This post is attributed to Barb Edson, General Manager, Marketing, Microsoft, who earlier today presented Microsoft's Internet of Things strategy and vision at Microsoft Australia's Internet of Your Things event.

I am excited to be in Australia this week and one of the reasons for my visit is to “stop, look and listen” to our customers: I want to hear first-hand what their experiences are so that Microsoft can continue to serve their needs as well as to help them embrace and respond to the bigger forces that are shaping the world.

One such force is the Internet of Things (IoT), which for some businesses might seem overwhelming – and it’s easy to see why as the scale of having 212 billion “connected things” by 2020, according to IDC, is certainly difficult to comprehend. However, the same report predicts that IoT will be worth $7.3 trillion by 2017, meaning it’s a trend that can’t be overlooked.

At Microsoft, we’re excited to be working with customers to help them realise their IoT goals. One Australian customer that is innovating today around the IoT opportunity is Coca-Cola Amatil (CCA), a leading beverage manufacturer in Australia and the Asia-Pacific region.

CCA wanted to design an innovative new way to market beverages to consumers, and create an appealing — even addictive — new way to interact with their brand. They teamed up with Australian leading digital agency TKM9 and Microsoft to create a solution that capitalizes on IoT by utilising interactive digital signage installed on beverage coolers — those large refrigerator-like vending machines.

These digital signs are designed to collect data on sales and customer interaction, and share content with customers at the point of sale — such as discount offers and weather reports. They also draw consumers into an interactive multimedia and social-media experience, via the coolers and the consumers’ own devices, offering games, contests, Facebook posts and more.

In a limited trial run of 50 machines, this Internet of CCA’s Things, built on Microsoft technologies, is already transforming the way the company thinks about customer service and brand loyalty in the beverage industry. 

Alongside CCA’s IoT innovation in Australia, we also have various device manufacturers changing the way we interact with technology, and at an IoT focused event this week I was excited to see products from Arbor Australia, JAZZMATRIX, J2 Retail Systems, and Advantech, which are having big impacts on government operations in emerging countries, community and transport services, retail and banking systems, and even the cosmetics industry.

I recently discussed the Internet of Your Things, Microsoft’s point of view on the trend. To help our customers on their IoT journeys in Australia and across the globe, Microsoft’s advice is to focus on the Internet of YOUR Things. Instead of thinking about IoT as billions of connected devices and sensors all over the planet, we are having conversations with customers telling them to start with the things that matter most to their business.

After all, it’s not the Internet of Everything – it’s really the Internet of Your Things, and even the smallest change has the potential to deliver maximum impact.

I also recently announced the limited public preview of the Microsoft Azure Intelligent Systems Service, which reflects a significant step as we continue our commitment to help businesses realize the potential of IoT by harnessing their “things.”

The Intelligent Systems Service marks a critical expansion of the comprehensive Microsoft cloud-first data platform aimed at addressing these challenges facing enterprises. Built on Azure, the service makes it easier for enterprises to securely connect, manage and capture machine-generated data from line-of-business assets, such as industry devices, sensors and other systems regardless of OS platform.

Customers can visit this page to request participation in the limited public preview.

The Internet of Things is clearly not a futuristic technology trend. It’s here already in today’s powerful devices, sensors, cloud infrastructures and business intelligence tools.

The true value lies in data – simply put, by embracing the Internet of Your Things, by connecting the most important elements of the network, businesses can unlock the huge potential of the IoT, regardless of whether it’s two devices or 75 billion.