Devices and "The Cloud", Part 2

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Devices and "The Cloud", Part 2

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Posted By Robert Peterson
Sr. Product Manager

I recently posted about devices and the cloud and now want to delve deeper into how cloud computing can help OEMs drive new solutions for their business and help their customers.


So let’s look at three scenarios involving Data Analytics, Services and Solutions


Data Analytics:


An OEM makes automation equipment used in factories around the world.  They want to better understand how their products perform and how to innovate on the next version of their products.  They want to quickly go to market but are constrained by limited capital and staff.

Solution: Data on usage and performance is sent to Azure where the data is stored and analyzed.  The capability is quickly set up on Azure, no need to buy additional infrastructure or to host the infrastructure in different locations around the world to capture data.  There isn’t a large capital investment, reducing the financial risk for the OEM.  By using Azure the month-by-month fee is based on actual usage further reducing the financial cost and risk. 

Result:  The OEM is able to analyze the data, such as UI usage and sensor data, directly on Azure.  This allows the OEM to discover new insights into how their products are used and how they perform.  These insights from the data allow them to make fact driven decisions on how to improve the next version and also how to market the improvements.  No additional resources are needed allowing them to focus on innovating their products quickly vs. managing additional infrastructure.

Note devices and the cloud can’t solve every automated scenario: here is a true classic.

Services:

A medical OEM wants to expand into support services for their devices.  Adding services will help them differentiate in a crowded field and create a new services revenue stream.  The OEM needs data to predict when a device will need service and create an SLA (Service Level Agreement) to successfully provide support services.

Solution: Device usage data is sent to Azure where the data is stored and analyzed.  Analysis shows the average life for various parts of the devices.  A solution is built which takes the data and predicts when service will be needed in advance.  The solution on Azure is easily created using familiar tools including Visual Studio and .NET.   As the solution is running on Azure, the service team has access to the data anywhere with the ability to expand as the business grows.  Azure is hosted in Microsoft datacenters around the world so every market the OEM wants to provide services in has access to the hosted solution.

Result: After analyzing device data on Azure, the OEM can now schedule maintenance before a part fails, increasing uptime and avoiding business interruptions.   The OEM can also provide an SLA for device uptime to the customer that is achievable and decrease costs by optimally planning routes for the service team.

The service offering tied to device uptime allows the OEM to differentiate against competitors; create a new source of service revenue; and build a stronger relationship with their customers.  Demand for the services increases and the OEM is able to immediately scale because the service is built on Azure; no need to buy and manage infrastructure.

Solutions:

A Kiosk OEM wants to help customers understand their business better by offering a solution that provides information and insights they can act upon.  By offering a value added solution, the OEM can help change the nature of their relationship with their customers from a vendor who supplies a device, and possibly a service, to a partner that helps them drive their business.

Solution:  The OEM has a large customer base and a wide variety of Kiosk usage data that is sent to Azure where it is stored and analyzed.  The OEM builds a solution on Azure that aggregates customer kiosk data into trends, reports and also provides comparisons to industry averages.  This solution on Azure can be accessed by customers around the world, scaling up to meet their demand instantly 24x7.  Customers now can see how their kiosks – and business – is performing and also compare their results to industry trends and benchmarks.

Result:  The OEM can now provide ongoing business intelligence (BI) to customers.  The OEM can provide advanced analytics and business intelligence to customers to help them make better business decisions.  One of the more popular solutions is around Kiosk activity - what is the average Kiosk activity? Which Kiosks have low activity and should be moved?  Are there locations which should have additional Kiosks to maximize business?  How does my business compare against industry benchmarks created by the OEM?

Customers now view the OEM as a trusted business partner, building a strong relationship.  The Kiosk OEM has moved from a hardware vendor with little differentiation to a trusted business partner that provides both services and solutions.  Instead of competing for new business via RFPs, the OEM is involved as a partner to help determine when new Kiosks are needed as part of a wider solution offering.

There are many real world uses of devices and the cloud; here is one case study involving easyJet: http://www.microsoft.com/canada/casestudies/Case_Study_Detail.aspx?casestudyid=4000010767.

Hopefully you are seeing the possibilities not only with the millions of devices that help us every day, but how cloud computing with Windows Azure can make those devices even more beneficial.  In my next post I will talk more about how cloud computing makes sense to scale your business.

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