Friday 24th of June 2016 saw the tour head to Mountain View, Silicon Valley for an amazing experience at the Microsoft Technology Centre. We were welcomed by a very energetic and passionate group of staff who would host us for several hours of discussion and demonstrations.
Our initial discussion revealed a number of various ideas that the group hoped to highlight throughout the day. Using an 84″ Surface hub, which I am sure I can safely say blew us all away, the Microsoft Team noted our queries for further discussion. The hub itself features a 4K, 100 point multi touch screen with inbuilt speakers, cameras and motion sensors. Taking interactive whiteboards to a whole new level, the system runs a configured version of Windows 10 and leverages both OneNote and Office365 to host software controlled Whiteboarding, Video Calling and the ability to wirelessly connect devices. The device can sit in your organisation on its own resource account and thus anyone can walk into the room and use the device without having to login, saving both time and effort during a meeting initialisation.
We were then treated to an experience in the Microsoft Vision Centre, one of 40 across the globe. Easily one of the most amazing conference rooms I have ever seen. Anshika Goyal proceeded to give us a demonstration of Skype Meeting Broadcast. This system leverages the Office365 Skype for Business technology to allow broadcasting of sessions across the globe, a great idea for remote learning session – especially for isolated schools, but also for collaboration between local schools. The broadcast video is buffered by 30 seconds, which allows for a more seamless streaming experience. When setting up the broadcast you can also choose to record the session, which can then be saved into your organisations Office365 Videos. The session broadcast can also be targeted through organisational groups or individuals. In the Vision Centre we were also shown Microsoft Forms http://forms.microsoft.com which is another great Office365 feature that is currently only in Preview mode, but will offer a great link to Power BI for analytics and assessment.
After a short break, Jarek Kazmierczak, who is a systems architect within the Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence and Data Analytics department, gave us all an incredible insight into the future of dealing with big data. It was mentioned that a recent Bloomberg article stated that in the coming years 20-25% of white-collar jobs will be gone, including jobs from Financial, Commerce and Law, all to be replaced by machines. In this scenario, 85% of data will be coming from non-traditional means i.e. from sensors in remote machines and then analysed and managed by Cloud systems. It is all encompassed in the 4th Paradign of Science, by Jim Gray. The fourth Industrial Revolution is coming! Microsoft has positioned itself to be a world leader in managing the cloud services required to deal with the vast quantities of data. The Cortana Intelligence Suite aims to achieve the following from the incoming data:
Some neat tools Jarek showed us that is currently using this technology include: CaptionBot http://www.captionbot.ai ; and for more of these types of tools, take a look at Microsoft’s Cognitive Services API’s http://microsoft.com/cognitive-services
The Microsoft team has spent time over the last few years listening to what their customers wanted out of their Windows experience, especially when it comes to education. When developing Windows 10, the following items were listed as important to educators:
- 21st century learning
- Flipped classroom
- Differentiated learning
- Project based learning
- New collaboration Modes
To this end, the July 2016 Windows 10 Anniversary will include some great education features:
- “Take a Test” App – to assist in the creation of tests and collection of results.
- “Set up School PC’s App” to assist Schools in setting machine policies across devices.
- Enhancements to the Windows Store for Business to help in App deployment within organisations.
Alec Minty who works within the Azure team gave us some great insight into the Azure systems and options. The current thinking is that most organisations will still have both local and cloud-based datacentres for the foreseeable 5 years – it is difficult to predict this beyond 10 years. Microsoft has become the Leader on 19 of Gartner’s Magic Quadrants relating to the ability to envision and execute cloud DC’s. It is also one of the top 3 networks in the entire world. If you have any queries regarding the safety and security of your data within the cloud, Alec explained that Microsoft will fight in court to protect your data and their NOC team does not have access to your data – the customer always retains the ownership of data and this is protected. For more information regarding compliance see http://microsoft.com/compliance.
The final session of the afternoon was presented by Rajesh Agadi. It gave us a glimpse into the future of the Internet of Things. Gartner predicts that by 2020 there will be 25 billion connected devices. It is estimate that this will have a commercial value of $7.2 trillion USD by 2020. Microsoft fits into this scenario with their Azure Services, their IoT services and their Azure IoT Suite. It gives organisations the ability to collect and manage their data in a useful and value-add way, as the Azure computing power is far greater than a small company could possibly purchase and manage. So how could this work in education? Some examples listed were regarding the Digitisation of attendance management through Beacons and connected personal devices. Teachers would no longer be required to take attendance, as the system automatically collects the data with the student simply being in the room with their connected device. The beacon system could also be used to direct students around a large campus, to ensure they get to the right lesson at the right time. When embarking on an IoT project, their motto is “Start Small, Be Aglie, Go Fast, and realise value while you move”.
The day session at Microsoft was truly an amazing experience and I know that everyone in the tour was extremely appreciative of the time and effort that the Microsoft team put in to provide our demonstration. Whilst the day was filled full of information, it still felt like we could have stayed for many more hours and asked many more questions regarding our initial queries. I am hopeful once we return to Australia that we can continue on our Cloud journey and perhaps seek some local support to answer any outstanding questions. All-in-all a fantastic day.