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Microsoft Ignite 2018: Top 8 announcements spanning AI, IoT, and Microsoft 365

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Microsoft Ignite 2018

Microsoft is expanding into the cloud at its biggest event for IT pros and enterprise developers— Microsoft Ignite 2018. The company made a raft of announcements spanning almost every aspect of its enterprise portfolio. A number of major announcements also focused on artificial intelligence.

Top updates and announcements from Microsoft Ignite 2018

1. New AI features in Microsoft Teams

Microsoft continues to evolve its teamwork and collaboration platform, adding a couple of new AI-powered meeting features to Microsoft Teams. These features include background blur during a meeting, and meeting recording.

Background blur feature in Teams uses the facial detection technology to blur the background during video meetings.

Meeting recording feature will allow users to replay a recorded meeting any time with captions and searchable timecoded script.

Live event capabilities are coming to Microsoft 365 later this year to help enterprises create and stream live and on-demand events in Teams, Yammer, and Microsoft Stream. These capabilities will allow employees to engage with customers and other employees on the go.

Also coming to Microsoft Teams are new schedule management tools that will allow managers to create and share schedules. Employees will be able to use these tools to swap shifts, request time offs, see who else is working. The schedule management tools in Teams are expected to be available in October.

2. New AI-powered tools in Office 365

During his keynote, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella announced new tools for Microsoft’s productivity suite. Ideas, a new feature for PowerPoint and Excel, makes intelligent suggestions as users work on their documents.

In PowerPoint, the Ideas can suggest designs, layouts, and images.

In Excel, it can recommend charts, recognize trends, and identify outliners in the data.

Ideas will soon be generally available in Excel. It will begin rolling out in preview to other applications as well, starting from PowerPoint Online.

Excel will also get a new image recognition capability, which will allow users to take picture of a hand-drawn or printed data table and convert it into an Excel spreadsheet.

Accompanying these features, another new AI tool called Microsoft Search is making its way into the Office 365. Along with Office applications, this AI-powered search tool will be available with Edge, Bing, and Windows as well.

Microsoft Search will be useful for quickly finding people and related content. Users will also be able to access commands for apps and navigate to other content.

3. Azure Digital Twins

Azure Digital Twins is a new platform for creating replicas of spaces and infrastructure, using cloud, artificial intelligence (AI) and internet of things (IoT).

Using the new platform, enterprises will be able to visually see a physical asset and use the visualization to digitally plan out changes.

Developed as a part of the Azure IoT platform, the Digital Twins is a scalable and reliable solution which also provides compliance, security and privacy benefits. It can be used for environments of all types, including offices, schools, banks, stadiums, factories, streets, etc.

The aim of Microsoft’s this innovation is to help enterprises predict maintenance requirements, analyze energy consumption, optimize use of available space, and create efficient processes.

4. Azure IoT Central

Azure IoT Central is now generally available. Announced for public preview last December, the IoT Central is a managed software-as-a-service (SaaS) that allows users to provision IoT solutions, customize them and then send to production, without having expertise in cloud solution development.

Microsoft has simplified the edge to cloud connectivity with the Azure IoT Central. It comes with rich analytics capabilities to gain insights in large amount of IoT data. Enterprises can also build IoT solutions by reusing their existing device templates and connect the devices securely at scale.

It now also features capabilities to manage large number of IoT devices and the tasks running across them, like rebooting, resetting or updating the devices.

5. IoT Security

Azure Security Center is getting a new security service for end-to-end IoT deployment. It will provide security posture management, threat monitoring, and threat remediation for the entire IoT deployment.

Using the new security service in Azure Security Center, the IT security admins and enterprise cybersecurity experts will be able to integrate IoT security into their current security practice as well.

6. Windows Virtual Desktop

Windows Virtual Desktop is a cloud-based service that delivers virtualized Windows and Office experience on Azure. It is an optimized service for Office 365 ProPlus and provides multi-user Windows 10 experience.

It comes with built-in security and compliance, allowing users to deploy and scale Windows and Office on Azure easily. The use cases of Windows Virtual Desktop will vary according to the industry.

For instance, the regulated industries like financial services and healthcare can use it to meet compliance regulation and securely manage access to sensitive data.

This service will be available for Windows 10 Enterprise and Windows 10 Education customers.

7. AI for Humanitarian Action

Microsoft is going to use AI and cloud technology to save lives, alleviate suffering and restore human dignity. The humanitarian crisis caused by natural and man-made disasters and other emergencies have been troubling the world for a long time now.

The tech giant plans to implement AI in the way frontline relief organizations anticipate, predict and better target response efforts.

At Ignite, Microsoft announced AI for Humanitarian Action in conjunction with the United Nations Assembly meeting. It is a $40 million, five-year initiative.

The AI for Humanitarian Action will be focused on four priorities— helping world recover from disasters, addressing the needs of children, protecting refugees and displaced people, and promoting respect for human rights.

8. Coauthor Office documents with LinkedIn network

Microsoft will soon allow users to coauthor Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents with their LinkedIn connections. It will be possible when the LinkedIn account is connected to Office 365.

Users will also be able to send emails to connections from Outlook. The aim of these capabilities is to bring the corporate directory and LinkedIn network together.

The LinkedIn highlights will be visible in the meeting invites, so that users can gain insights about attendees and prepare for important meetings on time.

Also read: Microsoft rolls out new Dynamics 365 apps powered by AI and mixed reality

Apart from these announcements, Microsoft has expanded its Compliance Manager to include 12 assessments across different industries. It will allow organizations to create, configure and automatically apply policies for protection and governance of sensitive data. The move will make it easier for organizations to achieve General Data Regulation Protection (GDPR).

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