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Dubai Event Showcases Windows 8

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (UAE) – Dec. 4, 2012 – More than 400 customers, partners, media and dignitaries attended an event on Nov. 19 to explore the global and business benefits of Windows 8. Attendees saw a range of new Windows 8 apps developed in the Middle East, including Time Out Dubai, Al Jazeera and the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority.

Keynote addresses by Ali Faramawy, corporate vice president for Microsoft and president of Microsoft Middle East and Africa, and Antoine Leblond, corporate vice president for Windows Web Services, highlighted early deployment customers including Emirates Airlines, BT and UAE Smart Learning.

"'Re-imagining Windows' – where could this be a better fit than here in Dubai?" Faramawy asked. "This region is full of imagination and inspiration – just like our newest version of Windows."

The guest speaker at the event, Her Excellency Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid bin Sultan Al Qasimi, UAE minister for foreign trade, stressed how the competitiveness of the UAE economy has been greatly improved due to technology investments, and noted that Windows 8 will play a key role in continuing that development.

The event was held in Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, the tallest man-made building in the world.


Student Startup Aims to Prevent Traffic Jams

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — Dec. 4, 2012 — Traffic jams typically produce little more than frustration, profanity, and CO2. Four years ago, though, they happened to give Christian Brüggeman an idea.

He was sitting in a London Starbucks with a friend and fellow computer science student. As they chatted, they noticed that one street outside was choked with cars while another was practically empty.

They wondered why drivers weren’t taking advantage of every possible route. If cars could be directed along less-congested roads, wouldn’t that prevent back-ups before they began?

That idea ultimately became nunav, navigation software that aims to stop congestion and get its users from Point A to Point B as fast as possible. While existing services like Bing Maps can show commuters real-time traffic jams and offer alternate routes, nunav can prevent jams from happening in the first place by predicting where cars are headed, Brüggeman said.

Here’s how it works: nunav tracks the location and destination of every user in its network, currently through a Windows Phone app. Meanwhile, its routing algorithms also crunch data about surrounding streets, such as the number of lanes and speed limits, to calculate the maximum number of cars they can carry before traffic bottlenecks. nunav then “reserves” spots for drivers along their routes, making sure each road never reaches maximum capacity.

Voila – no more traffic jams, no more lost productivity, and no more needless CO2 emissions.

In computer simulations involving 50,000 cars, nunav users get to their destinations twice as fast and use significantly less fuel, Brüggeman said. Now he wants to transition nunav from simulations and trials to a market-ready product. The former university students who created nunav have launched their own company, Graphmasters, to try and sell nunav’s routing algorithms to manufacturers of navigation systems.

nunav drew notice from industry, press and venture capitalists earlier this year after winning the Environmental Sustainability Award, sponsored by Coca Cola, at the 2012 Imagine Cup Worldwide Finals. The young company can expect more attention.

Today at the Social Innovation Summit, Microsoft announced Team Graphmasters, formerly Team Greenway, was among the five winners of the second annual Imagine Cup Grants program.

“Through Microsoft YouthSpark, we’re aiming to create opportunities for 300 million young people around the world over the next three years. We want to give youth greater opportunities for education, employment and entrepreneurship and the Imagine Cup grants, a three-year, US$3 million competitive program that enables Imagine Cup participants to take their projects to market as the next step in their business development, is a great example of the innovative ways we’re creating these opportunities for young people,” said Akhtar Badshah, senior director, Citizenship & Public Affairs, Microsoft.

Badshah said Team Graphmasters represented the growing number of Imagine Cup teams that keep working after the competition to bring their solutions to market.

“One reason we were so excited to expand the Imagine Cup is because of Microsoft’s commitment to invest and provide opportunities for youth so they can imagine and realize their future,” he said. “The Imagine Cup Grants are this interesting way to help these teams that are imagining what the future can look like and then trying to go out and realize it.”

Brüggeman said the $100,000 grant will go toward expanding his company and hiring developers, marketers and sales staff to help bring nunav to users worldwide.

He added that the Imagine Cup helped his team make the leap from interesting research idea to actual business. “We are computer scientists,” Brüggeman said. “We can program and write software, but we had never thought about starting a company before.”

The competition’s focus on social issues resonated with them as well. Sitting in Starbucks, the students’ coursework had taken them deep into graph theory – a complex branch of computer science that powers nunav’s routing algorithms. The Imagine Cup inspired them to turn that initial spark at Starbucks into a project that could help the planet.

“We’re happy we found an application for our research that saves the environment, saves your wallet, and that's good for everyone,” Brüggeman said.

A Stethoscope in the Cloud 

The Imagine Cup’s call to tackle real-world social issues also resonated with Hon Weng Chong, founder of Australia’s Team StethoCloud. Microsoft announced today that the team’s innovative project to advance the detection of respiratory illnesses such as pneumonia and asthma also won an Imagine Cup Grant.

StethoCloud is a cloud-powered stethoscope that can help health workers diagnose early stages of respiratory illness. By connecting a stethoscope to a cell phone, a community health worker or unskilled administrator can transmit diagnostic information into a Windows Azure-based cloud service. StethoCloud’s software then analyzes a patient’s breathing for patterns that indicate the earliest stages of pneumonia or asthma.

Chong is a newly minted doctor who has always had an interest in both health and technology. He heard about the Imagine Cup through a friend and previous Imagine Cup grant recipient, Cy Khormaee from Team Lifelens. The competition seemed like a great opportunity to bridge his two disparate passions.

At the same time he heard about the Imagine Cup, he began his pediatric rotation at The Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne. A senior clinician there told him that pneumonia is the leading cause of death in children worldwide. Chong decided to tackle the disease for the Imagine Cup.

A cheap diagnostic tool to detect pneumonia could have a huge impact on global health, Chong realized.

“Respiratory rates are the most sensitive indicators of the disease. But they’re also one of the last vital sign measures in medicine that haven’t become widely automated,” Chong said. “The only machines that do automate the process are extremely expensive. “

As part of the project, Chong and his teammates prototyped a low-cost digital stethoscope from off-the-shelf components. Compatibility with smartphones makes it easy for the devices to connect to the Internet and therefore the team’s powerful algorithms that could provide clinical decision support to health workers worldwide.

Chong said the $75,000 Imagine Cup grant will support their R&D and help determine if StethoCloud is in fact an accurate way to diagnose pneumonia and asthma. The team is about to start clinical trials of StethoCloud at The Royal Children’s Hospital. It could take months to get a statistically significant sample set. If all goes well, they’ll shift gears from R&D to commercialization. They’re already in talks with regulatory agencies around the world about manufacturing their digital stethoscope.

In the meantime, Chong will focus on his new career. He’s hopeful that StethoCloud will be in use worldwide in the near future. But he’ll wait for the data first.

“As much as I love what we're doing, this is so new that there are many things we don’t know, and it’s possible we may find nothing,” he said. “With cutting edge science and research, you never know what you're going to get. The risks may be high, but the rewards even higher.”

Battling Tuberculosis Through Microsoft Technology

Editor’s note – Dec. 3, 2012 – The statistic in the second bullet of the sidebar was corrected from 9 percent to 95 percent, post original publication.

BANGALORE, India — Dec. 3, 2012 — Giri Prasad, a 33-year-old tailor who lives in Delhi, first noticed the pain below his ribs. He went to see a doctor, but when it didn’t subside, he traveled to the hospital where he eventually learned he had tuberculosis.

“There were many problems because first and foremost, I am the bread earner for the family,” he says. “If the bread earner falls ill, it is a real problem for those who are dependent on him. Here in the city the biggest problem is that if one falls sick, there is no other person who will come help.”

Thanks to his own persistence and the help of a biometric monitoring system developed by Microsoft Research India’s Technology for Emerging Markets Group, Prasad is now cured of tuberculosis. Using the biometric monitoring system, health workers can accurately monitor tuberculosis patients’ medication adherence and take quick action if a patient misses a dose.

The health worker “took my fingerprint on the computer and only then gave me the medicine,” Prasad explains. “In the three days a week I had to go to have my medicine, it did not happen even once that I was unable to go. I always went to get my medicine.”

Microsoft Research India developed the biometric monitoring system in response to one of the most pressing problems in battling tuberculosis — the number of patients who fail to complete their treatment programs and thus develop and spread a deadlier version of the disease.

Tuberculosis: The Great Killer

A bacteria that’s spread through the air from person to person, tuberculosis is the second greatest killer worldwide due to a single infectious agent, afflicting nearly 9 million and killing 1.4 million people each year, according to the World Health Organization.

Today, there’s a single vaccine for tuberculosis called Bacille Calmette Guerin (BCG). But while this vaccine can be effective in protecting children from some types of tuberculosis, it is less effective in protecting adolescents and adults.

Tuberculosis is treatable and curable through a standard six-month program of four antimicrobial drugs. In India, as in many places throughout the world, these medicines are provided free by the federal government and are administered under direct observation by health workers at clinics around the country.

“The way it works in India and around the world is that it’s so important to finish the course of medication that patients must come to clinics to take the medication under the supervision of health workers,” says Bill Thies, the lead Microsoft researcher working on the project. “It’s called Directly Observed Therapy.”

The problem, however, is that the treatment requires more than 40 visits to a clinic over a six-month period, and many patients — for reasons from busy work schedules to lack of knowledge about the importance of taking the medicine — don’t complete their treatment programs.

“If patients start to feel better — which happens a few weeks after starting the medication — and they’re told they need to take a trip to the center at least once per week for the next six months, there’s an education barrier there,” says Thies. “They say, ‘Why is it important for me to continue taking medication if I don’t have any symptoms?’”

In addition, the social stigma of having tuberculosis can prevent patients from completing their medication programs. “The social stigma against TB is horrifying,” says Dr. Shelly Batra, co-founder of Operation ASHA. “In my country, 100,000 women are thrown out of their families each year because they have contracted tuberculosis. They become destitute, homeless, and they die of disease and starvation on the streets. Three hundred thousand children are thrown out of school every year because they have got TB and nobody wants them. Or they are forced to leave school and become child laborers if a wage-earning parent has got TB.”

Patients who don’t complete the entire six-month antibiotic regimen are at risk of developing multidrug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB), which fails to respond to conventional treatment and is difficult and costly to treat. Like standard tuberculosis, drug-resistant tuberculosis is highly contagious. It afflicts 650,000 people worldwide, and the numbers are growing, according to the World Health Organization.

“Drug-resistant TB is going to be the new plague that has the potential to wipe out millions,” says Dr. Batra.

Helping Patients Stay on Track

It is exactly these kinds of issues that Microsoft Research India wanted to address when it decided to work together with Operation ASHA, India’s largest non-governmental organization in tuberculosis treatment and prevention.

Thies had started working on technologies for tuberculosis treatment as a graduate student at MIT, and approached Operation ASHA after being hired as a Microsoft researcher in India. “I was working in this space before I joined Microsoft, and we used that as a starting point in our conversations with Operation ASHA,” he says. “They basically described the challenges they faced in making sure patients are taking their medication, and that’s how the project got started.”

Without a biometric system, health workers are required to keep handwritten records, checking off paper-based treatment cards when patients came to the clinic to take their doses. But in the crowded, frenetic atmosphere of clinics around the country, what can happen is that health workers wait until the day the treatment cards are due, check all the boxes, and hand them in.

“From an administration standpoint, if you’re running a treatment program that has 225 centers, how do you ensure quality of care across the centers?” Thies says. “Really there’s no substitute for having an infallible, tamper-proof record.”

An Infallible Tracking System

The two organizations set out to do just that — develop an infallible, tamper-proof system that tracked the medication taken by each patient. By developing such a system, they reasoned, they could help cure more patients of standard tuberculosis while preventing the spread of drug-resistant tuberculosis.

Thies and a small team of researchers tested out various designs. They wanted a system that wouldn’t allow health workers to enter false data, could transfer information across areas India without reliable Internet access, was easy for non-computer users to use, and couldn’t be removed from the clinics.

They eventually decided the answer lies in connecting three devices: a fingerprint reader, a low-cost laptop called a netbook computer, and a GSM modem that allows information to be transmitted in areas without reliable Internet connections.

With those three devices working together, patients who come to the clinic can scan their finger, with an electronic record of their visit logged onto the netbook using software built on the Microsoft .NET platform. Throughout the day, the record of patients visiting each clinic is sent to Operation ASHA’s central office using the GSM modem, allowing workers to track which patients came to each clinic using Microsoft SQL Server database software.

Microsoft Research and Operation ASHA began deploying the system in spring 2010, offering training to help health workers learn the technology. To date, the biometric system has been deployed in more than 40 centers, with more than 60,000 medication doses administered to 3,000 patients.

The Way Ahead

While researchers have yet to measure the impact on cure rates, interviews with health workers show that the biometric system is encouraging more patients to come to the clinics to complete their course of medication.

“A key benefit is that the patient can never fake having come to the clinic because they actually have to come and provide their fingerprint so the organization knows they were there,” says Thies. “And if someone misses a dose, their supervisor gets an SMS that says, `Today, these patients have missed their doses. You need to follow up in their homes.’”

Thies and his team were worried that health workers would feel threatened by the technology because it checks their work. Interestingly, however, health workers reported that it helped them do a better job. “If a patient doesn’t want to come and gives the excuse of going for duty, I tell them that this is important and that this record goes to the of?ce,” one health worker said during the evaluation interview. “This becomes a reason for them to visit the center.”

Operation ASHA eventually plans to make the biometric monitoring system available in all of its 225 centers worldwide. “I believe that biometric technology will go a long way in the prevention of drug-resistant TB,” says Operation ASHA’s Dr. Batra. “Where TB treatment is being done, technology should be used to prevent drug resistance. That is the only way ahead.”

Implications Beyond Tuberculosis

The biometric system also has applications beyond tuberculosis. For example, the technology has been used to monitor whether sex workers in Bangalore are attending support programs to ensure their health and safety. In addition, the Uganda Health Ministry is adapting the technology to monitor doses of anti-viral drugs in the treatment of HIV/AIDS.

“It’s a pervasive problem in tuberculosis that nobody has any reliable account of which patients are taking their medication — it’s almost impossible to get that data,” Thies says. “So when people learn that this is the first data that they can trust, the first data where it’s impossible to trick the technology, they get really excited.”

For his part, Prasad says the toughest thing about having had tuberculosis is being apart from his children — even though he no longer has tuberculosis, he still purposely keeps his distance for fear they will become infected. “I hope no one [else] gets this disease,” he says. “That would be best.”

Acknowledgements: This project would not have been possible without the hard work of Abhishek Sinha, Nupur Bhatnagar, Michael Paik, Navkar Samdaria, Aakar Gupta, Manish Bhardwaj, Sandeep Ahuja, and the incredibly dedicated staff at Operation ASHA.

Donate: If you’d like to help or learn more about Operation ASHA, go to www.opasha.org.

Intelligent Systems Drive Innovation in Manufacturing

NUREMBERG, Germany — Nov. 27 , 2012 Reduced labor costs. Shorter time-to-market. These are more than just goals for modern manufacturers; in the intensely competitive world of global industry, they’re essential for survival. To gain an edge, manufacturers must transform their operations, their approach to building innovative products and processes, and the way they grow their businesses.

Microsoft’s technology, strategic leadership and partner ecosystem empower companies by enhancing interactions among co-workers, customers, suppliers and regulators across their value chain, helping companies meet their transformation needs. This includes intelligent systems that offer a high degree of sustainability and security at reduced costs and reduced time-to-market, aligning industry devices, customizable applications and the cloud to enable machine-to-machine communications for greater business agility and effectiveness.

In the U.S. and Europe, Microsoft is working closely with its manufacturing partners, and providing the technology platform and services they need to develop intelligent system solutions. These intelligent systems connect industry devices to enterprise applications and cloud services across a complex infrastructure, securely fueling real-time data between diverse technologies and locations from the factory floor to decision-makers. Harnessing the resulting data allows companies to uncover strategic business insight for increased agility and productivity.

One such solution is powering productivity for customers of Italian systems innovator ASEM, whose Ubiquity software platform enables the remote monitoring and control of industrial equipment. Utilizing the power of Windows Embedded Standard, Ubiquity allows machine builders to manage remote systems via embedded devices connected to a control center that is compatible with most versions of Windows software, including the new Windows 8. A second component connects the control center to the devices via Windows Azure.

The solution offers ASEM’s customers, including machine manufacturer Breton, greater ease in the remote monitoring of equipment. With a massive fleet of stone-cutting and processing machines to maintain and monitor, Breton credits ASEM’s software with a potential 30 percent savings in total service costs, thanks to the elimination of in-person service calls and greater equipment reliability.

Today at SPS IPC Drives, Microsoft shared its vision for how intelligent systems powered by Windows Embedded benefit manufacturing businesses. Following its recent announcement of a new family of Windows Embedded 8 products, Microsoft said the release preview of Windows Embedded 8 Standard is available now and affirmed it will be generally available in March 2013.

With Windows Embedded 8, Microsoft is extending the value of Windows 8 to industry devices, supporting leaner, more efficient processes and access to critical data. In Europe alone, Microsoft works closely with partners such as ASEM and vertical solution providers to create intelligent systems for customers, including these:

For more information on intelligent systems, visit the Windows Embedded website.

Jeep Wrangler Supplier Plant Driven by Microsoft

TOLEDO, Ohio — Nov . 27 , 2012 — With a lineage tracing back more than seven decades, the Jeep Wrangler is one of the most iconic vehicles in the world, and one of the Chrysler Group’s best sellers. Just this past May, the Wrangler set its all-time monthly sales record at 14,454 units.

Experiencing the back roads with the top down, drivers would never guess the important role Windows Embedded and other Microsoft technologies play in manufacturing one of the world’s coolest modes of travel. Today the production facility in Toledo that produces bodies for the Wrangler is operated by an intelligent system that extends from the back office to the shop floor. The highly automated plant is operated by KUKA Systems Group and produces more than 700 Wrangler bodies each day, in eight different body configurations.

According to Jake Ladouceur, managing director of the Toledo facility, the challenge of producing such a well-known vehicle to Chrysler Group’s demanding quality control standards was one KUKA Systems embraced from the beginning.

“We have been building the Wrangler since 2006,” says Ladouceur. “The Wrangler is an incredible value offering both on- and off-road capability that just keeps getting better, even after 71 years.”

KUKA Systems has long been a pioneer in automated manufacturing. The company created the first industrial robot in 1973, and launched a PC-based controller in 1996 that integrated mechanical devices, software and controllers for the first time. By the time it won the Chrysler contract in 2004, KUKA had installed nearly 80,000 robots worldwide.

For the Toledo plant, KUKA built an intelligent system anchored by Windows Embedded and Microsoft SQL Server that controls the factory’s 246 assembly-line robots, along with multiple devices, applications and back-end systems. The robots on the shop floor are connected to 33 controller points, managed by one primary controller on a SQL Server cluster running Windows Server.

In all, those 33 controller points connect with 1,444 nodes capable of interfacing with approximately 60,000 devices on the shop floor, such as welding and sealing equipment.

According to Michael Haag, head of Research and Development at KUKA Robotics Corp., a subsidiary of KUKA Systems, the development tools and APIs available for Windows have played a big part in making such a broad integration effort possible.

“With Windows, we have a relatively open system that we can customize to communicate with the other IT systems around it,” Haag says. “The idea was to use a mainstream technology that was developed for other domains, like the consumer industry, and drive service-oriented technology into the automation world. This is exactly what Windows gives us.”

KUKA Robotics designed the architecture so that Windows Embedded and the Windows .NET Compact Framework can run together on one CPU. As a result, the environment supports both the KUKA robot controller and the KUKA control panel, allowing the entire solution to run on a single PC. All the control tasks, including creating and running programs and diagnostic processes, can be performed directly on the robots from the control panel’s Windows-based interface.

With such a streamlined management environment, the system is able to adapt quickly to changes in production requirements. And that’s a good thing since, on a daily basis, Chrysler communicates its order for Wranglers in eight different configurations — left-hand drive or right-hand drive, two-door or four-door, full-door or half-door. With Wranglers selling at an unprecedented pace, Ladouceur says Chrysler is currently ordering about 725 cars per day.

“We ship our customer a complete car body every 82 seconds,” says Ladouceur. “So we don’t have time to adjust source code, and we can’t introduce something that isn’t trusted and proved. Our intelligent system built with Microsoft technology enables us to react very quickly.”

The plant operates 20 hours a day, and IT processes run without stop. In addition to processing Chrysler’s daily orders, the system also monitors wear and tear on the robots themselves through a Web application developed by KUKA.

“We’ve been operating continuously for more than six years with a system based on Windows Embedded.” says Ladouceur. “And when we need help, we’ve always been able to contact Microsoft and get support — that’s always been a plus.”

Given the plant’s success, Ladouceur’s team might be tempted to take its foot off the gas, but KUKA is constantly looking at ways to improve. On the drawing board is an eventual migration of all the plant’s applications into SharePoint.

“We’d like to make SharePoint the central hub, so to speak, of reaching the rest of these pages and tools that are available,” he says. “But that's down the road a bit.”

Or in the case of the 700-plus Jeep Wranglers his plant produces each day, down the back road.

Give Your Small Business a Boost With a New Windows 8 Device

REDMOND, Wash. — Dec. 18, 2012 — As 2012 comes to a close, a wave of new products have hit the market with vast potential to help companies increase efficiency and productivity in a variety of ways.

From phones to tablets to a new generation of all-in-ones and touch PCs, incredible new gadgets have been released to help companies take advantage of Windows 8. Between the new hardware innovations and new capabilities in Windows 8, companies have a great opportunity to help employees stay mobile, secure sensitive customer and business data, and increase overall productivity.

When it comes to helping employees be productive, few investments have more potential this year than a new PC with Windows 8 Pro. In addition to the beautiful, fast and fluid user interface, Windows 8 brings together the sites, people, apps and information that you care about most right from your personalized Start screen. It makes it easy to multitask and switch between screens, and it provides an incredible choice of new hardware to make for a compelling and highly personalized computing experience. Plus, hardware released for the new operating system is screaming fast.

This year there’s another bonus that could sweeten the deal: According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, companies in the U.S. may be able to take advantage of enhancements to the IRS Section 179 deduction on capital expenditures, which can allow them to fully deduct the cost of equipment such as computers and certain business software.

Sometimes success ultimately comes down to technology that “just works.” For the end of 2012, here’s a look at some new technology and hardware that might just be the best investment to help your company start the new year off strong.

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