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Industrial IoT applications, like these connected drills from Microsoft customer Schneider Electric, are becoming more and more prevalent. (Microsoft Photo)

Microsoft’s emphasis on the industrial internet of things this year has produced a new service that will let customers create digital models of physical spaces, which the company thinks will allow customers to design and manage those spaces in new ways.

Full Coverage: News and analysis from Microsoft's Ignite 2018 event in Orlando

Azure Digital Twins is just one of dozens of new cloud services scheduled to be unveiled later on Monday at Ignite 2018, Microsoft’s customer conference, but it’s one of several intended for cloud customers that need to manage fleets of connected devices within their networks. The company also plans to make a control panel for the internet of things generally available to the public, and will also extend its focus on security to the world of connected enterprise and consumer devices.

Customers using Azure Digital Twins, which will be available as a public preview next month, will be able to re-create models or blueprints of their buildings or factories in digital form. The digital copy should allow those customers to model changes to the environment and also map the relationships between people and objects, so whoever keeps stealing your office chair can be tracked down and prosecuted to the fullest extent allowed by the HR department.

“It takes people, space, and things, and creates a simulation, essentially, a digital artifact that simulates the interactions in a space between people and things,” said Satya Nadella, Microsoft CEO, during his morning keynote kicking off the show.

Those models can also inform decisions about how to manage those spaces. If the service detects that someone has entered or left a conference room, it can adjust the lighting and temperature controls based on pre-set criteria. Building managers can also get a better handle on how foot traffic flows within a given area, which could help inform future designs or enhance current ones.

Microsoft also plans to announce that Azure IoT Central will be generally available for customers who would rather let Microsoft handle more of the heavy lifting required to manage an IoT environment. IoT Central is software delivered as-a-service that allows users to input data and configuration information about their devices and have Microsoft’s software put together a program that runs those devices.

And the company plans to announce that Azure Security Service will now support IoT applications. Reams of dispersed and connected devices are hard to manage and can create a security nightmare if left unpatched, and the service will help operators monitor their devices and make sure they are up to date.

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