As Covid-19 hit and consumer demand for cloud soared, heavy industry turned to the same technology, embracing cloud, Internet of Things, and automation to stay up and running amidst lockdowns and employee absences.
Microsoft is now capitalizing on this growing demand by filling out its Industry 4.0 portfolio with The Marsden Group – a Scotland and Texas-based rapid prototyping outfit that builds software for sectors including offshore oil drilling, industrial plants, factories and manufacturing facilities. Software products developed by the firm include Vision IQ, which uses AI to monitor offshore drilling environments to prevent accidents, and Sense IQ, which employs electronic sensors for the equivalent use on factory floors.
As a long-term Microsoft partner, Marsden previously worked with Unilever using Azure to build detailed digital factory models that collected real-time data for optimising outputs. According to Omar Abbosh, corporate vice president of cross-industry solutions at Microsoft, Marsden will now aid the digital transformation of more industrial processes using Microsoft’s cloud, edge and AI products:
“In our ever changing world, we see an urgent need to build agile operations and supply chains to address disruptive market forces and consumer demands”, wrote Abbosh in a blog post. “With this investment, we are taking the next step to help our customers across all industries envision and build digital solutions faster.”
Microsoft’s commitment to Industry 4.0 is reflected in a spate of acquisitions made over the last year, all aimed at building out a stable of next generation industrial capabilities. The firm acquired cloud network software vendors Affirmed Networks and Metaswitch in 2020, both firms with expertise in industrial 5G. These were joined by IoT security company CyberX, data modeling startup ADRM Software, and UK robotics firm Softomotive.
The technical capabilities conferred by these investments are likely to mean Microsoft will remain a leading Industry 4.0 player. But growing demand suggests we could see more competitors emerge as deal making accelerates and investment flows into smart manufacturing start-ups.