Microsoft’s Azure Percept aims to make AI at the edge more accessible

James is editor in chief of TechForge Media, with a passion for how technologies influence business and several Mobile World Congress events under his belt. James has interviewed a variety of leading figures in his career, from former Mafia boss Michael Franzese, to Steve Wozniak, and Jean Michel Jarre. James can be found tweeting at @James_T_Bourne.

Microsoft has announced the launch of Azure Percept, a platform of hardware and services which looks to give customers an easier on-ramp to edge.

The platform, announced at Microsoft Ignite earlier this week, aims to give customers a ‘single, end-to-end system, from hardware to AI capabilities, that ‘just works’ without requiring a lot of technical know-how’, according to Roanne Sones, CVP of Microsoft’s edge and platform group.

The Azure Percept platform includes a development kit with an intelligent camera, Azure Percept Vision. Alongside this is Azure Percept Studio, which guides customers regardless of coding experience through developing, training, and deploying AI models. The Vision camera comes with souped-up hardware accelerators which enable speech and vision AI at the edge.

It is ‘useful for scenarios in which the device needs to make lightning-fast calculations without taking the time to connect to the cloud, or in places where there isn’t always reliable internet connectivity, such as on a factory floor or in a location with spotty service’, as a Microsoft blog puts it.

“We’ve started with the two most common AI workloads, vision and voice, sight and sound, and we’ve given out that blueprint so that manufacturers can take the basics of what we’ve started,” added Sones. “But they can envision it in any kind of responsible form factor to cover a pattern of the world.”

The keynote speech at Ignite from Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella frequently touched on the power of edge. The three Vs of data – volume, variety and velocity – will go through ‘explosive’ growth in the cloud and, in particular, at the edge, he said. “In this world, data will be more private, more sovereign.”

Nadella also spoke of the importance of Azure and the cloud driving emerging technologies. This is an interesting point with regard to Azure Percept. Microsoft was keen to note that as Percept runs on Azure, it includes the security protections already baked into the cloud platform.

The Azure Percept team is currently ‘working with select early customers to understand their concerns around the responsible development and deployment of AI on edge devices’, Microsoft added.

Read more from CloudTech: Satya Nadella’s Microsoft Ignite keynote speech analysed: Cloud driving digital transformation

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