s a fairly long list, so here’s a screenshot from the session that lists everything out in one place:

Top 11 Azure IoT Announcements from Build 2020 1
Microsoft’s comprehensive IoT product portfolio – Source: Microsoft

Here’s the full session with Sam George:

Build 2020 Session: Microsoft IoT Vision and Roadmap | INT176B

Azure IoT Developer Certification

In early 2020, Microsoft introduced the new Microsoft Certified: Azure IoT Developer Specialty certification with the initial Beta of exam AZ-220. This provides the first cloud-based IoT Developer certification in the industry, and covers the Azure IoT components for building Internet of Things solutions. Recently, the exam was moved out of Beta, and is generally available for anyone to take and get certified as an Azure IoT Developer!

Microsoft Azure IoT Developer Certification (AZ-220) Prerequisites, Objectives, and Study Tips from Chris Pietschmann

In addition to this awesome new certification, is the release of a ton of Free Azure IoT Hands-on Lab Modules from Microsoft over on the Microsoft Learn website. These labs will help you learn and prepare for this certification, in addition to helping you become a Microsoft Azure IoT Developer and build the next great IoT solution for your organization!

Azure Digital Twins: Create Digital Replicas of Real World Things

Azure Digital Twins enable you to create comprehensive models of physical environments in a virtual space. This means they help you represent physical assets, environments, and business systems as digital replicas called “digital twins.” These help you build out solutions that can understand, control, simulate, analyze, and improve how these things work in the real-world.

At Microsoft Build 2020, new preview features were announced that provide the next iteration of Azure Digital Twins. These features help make it easier for developers to build dynamic virtual replicas of the physical world. The new capabilities include rich and flexible modeling with full graph topologies, live execution environments, easier integration with other Azure services, and query APIs.

IoT Plug and Play: Develop, Connect, and Update Devices Easier

IoT Plug and Play, first released in Preview last year, provides an open approach to really help accelerate IoT by reducing the time to develop software on IoT devices, connect those devices to IoT solutions, and update each device independently. At Build 2020, Microsoft announced a couple new features for IoT Plug and Play that will be coming soon:

  • IoT Plug and Play and Azure Digital Twins will now share the same Digital Twin Definition Language (DTDL) modeling language to make it simpler to connect IoT Plug and Play devices to Azure Digital Twins.
  • Work is being done to make it possible to integrate IoT Plug and Play with existing IoT devices by authoring a DTDL document that describes the interaction of the device.

Azure Time Series Insights: New GA Features

Azure Time Series Insights is Microsoft’s platform for creating end-to-end analytics that help to monitor, analyze and visualize Industrial IoT (IIoT) data at scale. Microsoft announced a few new features for Time Series Insights (TSI) coming in the next few months.

  • Enhanced analytics user experience
  • Seamless integration with advanced machine learning platforms and analytics tools
  • Native connector to Power BI
  • Semantic model support for metadata
  • Addition of Azure Data Lake Storage Gen2 support
  • And more

Azure Maps: New Map Creator

Azure Maps is a platform for integrating maps and GIS capabilities into your IoT solutions. It now includes features for building and integrating indoor maps so you can visualize and represent your indoor facilities on Azure Maps. At Build 2020, Microsoft announced the new Azure Maps Creator for indoor maps that provides a tool to help you build out those indoor maps and indoor map experiences.

Azure IoT Central: Support for Azure Sphere and Azure IoT Edge

IoT Central is a fully managed SaS (Software-as-a-Service) IoT application platform from Microsoft. This platform enables you to start building out IoT solutions without writing any core, or even needing to know about how to architect Azure IoT solutions using Azure services. The announcements made at Build 2020 include the introduction to Azure IoT Central receiving Azure Sphere and Azure IoT Edge support.

Azure IoT Hub & Azure IoT Edge: Greater Enterprise Capabilities

Azure IoT Hub is a central component to building IoT solutions utilizing Microsoft Azure. IoT Hub provides a cloud message broker service for connecting IoT devices with Microsoft Azure at scale with 2-way IoT messaging. Microsoft keeps innovating the Azure IoT Hub service, including with the addition of Azure IoT Edge to help run cloud capabilities closer to devices on a local network. At Build 2020, Microsoft announced the new Private Link Support for Azure IoT Hub that brings the capability to securely connect Azure IoT Hub to a Virtual Network (VNet) and connect devices to Azure over a VPN or ExpressRoute connection.

Top 11 Azure IoT Announcements from Build 2020 2
Announcing: Azure IoT Hub Private Link Support – Source: Microsoft

Additionally, Microsoft announced some new advancements to Azure IoT Edge that include greater enhancements for building out the IoT Edge components of IoT solutions utilizing Azure IoT Edge. You can see the main features announced for Azure IoT Edge in the below graphic from Microsoft.

Top 11 Azure IoT Announcements from Build 2020 3
New Azure IoT Edge Enterprise Grade Capabilities – Source: Microsoft

Azure RTOS: Operating System for Real-Time Devices

Azure RTOS provides a Real-Time Operating System from Microsoft for building out embedded IoT devices. This is a light weight real-time operating system for running on microcontrollers (MCUs) and microprocessors (MPUs) that helps streamline building high-performing devices.

At Build 2020, Microsoft announced the General Availability release of Azure RTOS, and added support for development kits from ST, Renesas, NXP, and Microchip.

Top 11 Azure IoT Announcements from Build 2020 4
Azure RTOS General Availability – Source: Microsoft

If you’re interested, you can find the source code for Azure RTOS on GitHub too.

Azure Sphere: Now Generally Available

Azure Sphere provides a platform for building more highly secured IoT solutions. This platform is made possible by developing a security first platform comprised of hardware, software, and cloud components. The initial preview of Azure Sphere was released back in 2018, and in early 2020 Microsoft released Azure Sphere general availability. Microsoft relies on Azure Sphere within their own datacenters to securely connect critical infrastructure more securely that delivers Azure cloud services at scale.

At Build 2020, Microsoft demonstrated how Azure Sphere and Azure RTOS are better together. Azure Sphere runs a custom Linux kernel on an ARM Cortex-A CPU to build out the device with the Azure Sphere OS, and manage the device securely with the Azure Sphere Security Service (AS3). The Azure Sphere silicon also includes an ARM Cortex-M CPU built for real-time processing where you can run Azure RTOS to build the real-time software of the Azure Sphere solution.

Top 11 Azure IoT Announcements from Build 2020 5
Azure Sphere & Azure RTOS Better Together – Source: Microsoft

Windows for IoT: More Updates

At Build 2020, Microsoft also announced some upcoming changes and additions to the Windows for IoT space. A few of these include the following announcements:

  • Greater integration with Azure by enabling Linux modules with Azure IoT Edge on Windows
  • Convergence of Windows 10 IoT Core and Windows 10 IoT Enterprise
  • Continuing innovation with Windows 10 IoT Enterprise
  • Support to modernize legacy applications with Windows CE App Containers
  • Support Robot Operating System (ROS) on Windows 10 IoT Enterprise

Wrap Up

Microsoft Build is the largest developer focused conference from Microsoft held annually. The event is always filled with tons of news, updates, and announcements from Microsoft. This year was no different, even though the event was held completely online due to the recent COVID-19 pandemic. Regardless, Microsoft made a ton of great announcements relating to how they are innovating in the Internet of Things space in both the cloud and hardware spaces.

Happy developing IoT solutions!

Microsoft MVP

Chris Pietschmann is a Microsoft MVP, HashiCorp Ambassador, and Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT) with 20+ years of experience designing and building Cloud & Enterprise systems. He has worked with companies of all sizes from startups to large enterprises. He has a passion for technology and sharing what he learns with others to help enable them to learn faster and be more productive.
HashiCorp Ambassador Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT) Microsoft Certified: Azure Solutions Architect