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Microsoft Azure Chief Jason Zander Talks Intelligent Cloud And Edge, Drones, HoloLens And Quantum Computing

‘What we’re working on at Microsoft is more analogous to like the transistor that became our modern computer environment,’ Microsoft Azure chief Jason Zander says, referring to his team’s quantum computing efforts. ‘I’m pretty sure I have a couple of future Nobel Prize winners on the team.’

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Drones Another ‘Click Stop’ 

Drones are another “click stop,” according to Zander, who pointed to Microsoft partner eSmart Systems, a Norway provider of AI-driven software for the energy industry that does image analysis.

“It turns out one of the hero scenarios is autonomous drones,” he said. “The use case that I really love…is…inspecting high tension power lines that we have as part of the grid. They can process 100,000 images a day, which is more than a human can do in a year.”

eSmart has Federal Communications Commission permission to fly the drones autonomously seven miles out of sight, according to Zander.

“If you think about intelligent edge and the AI component, (they’re) taking those image recognitions and actually going through and looking at the powerlines, looking at the parts, picking them out and using image recognition to decide does it look like it’s correct or does it have a defect,” he said. “This actually replaces people in their Ford F-150s driving from down below or up in a helicopter. Because of the AI that’s on the edge, it’s more deterministic.”

Zander also expects to see increased use of underwater drones.

“My usual joke here is mining goes to where the asteroids fell, and then oil goes to where the dinosaurs died,” he said. “You don’t get a choice where you’re operating. A lot of places are going to be remote, they’re going to be disconnected, and may or may not have even a satellite connection.”

Microsoft partner Oceaneering International, a subsea engineering and applied technology company based in Houston, has a set of remotely operated underwater vehicles that do pipeline inspection.

“They’re able to use our Data Box -- and will be able to use Data Box Edge, which includes AIA, going forward – (and) can collect up to two terabytes of data off of that underwater inspection,” Zander said. “And then a boat could have 20 petabytes, and I can actually ship it into the data center as well.”

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