Microsoft kicks off UWM’s first ‘industrial internet of things’ workshop

Representatives from Microsoft presented the first program of UWM’s Connected Systems Institute, demonstrating software designed to harness data from the “industrial internet of things,” or IIoT, to boost productivity of companies.

In a “smart” factory, sensors gather streaming data from equipment and products and share the information through secure online data networks. While some companies have established a few aspects of linked data, barriers to a completely connected enterprise remain.

Three men gather around and look at a computer screen.
More than 50 people, including faculty, students and representatives of local industry, attended a workshop Jan. 11-12 given by presenters from Microsoft, introducing a new software platform to help businesses manage the big data generated by the “internet of things.” It was the first program sponsored by UWM’s new Connected Systems Institute. (UWM Photo/Elora Hennessey)

That’s why UWM has partnered with Rockwell Automation, a leading employer of UWM graduates, and Microsoft, led by CEO and UWM alumnus Satya Nadella, to launch its multidisciplinary Connected Systems Institute.

Attending the workshop, held on campus Jan. 11-12, were professionals from Rockwell Automation, Generac, Eaton, A.O. Smith, Kohler and CBRE Global Workplace Solutions, along with UWM faculty and students.

Patterns in that digital sea of data can help companies identifying strategic trends, improve safety and achieve savings through efficiency, said Adel Nasiri, associate dean in the College of Engineering & Applied Science.

“Through Microsoft’s partnership in the institute, company officials hope to help prepare industry for changes brought on by the internet of things and obtain early input from users,” Nasiri said.

Representatives from Microsoft guided participants through a suite of data-management services that the software affords, such as prediction model-building, dashboard construction and setting up internet bots.

Engineering doctoral student Phillip LaCasse, who attended, said learning how to manage big data is an essential competency for any data scientist or operations analyst.

“Even though the platform is not fully developed, I wanted to become familiar with it,” LaCasse said. “The software platform is a tool, but it is incumbent upon the user to understand which procedures are appropriate under which circumstances and how to interpret the results for themselves.”

While the institute will focus initially on manufacturing, plans call for expanding connected systems for applications in energy, transportation and health care, other fields where devices are sharing information online.

The CSI core facility will open on campus in spring 2019. Long-term plans call for four off-campus test beds and a test plant that can be customized.

“Connected systems – or the internet of things – is a technological evolution that is infiltrating every facet of our lives, and it has powerful implications for all industrial sectors,” said UWM’s Chancellor Mark Mone. “I believe this institute will be a game-changer for businesses in southeastern Wisconsin and the entire state.”

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