Microsoft unveils Azure Percept kit for bringing Azure AI services to edge devices

Microsoft's goal with Azure Percept: To build up aa IoT device ecosystem around Azure services the same way Windows helped create the PC market.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor
Credit: Microsoft

Microsoft is working to make the idea of bringing Azure AI services to edge devices easier via a hardware/services kit it's calling "Azure Percept." On March 2, the opening day of its virtual Spring Ignite 2021 conference, Microsoft announced the availability of the public preview of Azure Percept.

Azure Percept includes a development kit with a camera called "Azure Percept Vision." It also has an Azure Percept Studio "getting started" experience meant to guide customers who don't have a lot of coding experience through the AI lifecycle of developing, training, and deploying proof-of-concept ideas. 

Azure Percept Audio, which like Azure Percept Vision, ships separately from the dev kit, is meant to enable AI speech services on edge devices. Azure Percept devices can automatically connect to Azure IoT Hub to enable secure communications between IoT devices and the cloud.

Microsoft offered as a potential Azure Percept use case the example of a company that may want to set up a system to automatically identify irregular produce on a production line so workers can pull those items off before shipping.

Microsoft hopes that software and hardware makers will rally around Azure Percept to create an ecosystem of intelligent edge devices that are certified to run on the Azure Percept platform. The Azure Precept dev kit uses the industry-standard 80/20 T-slot framing architecture. Officials said they'd like to see this kind of ecosystem of intelligent edge devices that use Azure services develop into the kind of Windows ecosystem that helped create the PC marketplace.

Microsoft has been working to bring AI and other Azure services to IoT devices for years. The company made generally available its Azure IoT Edge service, designed to allow users to deploy and run Azure and AI services on IoT devices, in 2018. The company has been expanding its Azure Certified for IoT program, adding new categories like device management and security to its catalog. Pre-built Edge modules are available via the Azure Marketplace.  

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