Microsoft Ignite: How Azure Percept will bring AI to the edge for the enterprise

The overall goal of the new platform is to give customers an end-to-end system from hardware to AI.

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Microsoft unveiled Azure Percept and a dev kit at Ignite.

Image: Microsoft

Microsoft unveiled a preview of Azure Percept at its Ignite digital conference on Tuesday. Percept is a platform of hardware and services intended to simplify how customers use Azure artificial intelligence technologies on the edge, such as with cloud offerings for device management, AI model development and analytics. Microsoft Ignite runs from March 2-4.

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The platform includes a development kit with an intelligent camera, Azure Percept Vision. Azure Percept Studio will guide customers, whether they have extensive coding experience or not, through the entire AI lifecycle. This includes developing, training and deploying proof-of-concept ideas, said Roanne Sones, corporate vice president of Microsoft's edge and platform group, in a press release.

One of the ways the Azure Percept platform can be used is if a company wants to set up a system to automatically identify irregular produce on a production line, allowing employees to pull the less-than-perfect fruits and vegetables off before shipping. 

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Azure Percept dev kit

Image: Microsoft

Azure Percept Vision and Azure Percept Audio will ship separately from the dev kit. They connect to Azure services in the cloud and include embedded hardware-accelerated AI modules to enable speech and vision AI at the edge. 

Microsoft also announced at Ignite that it is working with third-party silicon and equipment manufacturers to build an ecosystem of intelligent edge devices certified to run on the Azure Percept platform, Sones said in the release.

"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. But they can envision it in any kind of responsible form factor to cover a pattern of the world," Sones said in the release.

Azure Percept dev kit

The Azure Percept development kit hardware uses the industry standard 80/20 T-slot framing architecture. This is so that it will be easier for customers to try proof-of-concept pilots in retail stores, factory floor or anywhere they choose, using existing industrial infrastructure before they have to scale up to wider production with certified devices. 

Azure Percept devices will automatically concept to the Azure IoT Hub. Azure Percept-based solutions can also be integrated with https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/services/machine-learning/mlops/

Microsoft intends to expand the number of third-party certified Azure Percept devices in the "months to come" according to Christa St. Pierre, a product manager in Microsoft's Azure edge and platform group, in a press release. 

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By Teena Maddox

Teena Maddox is Associate Managing Editor at TechRepublic. She oversees TechRepublic's news team and TechRepublic Premium. She focuses on tech and business and how the two worlds intersect. Teena's lifelong journalism career has included writing on s...