Interviews

Microsoft is striving to digitize its customers in an increasingly competitive market, says Necip Ozyucel

Looking at information from Standard & Poor’s 500 Index, the average age of the top 500 companies in the Index is 12 years, says Microsoft’s Necip Ozyucel, Cloud + Enterprise Business Group Lead. In the year 1960, the average age of companies was 60 years. It means that the top 500 companies have a much shorter life cycle. This is because of digital transformation, Necip says. Speaking to Active Telecoms, he highlighted the ways that Microsoft is working towards helping digitize its customers through IoT because of the dire need for them to redefine themselves quickly, or fall behind in a competitive digital market.

Necip has high praise for Microsoft’s Digital Transformation framework, which is aimed at helping organizations achieve more through digitization, with solutions spanning productivity, business intelligence, security, the cloud, mixed reality, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things (IoT). The company is striving to digitize its customers so that they can “still be competitive, successful and lead in their industry,” says Necip.

There are three areas of Microsoft’s operations: one of which is creating more personal computing; the other is re-structuring productivity; and the other is building an intelligent cloud. Cloud computing is the delivery of computing services—servers, storage, databases, networking, software, analytics, and more—over the Internet (“the cloud”) – and Microsoft has built a strong reputation for it.  These are its core aspirations, according to Necip. But when Microsoft translates them into digital transformation for its customers, there are four areas.

“Starting with our customers’ external parameter, we begin by helping our customers engage with their own customers even better, enable their employees to be more productive, enable them to optimize their operations, and finally transform their products,” Necip told Active Telecoms. “Those are the areas we are trying to link with our three aspirations of how we innovate using technology.”

Three things stand out about Microsoft’s cloud: it’s global, it’s trusted, and it’s available in ‘hybrids’, says Necip. Its range extends to 34 regions where Microsoft has physical locations, each with more data centers. “The number of data centers or physical locations Microsoft has is far more than our competitors,” he said. It is Microsoft’s number one priority to be compliant and secure privacy for its customers. What’s more, Microsoft offers both public and private clouds (hybrid), and seamless integration depending on customers’ data, applications, etc.

Embracing the Internet of Things

Microsoft recognizes the merging of the telecom industry with ICT. By 2020, 1.7 megabytes will be generated every second by humans, says Necip. This demand will bridge the divide between IT, telecommunications, mobility, sensors, etc. “Digital transformation is not a supportive initiative – it is the core,” he said. Many businesses are running their core on digital – including online and mobile – and now many traditional businesses are moving their focus to digital.

A major pillar of digitization is embracing the Internet of Things movement. IoT is a result of the developments of connectivity, including cloud and the cost of sensors, says Necip. This mobility brought about many devices such as mobile phones, tablets; and because of the cost of the sensors, he said we are seeing many more in society.

Cloud is also a huge enabler of IoT, which has enabled organizations to collect information, and then shape it, and prepare to analyze what kind of data insights they are looking for. These are three things that are fueling IoT according to Microsoft.

“At Microsoft, we are offering end-to-end IoT services, from connecting devices, to pulling data, managing devices and sensors, and storing data – because it is huge,” said Necip. “We are collecting data in different formats, and then shaping it in order to find insights. We even have the option of seeing the data as it streams in. We can then visualize the insight that we obtain from the data, and connect it with actions such as cognitive services, including face recognition, digital assistants, etc.”

These innovations fall under the category of artificial intelligence – an area where Microsoft is excelling. According to Necip, by 2020, Microsoft expects data to reach 180 zetabytes, an 18x increase in just ten years. The question is: how can we use this massive amount of data in an intelligent way? The answer, he says, is artificial intelligence. Microsoft’s latest breakthroughs have been in machine learning and bots.

“We are working on deep neural networks, and there is a way we use this called convolutional neural networks, which are based on vision cortex – a biological process that is stimulated,” Necip explained. “We are implementing spatial devices into Microsoft Cloud called FPGAs – Field Programmable Gate Areas, similar to CPUs. Artificial intelligence enables the ability to learn, and training is key. Those neural hardware components related to Microsoft Cloud are a deep neural network, and enabling Microsoft Cloud to change artificial intelligence needs which will help to build the intelligent cloud which is one of Microsoft’s aspirations.”

Bots are also the outcome of artificial intelligence and the intelligent cloud that Microsoft is building. Bots can help people to make arrangements quickly, easily, and customized. Bots can also help with engaging customers to help solve their problems. “We see bots are a breakthrough to come in the near future,” said Necip.

Smart Cities is another important implementation of IoT, data and analytics, because in a smart city there many things to remotely monitor or manage in terms of assets, says Necip. For example, Barcelona is a “Microsoft customer success story worldwide.” Microsoft manages all of Barcelona in terms of accident management, case management, tourist assistance – “encompassing the whole city.”  

Microsoft also teamed up with ThyssenKrupp Elevator, one of the world’s leading elevator manufacturers, which maintains more than 1.1 million elevators worldwide, including those in the new 102-story One World Trade Center in New York – the fastest in the western hemisphere. To gain a competitive edge, ThyssenKrupp teamed up with Microsoft and CGI to create a connected intelligent system to focus on elevators that run safely and reliability, around the clock.

Using the IoT, the solution securely connects thousands of sensors in ThyssenKrupp’s elevators that monitor cab speed, door functioning, shaft alignment, motor temperature and much more to the cloud, using the Microsoft Azure Intelligent Systems Service (Azure ISS). The system pulls all this data into a single integrated real-time dashboard of key performance indicators. These “smart” elevators are teaching technicians how to fix them, thanks to Microsoft Azure Machine Learning. Rather than respond to failure alarms after-the-fact, ThyssenKrupp technicians are now using real-time data to identify needed repairs before breakdowns happen.

“The Internet of Things is a huge ecosystem involving sensors, connectivity, and cloud, so the end approach is important,” said Necip discussing the challenges involved with IoT. “Our customers and partners should understand this end-to-end approach so that their projects will become successful.”

The most challenging thing for Microsoft, he said, is when its customers begin a project and cannot foresee the challenges. Each scenario varies from customer to customer, especially since digital transformation “is as much IT play as it is business play.” Microsoft wants to transform businesses to reap the benefits of digitization, said Necip, which should be happening within business, and should be a collaborative effort.