Microsoft Updates Windows Embedded for Internet of Things
Get ready for more networked things. This week, Microsoft released a preview of the Windows Embedded 8.1 Industry system, planning ahead as we move closer to an Internet of Things.
The Internet of Things adds connectivity and intelligence to a vast array of appliances, buildings, sports equipment and countless other objects and constructions that today are blissfully unnetworked. Like its parent Windows 8.1, the new embedded version offer multi-gesture touch interfaces. It also supports plug-and-play for device peripherals and offers an open driver, standards-based architecture. Windows Embedded is now being offered in Standard, Industry, Pro and Compact 2013 versions.
In a posting on the company's Windows Embedded Blog, Technical Program Manager Jeff Wettlaufer wrote this week that these versions "offer alignment with the Microsoft tools you're using today to develop apps for Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 -- platforms like Visual Studio, tools like XAML and Expression Blend, and frameworks like .NET" to support rich, cloud-connected experiences.
Kinect, Embedded Contact
Wettlaufer also described a demonstration at Microsoft's Build 2013 developers conference, involving Kinect for Windows, Windows Embedded 8 Industry, and a cabinet containing an Amana refrigerator, dishwasher, oven, and microwave. Kinect was used in the demo to track a user's physical interaction with the appliances' self-demonstration.
Via Kinect, the gesture-based controller originally developed for Microsoft's Xbox video game console, the application knew when a user walked up to the combined appliance installation, at which point it displayed a video greeting on an embedded screen. By gesturing in the air, a customer was able to navigate through the display and examine referenced parts of the appliances, all enabled by Windows Embedded.
Windows Embedded 8.1 also supports point-of-sale terminals for .NET and barcode scanners, providing other opportunities for salesroom displays.
Earlier this month, Microsoft released its Windows Embedded Compact 2013, which succeeds Windows Embedded CE. The OS is targeted at "small footprint" devices in such industries as retail, manufacturing and healthcare, supports both x86 and ARM processors, and features improvements in general memory management, networking, file-system performance and other functions.
The Internet of Things has steadily been gaining momentum, as more and more objects become networked. Earlier this week, for instance, AT&T said it was investing in two foundry facilities, one each in Atlanta and Plano, Texas, to rapidly design and build prototypes of new, machine-to-machine apps. The company pointed to such possible applications as smart luggage that is easily trackable, or smart industrial machines that schedule their own maintenance.
Cisco, among many other companies, has been preparing for the Internet of Things. In fact, it's gone beyond that, to what it calls the Internet of Everything. The company said that the Internet of Things merely refers to the "networked connections of physical objects," while the Internet of Everything includes that but also embodies abundant sensors, mobile computing, cloud computing and Big Data.
In a report released earlier in June, Cisco said that the Internet of Everything could lead businesses to at least $613 billion in global profits this year alone because of improved operations, customer service and other benefits.