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Microsoft Extends Windows 8 to Intelligent Systems, Provides Details on Next Wave of Enterprise Tools and Technology

REDMOND, Wash. — Nov . 13 , 2012 Microsoft today unveiled its product road map for Windows Embedded 8 and Windows Embedded Compact 2013, both of which build on the company's vision for intelligent systems first announced last fall. Microsoft also made the Windows Embedded 8 Standard release preview available for download.

Microsoft is committed to helping harness the potential of the Internet of Things by connecting devices to software and services in the back end or in the cloud, transforming that data into actionable operational intelligence. In describing the opportunity, Windows Embedded General Manager Kevin Dallas calls out Microsoft’s “big transition” from being a software company to a devices and services company.

“Faced with the explosion of business data, enterprises are looking for better alternatives to help them unlock the information inside,” Dallas says. “Microsoft’s broad set of technologies and products make it uniquely qualified to help address this problem. We’re working with our partners to create solutions that extend across the full breadth of Microsoft technologies and provide customers with the clarity they need to harness big data.”

Windows Embedded 8 is the family of device operating systems, including Windows Embedded 8 Standard, Windows Embedded 8 Pro and Windows Embedded 8 Industry. Each version has a distinct feature set that includes the building blocks for an intelligent system across hardware, software and services — namely, the ability to manage devices and identities, the presence of connected devices, the availability of rich, touch-enabled experiences, having devices that are secure, and the ability to analyze data.

Windows Embedded 8 supports a growing range of applications, device form factors, architectures and system requirements. In parallel, Windows Embedded Compact 2013 will support small footprint devices that require flexible hardware, the use of touch- and gesture-based inputs and hard, real-time support. Windows Embedded Compact 2013 will be generally available in the second quarter of 2013, and, along with Windows Embedded 8, will feature support for Visual Studio 2012. Together, both provide the tools that enterprises need to harness the value of data living on the edge of their networks.

The value of this insight is immeasurable, such that intelligent systems are considered essential for the growth of today’s enterprise; IDC forecasts the market for intelligent systems will exceed US$1.4 trillion by 2016.[1]

A Cohesive, Multiplatform Solution

With Windows Embedded 8, Microsoft is also incorporating the same level of imagination as it did in the latest version of its desktop operating system. Partners and enterprises will benefit from many of the same features found in Windows 8 — most notably, the use of touch and gesture, which will bring a richer, more natural experience to specialized devices such as POS systems, medical devices and in-car technology. And, with support for Visual Studio 2012, they can use their existing investments to build intelligent, seamless experiences that span a variety of platforms — from hardware to software and services.

Windows Embedded 8 Standard (Release preview available now; general availability in March 2013)

Windows Embedded 8 Standard is a flexible, modular, version of Windows 8 that gives enterprises and partners the freedom to choose which parts of the operating system they need for their unique requirements. Devices can also be locked down to block certain gestures and deliver a more secure and differentiated user experience.

Windows Embedded 8 Pro (General availability in March 2013)

Like its predecessor, Windows 7 for Embedded Systems, Windows Embedded 8 Pro delivers the full power and familiarity of the Windows operating system. Enterprises and partners can create quick-turn, industry-certified solutions, without concern for application and device compatibility.

Windows Embedded 8 Industry (Community technology preview and details on timing will be available in January 2013)

Historically, Windows Embedded POSReady has targeted retail point-of-service (POS) solutions. Moving forward, Microsoft will deliver the power of Windows 8 technologies to these and other scenarios requiring fixed experiences with enhanced lockdown, branding and the other benefits of Windows Embedded 8 — including peripheral support to other industry-specific scenarios, such as manufacturing and healthcare, in addition to POS.

Windows Embedded 8 Handheld (More information will be available in early 2013)

The next generation of Windows Embedded Handheld will be based on Windows Phone 8 technologies. Microsoft is working with a handful of partners to bring new features and capabilities to the enterprise handheld device market.

Windows Embedded 8 Automotive (More information will be available in early 2013)

Microsoft is working with a group of preselected partners on the next generation of Windows Embedded Automotive, which will be based on Windows 8 technologies.

Extending the Windows Platform

With Windows Embedded 8, Microsoft is building security, identify and manageability features into the platform. With the release of System Center 2012 Configuration Manager Service Pack 1 (SP1) in September, the capabilities of Windows Embedded Device Manager are being integrated into a centralized network management portal.

Windows Embedded Rollout
Windows Embedded Rollout
November 12, 2012
The release schedule includes the Windows Embedded 8 family of device operating systems, each with a distinct feature set that includes the building blocks for an intelligent system across hardware, software and services.

The Windows Embedded platform also extends to Microsoft’s data analysis and server OS products through the availability of Microsoft SQL Server for embedded systems, released in April of this year, and Windows Server 2012 for embedded systems, released earlier this fall.

“The ultimate objective of intelligent systems is to unlock the value of data, and it’s clear that there’s a huge opportunity,” Dallas says. “Between the range of experience, talent and technology that we have in play, I’m convinced that Microsoft and its community of partners are uniquely qualified to take the lead.”

For more information, please visit the Windows Embedded website.

[1]PCs and smartphones excluded from market-size numbers. IDC iView, sponsored by Microsoft, “The Rise of Intelligent Systems: Connecting Enterprises and Smart Devices in Seamless Networks," April 2012.

Choose the Right Strategy to Reap Big Value From Big Data

REDMOND, Wash. — Nov . 1 3 , 2012 — It seems the gigabyte is going the way of the megabyte — another humble unit of computational measurement that is becoming less and less relevant. Long live the terabyte, impossibly large, increasingly common.

Consider this: Of all the data that's been collected in the world, more than 90 percent has been gathered in the last two years alone. According to a June 2011 report from the McKinsey Global Institute, 15 out of 17 industry sectors of the U.S. have more data stored — per company — than the U.S. Library of Congress.

The explosion in data has been catalyzed by several factors. Social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter are creating huge streams of unstructured data in the form of opinions, comments, trends and demographics arising from a vast and growing worldwide conversation.

Windows Azure Marketing GM Eron Kelly discusses Microsoft’s focus on delivering software through the cloud, and the opportunity this creates for devices and intelligent systems.

And then there’s the emerging world of machine-generated information. The rise of intelligent systems and the Internet of Things means that more and more specialized devices are connected to information technology — think of a national retail chain that is connected to every one of its point-of-sale terminals across thousands of locations or an automotive plant that can centrally monitor hundreds of robots on the shop floor.

Combine it all and some industry observers are predicting that the amount of data stored by organizations across industries will increase ten-fold every five years, much of it coming from new streams that haven’t yet been tapped.

It truly is a new information age, and the opportunity is huge. The McKinsey Global Institute estimates that the U.S. health care system, for example, could save as much as $300 billion from more effective use of data. In Europe, public sector organizations alone stand to save 250 billion euros.

In the ever-competitive world of business, data strategy is becoming the next big competitive advantage. According to analyst firm Gartner Group,* “By tapping a continual stream of information from internal and external sources, businesses today have an endless array of new opportunities for: transforming decision-making; discovering new insights; optimizing the business; and innovating their industries.”

According to Microsoft’s Ted Kummert, corporate vice president of the Business Platforms Division, companies addressing this challenge today may wonder where to start. How do you know which data to store without knowing what you want to measure? But then again, how do you know what insights the data holds without having it in the first place?

“There is latent value in the data itself,” Kummert says. “The good news is storage costs are making it economical to store the data. But that still leaves the question of how to manage it and gain value from it to move your business forward.”

With new data services in the cloud such as Windows Azure HDInsight Service and Microsoft HDInsight Server for Windows and Microsoft’s Apache Hadoop-based solutions for Windows Azure and Windows Server, organizations can afford to capture valuable data streams now while they develop their strategy — without making a huge financial bet on a six-month, multimillion-dollar datacenter project.

Just having access to the data, says Kummert, can allow companies to start asking much more complicated questions, combining information sources such as geolocation or weather information with internal operational trends such as transaction volume.

“In the end, big data is not just about holding lots of information,” he says. “It's about how you harness it. It’s about insight, allowing end users to get the answers they need and doing so with the tools they use every day, whether that’s desktop applications, devices at the network edge or something else.”

His point is often overlooked with all the abstract talk of big data. In the end, it’s still about people, so making it easier for information workers to shift to a new world in which data is paramount is just as important as the information itself. Information technology is great at providing answers, but it still doesn’t know how to ask the right questions, and that’s where having the right analytics tools and applications can help companies make the leap from simply storing mountains of data to actually working with it.

That’s why in the Windows 8 world, Kummert says, the platform is designed to extend from devices and phones to servers and services, allowing companies to build a cohesive data strategy from end to end with the ultimate goal of empowering workers.

“When we talk about the Microsoft big data platform, we have all of the components to achieve exactly that,” Kummert says. “From the Windows Embedded platform to the Microsoft SQL Server stack through to the Microsoft Office stack. We have all the components to collect the data, store it securely and make it easier for information workers to find it — and, more importantly, understand what it means.”

For more information on building intelligent systems to get the most out of business data, please visit the Windows Embedded home page.

* Gartner, “Gartner Says Big Data Creates Big Jobs: 4.4 Million IT Jobs Globally to Support Big Data By 2015,” October 2012

Bedside Manner: Dutch Hospital Transforming Healthcare IT

‘S- HERTOGENBOSCH, Netherlands — Nov . 14, 2012 — Along with limited cable television options, two-inch-thick stacks of paper affixed to messy clipboards have long been a feature of large hospitals in the developed world.

Now one Dutch hospital has come up with a way to stem the tide of paper-based medical records — and make some other welcome improvements to the patient experience along the way.

Jeroen Bosch Hospital , a new medical center in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, has installed 800 touch screen terminals connected into an intelligent system anchored by Windows Embedded. The system is designed to enhance healthcare by enabling hospital staff and patients to communicate and share information more efficiently.

The terminals connect with the outside world via the Internet, as well as the hospital’s own information systems. Though designed to be used by patients for entertainment and communication, they are also a powerful tool for hospital staff, helping provide a secure way to access a comprehensive view of the patient’s history, including lab results, care provided by local practitioners, the most recent treatment at the hospital and billing information.

At a time when the world’s population is aging and medical-care budgets are carefully scrutinized, the solution is designed to help the hospital provide better patient care while also controlling rapidly rising medical costs. But according to Cor-Jan van der Wal, director of Services and Facilities at the hospital, it’s also about creating a collaborative environment where medical staff members are all on the same page and patients become partners in their own care.

“We wanted to deliver personalized information to patients at their bedside, so that we could plan treatment together,” says van der Wal. “Although this is high technology, it also enables the human connections that are so important to well-being.”

The displays can be used by patients for Internet access, multimedia entertainment and communication. When patients sign on, they gain immediate access to television, radio and other entertainment media. The terminals also feature telephony through VoIP and can be enabled for Skype functionality so patients can video chat with friends and family during their stay. The terminals can also be set up to allow patients to select meals and call nurses or connect to the outside world through email and instant messages.

The solution was built and implemented by Patientline, the leading Dutch provider of hospital bedside technologies. According to Piet Knol, co-owner of Patientline, Microsoft software was chosen for multiple reasons, including optimal connectivity with a variety of systems, better manageability and superior ease-of-use with a familiar interface.

“We chose to build this infrastructure with Microsoft technology because of its rich support for multimedia, its stability and the depth of the partner ecosystem,” Knol says. “Fantastic stuff happens when the operating system and its drivers help us connect a system like this to the outside world.”

Web-based applications run on IIS servers, and user credentials are maintained in SQL Server data management software. The entire back-end solution runs on Windows Server at the centrally managed Patientline datacenter, which helps hospitals control costs and ease administration while maintaining strict privacy and security controls, which are vital in a hospital setting.

“We have built an infrastructure that remotely manages our installations, which are currently used in half of the hospitals in the Netherlands, including Jeroen Bosch,” says Knol. “This has allowed Patientline to cut ongoing IT maintenance costs by 40 percent.”

Using radio frequency identifier (RFID) tags embedded in staff ID badges and single sign-on services, doctors and nurses can immediately validate their credentials and access relevant patient records, including diagnostic images, on the same terminals.

“When a medical specialist visits a patient, in the past she would have a paper dossier under her arm,” says Knol. “She would be walking through the building with this stack of paper. This system uses RFID technology to identify professionals and allow medical specialists to sign into the multimedia terminals, where they can access a professional workplace and review each patient’s highly specific dossier.”

With all these new capabilities, perhaps the one with the most potential to transform healthcare is the ability of the system to extend beyond hospital walls. By connecting up-to-the-minute records with primary care physicians, physical therapy facilities and other health vendors outside the hospital, patients can benefit from a healthcare continuum that includes their own family doctor, the hospital and the home.

“When you take advantage of an intelligent system powered by Windows Embedded, the physical building isn’t as important,” says van der Wal. “It’s not about the hospital, it’s not about a bed — It’s about the concept of a partnership with the patient that starts at the home and continues through the lifecycle of care. We believe that the outcome is a healthier patient and less visits to the hospital, which is ultimately our goal.”

Asian Companies Move to Intelligent Systems Amid Buildup in Big Data

BEIJING and YOKOHAMA, JAPAN Nov. 1 4 , 2012 Cloud computing, big data and connected devices. The promise of what enterprise information and communications technology (ICT) holds for the future of business can be summed up in these three themes. Perhaps nowhere is that more apparent than in the vast Asia-Pacific region, where forecasts for technology adoption are especially bullish.

Over the next five years, the Asia-Pacific big data market is expected to grow at rate of a 46.8 percent, according to IDC.[1] And more than 20 percent of companies in Asia have already deployed connected devices, with another 70 percent expecting to do so over the course of the next two years.[2]

Technology solutions that combine connected devices with the capabilities of cloud computing and data analysis — known in the industry as an intelligent system — have the potential to significantly improve how companies operate — indeed, in many cases they have done so already.

Today, the intelligent systems market in Asia, including China, is nearly $260 billion and over 338 million units, says IDC VP of Semiconductors and Enabling Technologies Mario Morales, “and in 2016, IDC predicts the intelligent systems market in Asia will be $477 billion in revenue and nearly 700 million units. This represents 1/3 of the worldwide intelligent systems market.”

The Move to Intelligent Systems
The Move to Intelligent Systems
November 13, 2012
Advantech, Fingertouch and Beijing Strong Union Technology Ltd. are combining their technical and industrial expertise to generate greater business insight.

Across Asia, vertical solution providers have combined their industry, software and device expertise with Microsoft products and services to create end-to-end solutions addressing particular business scenarios.

These solution providers are fulfilling a vision for intelligent systems that was first unveiled last autumn by the Windows Embedded team at Microsoft. By connecting embedded devices to datacenters and software on the backend, companies can generate data that provides more strategic business insight and more effectively meets their customers’ needs. Throughout the region, there are examples of Microsoft partners that are creating intelligent systems for customers, including these:

  • Beijing Strong Union Technology Co. Ltd., an ICT provider for the financial services sector, developed a customer service solution for one of China’s largest state-owned banks. Using a cloud-connected slate device, customers can get personalized customer data in real time through a secure and trusted environment. This has reduced the average customer wait time to around 15 minutes from approximately one hour. Meanwhile, the bank has benefited from an easier process for rolling out new financial products. Ease of development with Windows Embedded Standard has shortened Strong Union’s development time by several months, and the ability to install updates via the cloud promises to provide additional efficiencies.

  • Based in Taiwan, Advantech develops industrial control and automation solutions for the remote monitoring and management of embedded devices. In real time, customers can reassign devices, install and upgrade software, perform full system recoveries, and monitor multiple devices — all from a single management console. Advantech’s intelligent systems solution has been used in a variety of applications, such as retail, remote surveillance, fleet management and critical infrastructure. Using Windows Embedded Standard, Advantech has decreased service costs by 15 percent and reduced on-site support cost by more than half.

  • Daum Fingertouch is a provider of interactive digital signage and content management solutions. The Korean company’s Smart Signage System kiosks can be found in a number of landmarks and rail stations, including Seoul Metro, Korail Airport Railroad and sites throughout Japan. In addition to providing the public with free IP-telephony service, the kiosks feature video and interactive advertising, as well as public service information related to train schedules and local attractions.

The Daum Fingertouch Digital View OS and Audience Measurement solution has given advertisers the insight to adjust their ad schedules based on tangible data, which has helped increase sales and improved the reliability of Daum Fingertouch’s service. Windows Embedded has provided Daum Fingertouch with the stability and scalability the company needs to strengthen its service offerings within South Korea and Japan, as well as expand into other regions.

“Throughout Asia-Pacific, companies are looking to big data to help generate opportunities for growth and efficiency, and Microsoft has the technology to help them reach that goal,” says John Doyle, director of Product Management for Windows Embedded. “Leveraging their expertise and industry insight, Microsoft partners are creating end-to-end solutions that provide the value customers are looking for.”

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

[1] IDC APEJ Big Data Technology and Services 2012-2016 Forecast and Analysis, Doc# AP2670106X, Oct 2012


Getting Rid of Cable: Wireless In-Flight Entertainment Offers New Options for Airlines, Passengers

KELSTERBACH, Germany — March 7, 2013 — In the world of in-flight entertainment (IFE), there’s nothing worse than a “dark flight,” where passengers are forced to watch that movie stored on their laptop for the 15th time, fumble through seat-back magazines for a quick read, or, heaven help us, try to get some work done.

Happily, the world of air travel is looking brighter with a new solution developed by Lufthansa Systems, one of the top IT providers for the aviation industry. Lufthansa Systems’ BoardConnect is an in-flight infotainment system that can deliver a rich variety of content wirelessly throughout the cabin, accessible from almost any device.

In-Flight Infotainment at Your Fingertips
In-Flight Infotainment at Your Fingertips
March 06, 2013
BoardConnect allows passengers to wirelessly access a range of content through their own personal devices.

Instead of stringing cables throughout the plane across hundreds of seats to power seat-back screens, BoardConnect uses a single Windows Embedded Server and distributes its content through a network of wireless access points installed into the aircraft’s ceiling.

According to Norbert Mueller, senior vice president at Lufthansa Systems, airlines can use BoardConnect to deliver their own branded experience and offer whatever kind of content they want — movies or music protected by digital rights management software, e-books, catalogs, menus and more.

“Airlines could offer a wide variety of content,” Mueller says. “From the beginning we decided to give customers and ourselves the option to integrate almost any application. If someone comes up with a clever way to entertain or inform passengers, why shouldn’t it run on our platform?”

Passengers access the content either through tablets and seat-back screens provided by the airlines, or using their own laptops, tablets, smartphones and other mobile devices. Using the system, passengers can watch streaming on-board movies. If an airline decides to provide tablets to the passengers as a service, it may even show “early window” content from Hollywood due to BoardConnect’s approval to serve movies not yet released to DVD.

“Videos shown on flights must be protected with an approved form of digital rights management,” Mueller says. “The BoardConnect system uses Microsoft PlayReady technology to facilitate DRM for video streaming, so all content is more secure.”

Since the solution eliminates the need for all those cables and screens built into the aircraft, it also makes the plane lighter, which can result in a surprising savings of fuel: Lufthansa Systems estimates that a single Boeing 767 with 260 seats could save as much as 80 tons of fuel per year just by going wireless and eliminating more than 1,100 pounds of classic IFE hardware.

Though the system is simple by design, Mueller says a lot of work has gone into making it airworthy. One of the first challenges was to make the network efficient enough to handle the throughput required to serve potentially hundreds of devices spanning the Windows, iOS and Android platforms, especially considering the bandwidth needed for streaming video.

“At a public hot spot you have maybe 50 people with low bandwidth requirements,” says Mueller. “In an aircraft you have 300 people all using the same wireless network with high-quality content, which requires a lot of bandwidth. We cater to that by fitting several wireless access points throughout the cabin and actively optimizing network traffic so there is always ample bandwidth available.”

Another challenge was to build a system that not only works 100 percent of the time, but that also doesn’t put any extra burden on the crew to keep it operational.

“Our system switches on automatically in accordance with regulatory requirements at the appropriate altitude,” he says. “The crew doesn’t have to start anything or push any buttons, and we’re using a special implementation of Windows Server 2008 R2 for Embedded Systems that makes sure the system is always clean and robust.”

Of course, you can’t just install an intranet into an airplane without buy-off from the world’s air-traffic regulatory bodies. In the U.S., every aircraft has what’s known as a type certificate that comes from the original manufacturer. Every additional component an airline wishes to install, electronic or otherwise, must obtain what the Federal Aviation Administration calls a supplemental type certificate, or STC.

“Components must pass a variety of tests to ensure they’re not flammable, can handle pressurization and that they don’t interfere with flight operations,” Mueller says. “This requires a lot of effort and paperwork, and the process must be repeated for every aircraft type.”

The FAA as well as its European and Australian counterparts have already approved the system, and BoardConnect is being tested on passenger flights with Australian and European airlines. The product has won two coveted industry awards for its innovative passenger experience: at the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg, Germany, and last year’s APEX Expo in Long Beach, Calif.

In the future, passengers could see a variety of implementations as airlines explore what works best. Mueller says the system provides a backbone for IT in the aircraft that could be used in other ways. It could link through Windows Embedded handheld devices, for example, to form an intelligent system that collects operational data to optimize operations, identify cost savings and create other efficiencies.

Says Mueller, “If the airline collects information on how much soda was served, they can place an order on the ground or even from the air to optimize their catering processes.”

While potential uses of the system remain to be seen, for now there’s no doubt that BoardConnect will offer a small revolution in the passenger experience, bringing a much wider variety of in-flight entertainment options, and bringing them to many flights that didn’t have IFE at all before, such as short to medium routes using the Airbus A320s and Boeing 737s of the world. But with such a flexible, adaptable solution built by Lufthansa Systems, the sky’s the limit.

TechFest 2013 Showcases Latest Work from Microsoft Researchers

REDMOND, Wash. – March 6, 2013 – TechFest kicked off Tuesday with Microsoft Research teams sharing their work to harness big data and deliver more human natural user interfaces. The event, which continues through Thursday, features demos organized around 15 research themes.

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