Partners Cheer Microsoft's IoT Partnership With Johnson Controls To Build Connected Thermostat

Partners are applauding Microsoft's Internet of Things strategy after the company said Thursday that it is partnering with Johnson Controls to build a connected thermostat.

Microsoft launched a video that showed the features behind its new connected thermostat, GLAS, in homes, workplaces and vertical market environments. The GLAS thermostat, which will be built by HVAC vendor Johnson Controls, will include a touch-screen display that will enable customers to control their room temperatures and check their energy usage.

Reed Wiedower, CTO at New Signature, a Microsoft partner based in Washington, D.C., said GLAS plays into Microsoft's IoT strategy of offering flexible building blocks for end solutions.

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"I think the Johnson Controls thermostat is a perfect example of where Microsoft sees the future of IoT: rather than building their own product, they have created all the building blocks for customers and partners to work together to stitch together industry-specific solutions that solve business challenges in real time," he said. "From a strategy perspective, the easier Microsoft makes it for enterprises and partners to work together to drive stories like this, the more folks will consume Microsoft’s cloud services on the back end, which drives profitability for Microsoft."

GLAS, which will include Cortana integration, will run on Microsoft's Windows 10 IoT operating system.

Microsoft, Redmond, Wash., has had its eye on the connected work and home spaces for awhile – in 2016, the company said it was bringing its Cortana digital assistant to IoT devices incuding connected refrigerators and toasters. The company also updated its Windows 10 Creator in March so that any smart appliance with a screen can run Cortana.

"On the tactical side, the addition of IoT edge compute has been a huge trigger to accelerate this convergence mind-set in the market," said Brian Blanchard, vice president of cloud solutions at 10th Magnitude, a Chicago-based solution provider and Microsoft partner. "We are seeing a steady increase in localized intelligence. This connected, edge compute capability now enables personal assistant applications, image and video analysis, and stream analysis. Since it is all available locally, devices can provide real-time, tactile user experiences. In addition to the local user experiences, the Azure IoT backbone enables data centralization, deeper analysis, and remote device control."

Blanchard stressed that Microsoft's partnership with Johnson Controls is critical for bringing natural human interaction with smart devices in vertical markets – including marketing kiosks that can tie facial recognition to back-end retail systems and audio analysis on factory floors to help identify vibrations indicating unsafe conditions.

"Johnson Controls has long been among the first to launch production-grade devices that incorporate new Azure IoT capabilities. ... It’s no surprise to see them taking an early lead," he said. "Beyond the GLAS product, there is a tremendous opportunity brewing that goes beyond simple device integration and provides natural, human interaction with smart devices."

Microsoft did not respond to a request for comment about pricing and availability of GLAS.

Microsoft has been investing in IoT through its Azure IoT Suite, which is a cloud services-based approach to the market and which will also be featured on GLAS.

Partners have an opportunity to tap into Microsoft's Azure IoT suite to help customers around data collection, reporting, monitoring and analysis.

"Johnson Controls GLAS is a great example of the expansion of Microsoft's convergence story," said 10th Magnitude's Blanchard. "Cortana analytics, Cortana personal assistant, Bot Framework and Azure IoT are each very powerful as individual tools. Customers and partners, like Johnson Controls, are proving to be very receptive to this message and the new capabilities they provide in the enterprise."