Editor’s note: Daniel Callahan, an analyst at Technology Business Research, says Microsoft aims to deliver IoT to the masses via IoT Central.

HAMPTON, N.H. – Microsoft recently announced  announced IoT Central, a managed SaaS solution that aims to make IoT [Internet of Things] more accessible.

IoT Central exists on the Azure cloud and is integrated with Microsoft’s traditional IoT PaaS Azure IoT Suite. Microsoft bills IoT Central as a tool for customers to build and enable IoT scenarios without cloud or deep IT experience, lowering the barriers to engaging with and developing for IoT. Not yet publicly available, IoT Central is slated to roll out over the next few months. TBR believes IoT Central will act as a funnel for Microsoft in capturing developers, self-starters and tinkerers into the Azure ecosystem. Microsoft is increasingly aware of key customer challenges:

Most SMBs and public sector entities don’t have the budget for systems integrators.
Data scientists are expensive. SMBs and public entities don’t have the fiscal capability to hire these professionals to discern best practices for data capture and make sense of captured data.

Most SMBs and public entities are not ready to go all-in on IoT yet due to shaky ROI.
IoT needs to be accessible and provide value to business decision makers. However, IoT is generally locked behind complex IT environments with convoluted user interfaces.

Microsoft aims to solve a number of these challenges, respectively:

IoT Central allows self-serve IoT through a robust SaaS with a large toolbox, enabling customers to circumvent systems integrators initially or until they move beyond the tinkering phase.

TBR believes IoT Central will integrate Microsoft’s efforts in artificial intelligence and machine learning. This will allow the SaaS solution to incorporate the benefits and carry out the tasks of a data scientist, at least for smaller or less complicated implementations.

IoT Central will allow SMBs and public entities to tinker or self-start on the SaaS with low commitment, testing small deployments that can prove ROI for a larger deployment or helping entities understand how they can leverage IoT.
If IoT Central can deliver on its simplicity and claimed intuitiveness, the SaaS solution should deliver more accessibility to business decision makers and increase the overall value by lowering costs and improving ROI.

These answers to key customer challenges make IoT Central an appealing place to start for SMBs and public entities, and Microsoft understands that customers will likely stick with the platform they begin on. It is a game of locking these people into the Azure ecosystem. Once customers can prove ROI, it is a near-guarantee they will leverage Azure IoT Suite, and likely they will consult Microsoft and its partners on how to transform into a larger engagement.

A SaaS solution such as IoT Central will cost Microsoft very little once built, making it a beneficial investment to draw in self-serve IoT customers. Microsoft is also slightly ahead of its competitors, in TBR’s assessment, in offering an intuitive tool such as IoT Central aimed at decision makers instead of data scientists. Despite this positive outlook, Microsoft IoT Central has yet to be seen.

The new offering is slated to roll out during 2Q17-3Q17, and TBR will be watching to see if it lives up to its promise.