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Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella
Microsoft Build 2017

May means different things to different people. The busy spring season. The kick off of summer outdoor activities, like windsurfing for me. For Microsoft, it also means our annual Build conference where thousands of developers gather to learn about some of the latest breakthroughs in digital technology that will empower them to drive innovation and transformation in their organizations.

As a retail data specialist, this was an exciting event. The focus was on intelligence and the opportunities and insights that can now be achieved through data and information. In support of this vision, Microsoft announced a number of new tools and services to help developers modernize existing apps and build more intelligent ones, on every platform, for every platform.

Here are the top six things tech developers in the retail, consumer goods and hospitality industries won’t want to miss from Microsoft Build 2017.

Azure Cosmos DB: The industry’s first globally-distributed, multi-model database service

Introduced at Build, Azure Cosmos DB is built from the ground up to power planet-scale cloud services and data-intensive applications—from IoT to AI to mobile—with incredible performance, fault tolerance and support for every type of data, including graph. It is the industry’s first globally distributed, multimodel database service to deliver horizontal scale with guaranteed uptime, throughput, consistency and single-digit millisecond latency at the 99th percentile. As a universal backend for various kinds of databases, retailers and brands can start doing some really interesting things with internal, external and IoT data. You can learn more here.

Microsoft Azure IoT Edge: Take your IoT solutions to the next level

Microsoft Azure IoT Edge is an exciting new service that extends cloud intelligence to edge devices. This has incredible value for retailers and brands, enabling your in-store and on-property IoT devices to run cloud services, process data in near real-time, and communicate with sensors and other devices connected to them, even with intermittent cloud connectivity. By enabling processing, analytics and action to happen closer to the source of the data, Azure IoT Edge empowers you to make faster and smarter decisions, while reducing bandwidth costs by sending only critical information to the cloud for further analysis. This helpful blog talks more about the new capabilities.

Conversational Commerce: New channels, new ways to make great bots

As I shared recently, significant advancements in AI and machine learning are opening new doors to make conversational commerce a truly relevant platform, one that’s valuable for both consumers and brands. At Build, we announced numerous updates to Microsoft’s Bot Framework designed to help developers make great conversationalists. One key feature for retailers and brands is the new channels available to increase your bot’s reach, including the ability for consumers to discover and chat with your bot directly in the Bing search result page.

Another important capability you’ll want to check out is the Payment Request API that can provide fast, easy checkout experiences. With online shopping cart abandonment rates currently sitting above 60 percent across the web, we’re looking to this API to reduce friction during the checkout process. You can learn more about these and additional bot innovations currently being tested here.

Microsoft Cognitive Services: Bringing AI to every developer

We now offer 29 Cognitive Services, giving developers a wealth of options for incorporating off-the-shelf and custom AI capabilities with just a few lines of code. With Microsoft Cognitive Services, developers can build apps that recognize gestures, translate text in multiple languages, deconstruct video for quicker search, editing and real-time captioning, and even customize data to recognize images in categories most important to customers. We also showed how developers can custom train this set of services without needing to design their own deep learning models. Read more.

Microsoft Cognitive Services Labs: Making applications more intelligent

We also launched Microsoft’s Cognitive Services Labs, which allows developers to take part in the research community’s quest to better understand the future of AI. One of the first AI services available via our Labs is Project Prague, a gesture API that creates more intuitive and natural experiences by allowing users to control and interact through gestures. This will have great relevance for in-store and on-property digital signage and for controlling connected hotel rooms.

Another really interesting Cognitive Services API is Project Johannesburg for transportation and logistics. It enables truck routing by taking into consideration additional information such as the height or the weight-class of a bridge or the gradient of a road; they need to avoid sharp turns, grounding risks due to the long wheel stand, and minimize crosswinds. Trucks that transport hazardous material have additional restrictions and may require permits. These requirements and other characteristics like it that are specific for large vehicles, require special data attributes and algorithms that are implemented in Project Johannesburg.

Windows 10 Fall Creators Update: Tools for traveling through a new reality

Microsoft also shared the next wave of Windows 10 innovations built to empower the creator in all of us—the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update. An exciting component for retailers and brands is the world’s first Windows Mixed Reality motion controllers with no markers required. A customer who pairs a Windows Mixed Reality headset with motion controllers will have a rich and immersive experience across creativity tools, productivity, games, and entertainment. The motion controllers offer precise and responsive tracking of movement in your field of view using the sensors in a Windows Mixed Reality headset. There is no need to install hardware on the walls around you.

Building the future

You can see and learn more about these opportunities by watching the event’s on-demand keynote videos and checking out all the news here. We look forward to hearing what you think! Feel free to share your comments with us on Twitter at @msretail.

LinkedIn: ShiSh Shridhar

Twitter: @5h15h