Microsoft is making available as of today, December 5, a public preview of its IoT software-as-a-service offering called Microsoft IoT Central.
Microsoft IoT Central is a software-as-a-service (SaaS) offering for connecting physical devices to back-end services, such as field service, customer engagement, predictive maintenance, asset utilization, energy management, and productivity services. It allows users to gain insights into devices via analytics services and make proactive decisions about those IoT devices.
Microsoft first announced plans for IoT Central in April 2017. The final version is expected sometime in calendar 2018.
Microsoft IoT Central is one of two Microsoft Azure-powered services meant to simplify IoT. The other, Azure IoT Suite -- Microsoft's platform-as-a-service IoT service which it introduced several years ago -- requires considerably more customization.
With the Azure IoT suite, customers had a lot of flexibility, but more complexity. Some customers needed a year or more to get a proof of concept written and a pilot set up using that service, said Sam George, Director of Azure IoT. Microsoft's goal with IoT Central was to reduce the initial setup to as little as five to ten minutes, he said.
"Up until now, IoT has been out of reach for the average business and enterprise," George said. "Microsoft takes complicated technologies and make them generally available. This (IoT Central) fits into that strategy." IoT Suite and IoT Central are based on the same Azure platform and related services.
Microsoft has built IoT Central so it can connect not only to its own services like Office 365 and Dynamics 365, but also to third-party services from Salesforce, SAP and other vendors as it moves forward.
Microsoft plans to make IoT Central available as a free 30-day trial (for 10 devices and 100 MB data traffic), and after that, for 50 cents per device per month. Users also will have the option to buy the service at $500 fixed fee per month, which covers 100 devices and 1000 MB of data.
In related news, Microsoft's Azure IoT Hub device provisioning service is generally available as of today, December 5.