On Monday, Microsoft announced it is working on offering its Cortana virtual assistant to a slew of consumer-focused Internet of Things (IoT) devices. The move will bring the world of the Jetsons one step closer to reality and was announced at the company’s WinHEC conference which was held in China – home to many IoT component manufacturers. According to sources, some of the first Cortana-enabled devices are expected to hit the market next summer after Microsoft releases an update to Windows 10.
Cortana Program Manager, Carla Forester, noted appliances manufacturers are beginning to add touch screen displays to the appliances they are building. Mrs. Forester added that ‘any kind of smart device with a screen can now take advantage of Cortana.
Faced with a shrinking PC market and almost no share in the mobile phone sector, Microsoft sees appliances and connected devices as an important part of the company’s future. According to Gartner, there will be nearly 21 billion IoT-enabled devices deployed by 2020.
Of this total, more than 13 billion are expected to be consumer appliances. Granted mobile phones are considered IoT-enabled devices, but a total to 13 billion devices would represent near doubling from the number of devices currently deployed.
As part of the company’s drive, Microsoft is working to upgrade Cortana’s speech communication capabilities. This includes a ‘Wake on Voice’ feature which will be part of next year’s Creators Update to Window 10.
The company is betting that appliance manufacturers will latch onto these updates and will begin licensing Windows 10. The potential applications of IoT-enabled home devices are immeasurable. Including refrigerators which can automatically reorder food based on the user’s preference, to home heating and air conditioning which can remotely monitor conditions.
One of the biggest challenges for Microsoft or any company moving into the IoT space is security. In October, several high-profile websites, such as Twitter, was shut down due to a Distributed Denial of Service (DDOS) attack. According to internet security experts, the attack was made possible by targeting poorly secured IoT devices which were then used to bombard the targets servers until they were overloaded and crashed.
While Microsoft’s software was not involved in this high-profile incident, it does highlight legitimate security concerns connected to IoT devices. As such, Microsoft and appliance manufacturers should consider security measures as well as connectivity.
Shares of Microsoft opened up .14% in early trading on Tuesday at $62.26.