AWS showcased its constantly-evolving services portfolio at its 2 day AWS Summit London, a regional conference supplementing its annual flagship re:Invent in November. Day 1 centered around AWS developer and startup education, while day 2 featured a keynote by CTO Werner Vogels and UK & Ireland Managing Director Gavin Jackson.
The new Machine Learning Competency for Consulting Partners was Vogel’s major announcement for the overall AWS portfolio, along with the long list of companies that had already signed up to participate. The original ML competency launched at re:Invent last year – AWS expanded the popular program to consulting partners to allow them to provide data services to customers.
Focusing on IoT – day 2 brought a few excellent opportunities to review “old” AWS IoT services (IoT Core, Greengrass, Sumerian) and to learn about new additions to the portfolio (AWS analytics, Amazon FreeRTOS).
AWS Virtual Reality + IoT
Ben Moore (@jaminmoo), Lead Product Manager of Sumerian, walked a packed room of developers through a quick demo on Sumerian, showing off the IDE’s drag and drop functionality for programming browser-based VR experiences. The framework is smooth and polished, with an easy-to-use one click to publish model that deploys a packaged VR application (built on the evolving WebXR standard) to a CloudFront page that can be accessed by any VR headset on a web browser.
Unlike leading mixed reality / IoT pioneers such as Microsoft (Hololens) and PTC (ThingWorx Studio / Vuforia), AWS is currently approaching VR from a browser-based, horizontal approach. The benefits of developing VR/AR apps for the web are portability, ease of platform access/use (for the developers), and the ability to run on the millions of devices running the latest Chrome/Firefox browsers. The current downside is the limit on the size and performance of assets, as well as the lack of optimization for one piece/family of hardware.
In the near term, AWS Sumerian will be most suited to use cases in the consumer/retail/educational IoT realm, such as augmented shopping. Moore mentioned that AWS’ “cousins” in the Amazon.com retail business have a large trove of VR asset models that Sumerian is starting to make available as pre-built assets within Sumerian – if Amazon.com digitizes the most popular items sold through the platform, Sumerian could be an extremely popular way for retailers to create try-before-buying IoT experiences. Perhaps one day we will all have “Amazon Avatars” that will let us try on clothes, place furniture, and hold/measure objects before checking out with our Prime carts.
As it stands now, Sumerian (and by extension Amazon’s current mixed reality play) – is not a direct competitor for the more vertical-specific industrial and manufacturing IoT use cases Microsoft and PTC (among others) are pursuing and building tools/apps for. But all it would take for AWS to get into this arena would be one or two smart acquisitions.
AWS Computing at the Edge
Tara Walker (@taraw), IoT Technical Evangelist, led two sessions on IoT progress at AWS – the first ran over the basics of Greengrass and Lambda computing, and the second focused on getting a simulated board running FreeRTOS connected securely to AWS. As stated previously, we believe AWS’ acquisition of FreeRTOS was a wise move, given the importance of the OS as a foundation and an onramp for AWS into the hundreds of millions of IoT devices that ship every year. Tara battled her way through a few technical issues, debugging the FreeRTOS device setup on the fly with the help of the crowd, proving that an open source community can be a huge benefit when facing IoT challenges.
Andrew Hood, Business Development Manager IoT, also sat down with me to share updates on AWS IoT / Analytics. Customer use cases discussed included Nokia running Greengrass on base stations connected to oil & gas sites to reduce latency/filter data export to the cloud, and Rio Tinto using Greengrass for predictive maintenance on mining equipment and vehicles. We will publish further detailed analysis of AWS’ current IoT edge analytics portfolio and positioning in our upcoming IoT Edge Analytics report, slated to publish in late May 2018.
AWS is keeping its IoT portfolio largely horizontal, but we expect to see a few vertical IoT acquisitions or key IoT hires in the coming months as Microsoft and Google build up portfolios to extend further from the horizontal domain of the cloud, down into the heterogeneous environments of IoT devices/endpoints. We look forward to following the company closely and keeping our clients updated and informed.
View the 2018 IoT & Embedded Technology Research Outline to learn more.