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How GOJO Industries helps hospitals monitor hand hygiene with secure IoT dispensers

GOJO Industries may be best known as the inventor of PURELL Hand Sanitizer, but the Ohio-based company is also a growing digital innovator in public health. In recent years, the company has deployed about 25,000 connected dispensers that help more than a hundred health care facilities monitor hand hygiene, a simple, effective way to prevent infections.

Traditionally, human observers tracked hygiene compliance in health organizations by watching if you washed your hands when you were supposed to. PURELL SMARTLINK Technology, a set of technology solutions from GOJO, streamlines that process with motion sensors, internet-connected dispensers and a cloud platform that collects and analyzes data.

The system’s infrared sensors detect hand-cleaning “opportunities’’ – every time someone goes in and out of a patient’s room, regardless of whether it’s a health professional or family member. Connected PURELL dispensers detect soap and sanitizer use, a recommended practice before and after seeing a patient. All the data funnels into an easy-to-use analytics portal, a helpful tool powered by the Microsoft Azure IoT platform for health care facilities that monitor thousands of dispensers and millions of “opportunities” a month.

Two health care workers look at a computer screen
Health care professionals look at hand hygiene data with a PURELL SMARTLINK Technology solution.

“Being able to quantify behaviors helps you understand your baseline for implementing interventions. At the end of the day, it comes down to trying to reduce the spread of disease through hands that aren’t clean,” says Jason Slater, technology solutions architect for PURELL SMARTLINK Technology.

One customer, a large health organization, saw an 82 percent increase over baseline in its hand hygiene compliance rate during an 18-month period of working with GOJO. “It’s all been pretty positive results,” Slater says.

Launched in 2012, PURELL SMARTLINK Technology is now undergoing an upgrade with Azure Sphere, a solution that enables highly secured, connected devices powered by a microcontroller unit, a small computer on a chip.

Announced last year, Azure Sphere will deliver end-to-end, internet of things (IoT) security for GOJO’s connected dispensers, which often become network endpoints in hospitals. The company is committed to comprehensive data security for customers and says it has never had a data breach with its devices.

“We work hand-in-hand with hospital IT staff and take a defense-in-depth approach,” says Slater. “We use best practices for security up and down our stack. Azure Sphere will allow us to really button up that last leg of our stack – hardware – to ensure we have the best protection against any potential security risks.”

The re-architecture continues GOJO’s innovative work with Azure IoT Hub, the cloud platform enabling PURELL SMARTLINK products. The platform’s “ready-built, command-and-control capabilities” allow GOJO to focus more on business use cases and less on technical “plumbing,” says Slater. “IoT Hub has been a great thing for us,” he says.

Recent innovations include a new system available this year to monitor hand cleaning of individuals and job roles. Instead of aggregating data of everyone going in and out of patient rooms, the solution will associate hand hygiene with employee badges via Bluetooth communication.

Health care worker in scrubs washes hands at a sink near a soap dispenser
A health care worker cleans her hands with a PURELL SMARTLINK solution.

“You can see how individuals or specific job roles are performing, whether it’s nurses, doctors or physical therapists, to improve coaching and interventions,” Slater says. “It was borne out of us listening to customers and their evolving needs.”

The system highlights GOJO’s continuum of solutions for different customers, including a solution that sends predictive alerts on refill and battery levels. The alerts help hospitals ensure product availability in critical hand hygiene moments.

The individual-monitoring solution also showcases the culture of ongoing innovation at GOJO, founded in 1946 by a couple that invented a waterless hand cleaner for factory workers.

“Technology can be an amazing enabler of all sorts of great services,” Slater says. “Ultimately, we’re always looking for a unique way to drive the GOJO purpose of saving lives and making life better through well-being solutions.”

Top photo: A nurse sanitizes her hands with a PURELL SMARTLINK solution before seeing a patient. (All photos courtesy of GOJO Industries)

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Black History Month: A time to lift each other up

As a child of “First to’s” (First African-American to command the U.S. Army Old Guard, First African-American to be selected National Elementary School Principal of the Year by President Bill Clinton), my family is deeply steeped in the history of African-American culture and civil rights in the United States, emanating from northern cities (Philadelphia, Pa. and Gary, Ind.) and the deep south (Hayneville, Ala.). I have been raised with a belief in the verse that “to whom much is given, much is required,” and a commitment to give back to our society, honoring those who paved a path forward for us.

When I look around our country today, I am so pleased to see how diversity and inclusion have moved from a concept to an expectation, embedded in every industry and sector of our society. I see leaders speaking up and actively listening to the feedback on what it takes to create diverse and inclusive environments. Mostly, I see regular citizens showing up, rediscovering their voice, sharing their stories, and demanding inclusion and equality – not just for people of color, but for groups of all kinds.

Every February during Black History Month, a 28-day window provides an opportunity for our nation, our company, and each of us to pause and take stock of the condition and progress of Black people and other minority populations. We can celebrate the achievements and contributions of so many and, at the same time, lament the increase in violence and hate crimes, inflammatory discourse in our political arena and sense of increasing polarization across our country.

At Microsoft, we have made the long-term commitment to build and sustain a culture that fosters an inclusive working environment, which will enable our employees to do their best work and serve the diverse needs of our customers around the world. We also are committed to engaging in and advancing diversity and inclusion conversations in communities where we believe we can help empower people.

Black History Month presents us with an opportunity to engage in diversity and inclusion dialogues across all minority groups.

  • At Microsoft, we kicked off the month with our Blacks at Microsoft (BAM) chapter ringing the Nasdaq bell on Wall Street for the second consecutive year. As a direct result of the impact our team had last year, Nasdaq has created its own employee network called GLOBE – Global Link of Black Employees.
  • Next week, I will share the stage with civil rights activist, Reverend Jesse Jackson, at the Wall Street Project, which strives to ensure equal opportunities for culturally diverse employees, entrepreneurs and consumers.
  • Reshma Saujani, who founded Girls Who Code with the single mission of closing the gender gap in technology, will be speaking with Microsoft employees later this month.
  • We celebrate the passionate young gamers who demonstrated to everyone, that a level playing field is possible with the help of their friends, family and adaptive technology.
  • At the upcoming BAM conference, we will recognize the pioneers who started the affinity group 30 years ago – the first employee group of its kind.

I count myself incredibly fortunate to work at a company that embodies many of the principles my parents instilled in me, which have stood the test of time as we continue to engage in the diversity and inclusion dialogue: set the bar high and exceed it, approach the world with a service mentality and, above all, lift each other up.

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Microsoft for Healthcare Innovation Award Winners at HIMSS 2019

Health innovation award trophies

The winners of the 2019 Microsoft for Healthcare Innovation Awards were announced at HIMSS19 yesterday during the Microsoft Health Forum.  Each year, the awards acknowledge health and life sciences organizations and their technology solution partners that are achieving innovation excellence with a Microsoft-based solution.

We’re always excited to highlight the achievements of our forward-thinking customers and partners as they advance digital transformation in health. Here are the winners in each of the submission categories:

Award Category:  Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and KenSci

To better understand which patients are at the highest risk of COPD, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde worked with KenSci to leverage AI and Machine Learning to predict long-term hospital stays based on clinical history, socio-economic factors and risk to stratify the top 20% high risk patients likely to admit for the first time due to COPD, in order to drive preventive intervention.

Award Category:  Empower Your Care Teams and Employees

Vision Source, LP and Kno2

To meet the needs of populations with diabetes, Vision Source needed to establish a nationwide interoperability network for their 3,350 independent locations. As a result, Vision Source selected Kno2’s Interoperability as a Service, enabling immediate access to over 2 million referring providers through the nation’s major health information networks: Direct, referral networks, care quality, and those connected through Commonwell Health Alliance.

Award Category:  Engage Your Patients & Enable Personalized Care

Premera Blue Cross

Premera Scout™ is an intelligent virtual assistant that helps customers find the information they need to make the most of their health plan. Premera powers this solution using advanced AI from Microsoft Healthcare. Guided by a customer-centered strategy, Premera transforms complicated and confusing experiences to simple and easy ones.

Award Category:  Optimize Clinical Operational Effectiveness & Improve Outcomes

Prediction of Patient Placement (POPP) Team at Boston Children’s Hospital

Boston Children’s Hospital uses Prediction of Patient Placement (POPP), a real time forecasting tool to predict incoming admissions from the Emergency Department. This tool enables proactive coordination of downstream operations in order to reduce transfer wait time. The model uses hospital-specific, historical data and is EHR- and hospital-agnostic.

Award Category:  Outstanding Innovation

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and DNAnexus

A partnership between St. Jude, DNAnexus, and Microsoft developed the St. Jude Cloud, a secure cloud-based data-sharing and collaboration environment, to provide researchers access to an extensive public repository of pediatric cancer genomics data, accelerated data mining, analysis and visualization capabilities.

Award Category:  Transform the Care Continuum & Reimagine Healthcare

Johns Hopkins Medicine

Johns Hopkins Medicine developed the Precision Medicine Analytics Platform (PMAP) to empower faculty to make discoveries; improve diagnosis, treatment, and outcomes; and lower the cost of care. PMAP is comprised of two parts: Discovery – for faculty researchers to fuel the discovery of new insights and algorithms; and Care Delivery – after discovery medical validation, promoted for use by other physicians.

Thank you to our judges

In addition to acknowledging the innovative solutions of the award recipients, we would like to thank each of the distinguished judges who reviewed this year’s entries:

  • Ahmad Hashem, MD, PhD, CEO, Boston Biopharma, Inc.
  • Benjamin Rooks, Managing Director, ST Advisors, Inc.
  • Gienna Shaw, Senior Writer, Amendola Communications
  • Jane Sarasohn-Kahn, MA (Econ), MHSA, Health Economist and Advisor, THINK-Health and Health Populi blog
  • Jay Srini, FHIMSS, Chief Strategist, SCS Ventures; Adjunct Associate Professor, SHRS, University of Pittsburgh
  • Keith Fraidenburg, MBA, EVP & COO, CHIME
  • Melinda Richter, Global Head, Johnson & Johnson Innovation, JLABS
  • Michael Docktor, MD, Gastroenterologist, Clinical Director of Innovation @ Boston Children’s Hospital / Harvard Medical School
  • Taren Grom, Founding Partner/Editor, PharmaVOICE
  • Victoria (Vicky) L. Tiase, MSN, RN-BC, Director – Informatics Strategy, New York Presbyterian Hospital

What’s your story?

Congratulations again to our winners. We would love to hear how your health organization is creating better experiences and delivering better care, please share with us through emailFacebook, or Twitter.

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Xbox Game Pass favorites to fall in love with on Valentine’s Day

With Xbox Game Pass there’s no shortage of games for you to fall in love with this Valentine’s Day. From sailing to driving to jumping, even combine harvesting, there’s bound to be room in your heart for a few of these titles. We’ve highlighted some of our Xbox Game Pass favorites that we think you’ll fall in love with, too. We’d love to hear what Xbox Game Pass titles you love most by reaching out to us on Xbox Game Pass Twitter and Instagram.

Gears of War 4

There are countless reasons to love Gears of War 4: amazing characters, non-stop action, and awesome Lancers. But one of the reasons it really makes our heart skip a beat is the couch multiplayer you can experience with a loved one by your side. Whether it’s co-op or competitive multiplayer, you can have each other’s backs or go after each other for bragging rights. It’s also a great time to jump on board as we get ready to deepen our relationship with Gears 5 – which will launch with Xbox Game Pass the same day it’s available on Xbox One and Windows 10 later this year.

Human Fall Flat

Another couch co-op crowd-pleaser that’s best played with a group of friends as you wobble and tumble in physics-based puzzle mayhem. But what really makes us fall (pun intended) for Human: Fall Flat are its incredibly adorable character designs, which when seen tumbling, falling, splatting, flying through the air also cause us to break into gut-busting laugher at their expense. And laughter, they say, is the quickest way to someone’s heart.

Laser League

You know that squiggly feeling you get in your stomach at the sight of a certain special someone? Yeah, well, that’s the feeling you get after being shot by laser. And now you’re out of the match and your team is falling behind. You went ahead and got distracted by that attractive, neon-blue clad opponent and you let your guard down for a fraction of a second. And in a game where split-second decisions are key, you blew it. Where were we… oh, yes. Laser League is great. You should play it.

Portal Knights

There are few things we love more than joining friends to embark on an action RPG adventure full of crafting, epic enemies, and massive new worlds. Which is a big reason for our love for Portal Knights, which offers near endless adventure thanks to its randomly generated 3D sandbox worlds. Best of all, these adventures can be had with some couch co-op or online with up to four players. Perfect for a night out on the medieval town.

Mortal Kombat X

Get over here and warm up that sub-zero heart of yours with the epic Mortal Kombat X. As one of the longest-running fighting game franchises, this series continues to impress and innovate causing us to fall in love with it, time and time again. And with Mortal Kombat 11 on the horizon, now’s the best time to dust off those controllers and renew some of your deepest rivalries, er, we mean vows. Toasty!

Rocket League

If you and your special someone are looking for one of the best pick-up-and-play games available today, you can do little wrong  by booting up some Rocket League and letting those sparks fly. And by sparks we mean the giant soccer balls you’re “kicking” in net, and by flying we mean your sweet rides as they tumble through the air. Seriously, it’s great. Go play it together.

Spintires: Mudrunner

On the surface, this physics-based driving game has all the ingredients for one amazing off-road experience as you wrestle these epic vehicles across some of the harshest terrain. But underneath all of this is a trust exercise, with only your compass and map to help guide you to safety – something that will always have your back and support you if you happen to lose your way. Yeah, we might be overthinking the whole giant trucks in the mud bit, but it’s that simplicity that makes us appreciate the life lessons this game is teaching us.

Forza Horizon 4

One of the many reasons we love Forza Horizon 4 is that it lets us run free across a beautiful historic Britain. Perfect for those romances that let the two of you test your love at a brisk 200mph across winding roads all season(s) long. Or, if you’re still looking for someone special this Valentine’s Day, you never know who you’ll meet in the game’s massive, shared open world.

Sea of Thieves

Perhaps the perfect test of a relationship is a bold ocean voyage into the unknown. So, hop online with your loved one(s) and work in harmony, surviving storms, sharks and skeleton crews to forge your very own pirate legend. Or just take a ship built for two and seek out a secluded island getaway… with a shovel in hand and an unpatched eye trained to catch the gleam of half-buried treasure.

Join Xbox Game Pass Today

With over 100 great games for one low monthly price, including highly-anticipated new Xbox One exclusives the day they’re released, including the highest-rated* Xbox exclusive of this generation Forza Horizon 4, plus more games added all the time, Xbox Game Pass gives you the ultimate freedom to play. If you haven’t tried Xbox Game Pass, join today and get your first month for $2, and discover your next favorite game.

For the latest Xbox Game Pass news, follow us on Twitter and Instagram, download the Xbox Game Pass app for Android and iOS and keep it tuned here to Xbox Wire. And for a limited time only, new members can get two months of membership for $2.

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Microsoft a Leader in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Analytics and BI Platforms for 12 consecutive years

We’re very grateful to our customers, our community members, and our partners for making Power BI what it is today.

Thank you.

The Power BI Team

Get the 2019 Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Analytics and Business Intelligence Platforms report* to learn more.

 

*This graphic was published by Gartner, Inc. as part of a larger research document and should be evaluated in the context of the entire document. The Gartner document is available upon request from Microsoft. Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product or service depicted in its research publications, and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors with the highest ratings or other designation. Gartner research publications consist of the opinions of Gartner’s research organization and should not be construed as statements of fact. Gartner disclaims all warranties, expressed or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.

 

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Venture Beat: Microsoft, Moovit and TomTom team up for multi-modal transport platform

A triumvirate of tech companies today announced what they’re touting as the “world’s first truly comprehensive multi-modal trip planner.”

Taking the stage at the Move mobility conference in London, executives from Microsoft, TomTom, and Moovit outlined how they’re pooling their various transport, data, and cloud processing smarts so developers can integrate more extensive transport options into their own applications.

“Over the last few years, cities have experienced rising urban sprawl, where residents of metropolitan areas have been pushed out toward suburban areas, often beyond the limits of public transit lines,” noted Azure Maps head Chris Pendleton. “With most jobs still residing in densely populated cities, the typical commute is becoming multi-modal.”

Moovit, for the uninitiated, constitutes two core elements: a consumer-facing app that gives travelers the easiest way to get around a city and a mobility-as-a-service (MaaS) platform that provides municipalities with data and analytics to improve city transport infrastructure.

A few months back, Moovit and Microsoft announced a partnership that would allow developers who use Azure Maps to hook into Moovit’s transit data. Last week, GPS navigation stalwart TomTom announced an expanded tie-up with Microsoft, one that will bring TomTom’s extensive maps and traffic data into the Azure fold — in effect, TomTom will serve as the primary location data provider for Microsoft’s cloud platform, Bing Maps, and Cortana.

Fast-forward to today, and the three companies are now pooling their respective capabilities for an urban transport offering that any third-party developer can leverage.

“This will lead to commuters having the best option to plan a trip [by] combining legs on public transit, ride-sharing, bike, or scooter and other legs by car, including finding available parking lot spaces in real time,” added Moovit cofounder and CEO Nir Erez.

Through Azure Maps, Microsoft’s developer-focused mapping platform, users will be able to access not only Moovit’s public transit data, but also TomTom’s real-time driving and parking data. So developers will be able to include the full gamut of transport options inside their own apps — including buses, trains, metros, ferries, carpooling, bike-sharing, and now driving and parking.

“Blending TomTom’s specific auto and parking lot data with Moovit’s multi-modal trip planning gives Azure Maps an unprecedented view of every facet of urban mobility,” Pendleton continued. “No one else has provided this comprehensive level of service in one solution.”

Multi-modal

We’ve seen a growing number of integrations between transport service providers, and the term “multi-modal” is springing up more frequently in urban mobility conversations.

Back in 2016, Moovit combined its public transport data with Uber to find the best route in dozens of cities. A year later, Uber revealed that it would make it easier for its ride-hailing customers to keep tabs on other transit options by displaying real-time public transport data alongside private vehicles. Earlier this month, Uber revealed it was doubling down on efforts to show full transit options directly inside the Uber app.

Elsewhere, navigation giant Here recently launched a new social transport app for planning and sharing rides, merging all modes of transport, including public, private, and personal, into a single platform.

Tying these myriad transport options together is maps and data, which is the currency for urban mobility companies. TomTom was pretty much blindsided by the arrival of iOS and Android a decade ago, with smartphones enabling portable navigation in everyone’s pockets. In recently times, TomTom has been striving to refocus its core business to better compete with Google in maps and navigation, and it recently offloaded its telematics unit for $1 billion to help with this push.

Today’s announcement, alongside TomTom’s broader Azure partnership announced last week, should go some way toward helping the company gain more traction.

“Location data has become more relevant and important than ever before, and no one knows this better than TomTom,” added managing director Anders Truelsen.

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Empathy and innovation: How Microsoft’s cultural shift is leading to new product development

The young Microsoft software engineer had just moved to the U.S. and was trying her best to stay in close touch with her parents back home, calling them on Skype every week.

But their internet connection in India was poor, and Swetha Machanavajhala, deaf since birth, struggled to read their lips over the glitchy video. She always had to ask her parents to turn off the lights in the background to help her focus better on their faces.

“I kept thinking, ‘Why can’t we build technology that can do this for us instead?’” Machanavajhala recalled. “So I did.”

It turned out her background-blurring feature was good for privacy reasons as well, helping to hide messy offices during video conference calls or curious café customers during job interviews. So Machanavajhala’s innovation was integrated into Microsoft Teams and Skype, and she soon found herself catapulted into the spotlight at Microsoft – as well as into the company’s work on inclusion, a joy to experience after having been excluded at a previous job where her deafness made it hard to fully participate.

Software engineer Swetha Machanavajhala poses with her parents in front of the Taj Mahal in India.
Microsoft software engineer Swetha Machanavajhala and her parents. Photo by Swetha Machanavajhala.

Microsoft employees say those twists and turns of innovation – aiming for A and ending up with a much broader B – have become more common at Microsoft in the five years since Satya Nadella was appointed chief executive officer.

Nadella’s immediate push to embolden employees to be more creative has been exemplified by the company’s annual hackathon. Machanavajhala and others say the event has helped spark a revival where employees feel energized to innovate year-round and to seek support from their managers for their ideas – even if those have nothing to do with their day jobs.

“The company has changed culturally,” Michael A. Cusumano, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management who wrote a book about Microsoft 20 years ago, recently told The New York Times. “Microsoft is an exciting place to work again.”

Chris Kauffman, a marketing manager in product licensing who has worked for Microsoft for 13 years, said Nadella’s focus on fostering collaboration was a turning point for her, as she noticed silos being torn down. Kauffman also realized the advent of artificial intelligence (AI) could help business people like her broach the realm of engineers and IT specialists. She and her team capitalized on both of those developments to create a chatbot and virtual colleague, answering thousands of licensing questions from around the world and helping to handle the accelerated pace of Azure cloud computing service updates.

“I went to my first hackathon three years ago and fell back in love with Microsoft,” Kauffman said. “I realized that I now have permission to talk to anyone I want to. I’m no longer limited by my job function or level. And my experience with the chatbot is a great example of how technology can be democratized and used by everybody.”

That new openness has led to an explosion in new products or fine-tuned improvements across Microsoft, for customers as well as for internal use. Employees say the resurgence is showing up both in product improvements and internal events such as TechFest, an annual showcase of Microsoft research that takes place in a few weeks.

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Feb. 14 Xbox Sessions: Terry Crews steps up his boom as Commander Jaxon in ‘Crackdown 3’

Terry Crews can do anything – he’s a talented actor, an activist, artist, and a former professional football player. He’s a man of many strengths (and muscles), but how are his gaming skills while playing as his in-game character, Commander Isaiah Jaxon, in the upcoming Crackdown 3? Tune-in to the next episode of Xbox Sessions, airing Thursday, February 14 at 4 p.m. PST on the Mixer Xbox Channel, Twitch Xbox Channel, and the Xbox YouTube Channel to find out!

Ahead of Crackdown 3’s February 15 worldwide launch with Xbox Game Pass, Xbox One, and Windows 10 PC, get an exclusive look at Terry Crews taking on the cruel and corrupt TerraNova Corporation across the futuristic city of New Providence. Catch Terry exploring the heights of this comic-book inspired playground of mayhem and destruction, using Commander Jaxon’s powerful abilities to collect Orbs and bring down a ruthless criminal empire.

Will Terry be able to step up his boom and annihilate the crime in New Providence? There’s only one way to find out! Join host Kate Yeager on Wednesday, February 14 at 4 p.m. PST to cheer Terry on via Mixer Xbox Channel, the Twitch Xbox Channel, and the Xbox YouTube Channel.

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Forbes: Microsoft’s Power Platform aims to ‘make other people cool’

A selection of PowerApps built by London Heathrow Airport, UK.Microsoft

Microsoft has always had to straddle an arguably difficult position in the software trade. The company has always needed to appear technically intricate, granular and powerful in the eyes of hard-core software developers. At the same time, the company has always had to present its software to market with a user-friendly ‘anyone can use it’ out-of-the-box style and approach.

There’s a little of that duality in the firm’s latest power play, which is a combination pack of technologies wrapped up under the Microsoft Power Platform brand.

This is all about presenting a selection of heavyweight backend technologies to hard-core developers and data scientists, but also to would-be so-called citizen developers who are typically businesspeople with an interest in getting applications and data to work the way they want them to work.

CEO Satya: be cool (to others)

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has tried to explain to his developer team that it’s not always about being the most amazing software engineer that creates the next big thing. Instead, it’s about creating amazing software power and putting that power in the hands of people who need it.

“You join here [Microsoft, the company itself], not to be cool, but to make others cool,” said Nadella, in a comment that has been widely reported internally and officially referenced here on c|net.

What Nadella meant was: build something so amazing that it empowers other people. This, of course, is a platform play, not a product play i.e. he wants people to use Microsoft technologies to create something great, rather than use an existing Microsoft technology to be great per se. It’s a logical enough strategy i.e. software products come and go, but platforms are more foundational and expansive… and so (typically) form a better long term business bet.

Microsoft Power Platform

The component parts of the Microsoft Power Platform have all previously existed as more distinct entities. This is essentially a coming together of Microsoft Power BI, Microsoft PowerApps and Microsoft Flow as a more unified offering available on top of Microsoft Azure cloud services.

“Our Power Platform – spanning Power BI, PowerApps and Flow – enables anyone in an organization to start building an intelligent app or workflow where none exists. It is the only solution of its kind in the industry – bringing together no-code/low-code app development, robotic process automation and self-service analytics into a single, comprehensive platform. And it enables extensibility across Microsoft 365 and Dynamics 365 as well as the leading third-party SaaS business applications,” said Microsoft CEO Nadella, in a press statement.

So just looking at the component parts again and explaining their functions, we have Microsoft Power BI, Microsoft PowerApps and Microsoft Flow.

Microsoft Power BI is self-service Business Intelligence (BI) app that works to connect and analyze business data and present a graphical visualization of it on screen. It supports 43 languages and the data it ingests can come from an Excel spreadsheet or SharePoint list, an Oracle database or from an SAP or Salesforce application. Nearly 10 petabytes of data are uploaded to the service each month with more than 10 million report and dashboard queries executed against that data every hour.

Microsoft PowerApps forms the company’s citizen application development platform. Theoretically ‘anyone’ (says Microsoft) can use PowerApps to build web and mobile applications without writing code. There’s also a natural connection between Power BI and PowerApps so that users can put insights (from Power BI) in the hands of maintenance workers and others on the frontline in apps built using PowerApps.

Lastly here there is Flow. This is Microsoft’s user interface that allows users to work with Robotic Process Automation (RPA), a technology designed to help automate simple tasks (and reduce operational errors) through automated workflows.

Data flows, everywhere

Corporate vice president in Microsoft’s business applications group James Phillips explains that the team’s vision for Microsoft Power Platform started from the recognition that data is increasingly flowing from everything, and a belief that organizations that harness their data – to gain insights then used to drive intelligent business processes – will outperform those that don’t.

“We also recognize there aren’t enough programmers, data scientists and tech professionals to go around. So our goal was to build a platform not targeting these technology experts but for [ordinary] people – and the millions of other frontline workers who see opportunities every day to create something better than the status quo, but who’ve never been empowered to do anything about it,” wrote Philips, in a lengthy Microsoft cloud blog.

Philips and team say that the guiding vision for Microsoft Power Platform was a framework they called the ‘Triple-A Loop’ i.e. a closed-loop system allowing users to gain insights from data (Analyze) used to drive intelligent business processes via apps they build (Act) and processes they automate (Automate).

Why play platform games?

We might stand back and ask why Microsoft is so focused on its new and wider approach to platform games of this kind — and there are three fairly reasonable suggestions we can make here.

First, Microsoft has always done platforms i.e. Windows was and still is a platform and you run other things (apps, databases and other computing services) upon it.

Second, Microsoft has invested heavily in its own Azure cloud platform (which features as a key element of Microsoft Power Platform) and, over and above that, the firm has for a long time now been working to make large portions of its stack (such as Office as a platform, which we detailed here in 2015) big enough to be considered platforms in their own right.

Third, Microsoft (under CEO Nadella at least) appears to understand the power of platforms both inside the Microsoft universe and outside of it. Be that other platform Linux, be it Android or be it a major vendor’s data platform suite from the likes of SAP, Salesforce, Oracle and so on.

This is a world where data comes first — sometimes from databases, sometimes from AI computations, sometimes from the Internet of Things (IoT) and its devices and sometimes from actual users — even before the actual software applications that will feed on that data. That core fact very arguably makes any platform play strategically smarter for long term success… if perhaps not just a little cool too.

 

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Spark a love for literacy with February’s #MSFTEduChat TweetMeet

In celebration of World Read Aloud Day and February Literacy Month, we’re making literacy the guiding star for this month’s TweetMeet. With the help of our global education experts – and our invitation to you – we’ll discuss a range of aspects of literacy: How have you incorporated literacy in your lessons, and how do you spark the love for reading and writing in your students? What strategies work best to overcome daily challenges in the classroom?

We’re also getting some help this time around from Skype in the Classroom Literacy partners like Little Brown (@lbschool), Penguin Young Readers (@PenguinClass), LitWorld (@LitWorldSays) and others. Thank you for joining us!

The #MSFTEduChat TweetMeet will take place on Tuesday, February 19th, at 10:00 a.m. PST (check your time zone here). (Sounds great, but what’s a TweetMeet?)

We offer 5 simultaneous language tracks this month: English, French, Polish, Romanian and Serbian. Here’s a quick look at all language tracks and their corresponding Twitter hashtags for the February TweetMeet:

For each language track, we have one or more hosts to post the translated questions and respond to educators. As always, we’re super grateful to all current and former hosts who are collaborating closely to provide this service.

The #TweetMeetXX hashtags for non-English languages are to be used together with #MSFTEduChat so that everyone can find the conversations back in their own language. For example: Polish-speaking people use the combination #TweetMeetPL #MSFTEduChat. English-speaking educators may all use #MSFTEduChat on its own.

Learn how to spark a love for literacy in the next #MSFTEduChat TweetMeet! Join us on Tuesday, Feb. 19 from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. PST. #MSFTEduChat #Literacy Click To Tweet

TweetMeet fan? Show it off on your Twitter profile

Every month more and more people discover the unique flow and characteristics of the TweetMeet events and become passionate about them. Show your passion for the TweetMeets right from your own Twitter page by uploading this month’s #MSFTEduChat Twitter Header Photo to the top of your own Twitter profile. Besides English, this same Twitter Header Photo is also available in each of this month’s additional language tracks.

Looking back on the January TweetMeet on Transforming Classroom Time

Last month’s #MSFTEduChat TweetMeet generated fascinating and practical conversations and insights from educators around the world. We captured some highlights from this broad discussion in this @MicrosoftEDU Twitter Moment.

Why join the #MSFTEduChat TweetMeets?

TweetMeets are monthly recurring Twitter conversations about themes relevant to educators, facilitated by Microsoft Education. The purpose of these events is to help professionals in education to learn from each other and inspire their students while they are preparing for their future. The TweetMeets also nurture personal learning networks among educators from across the globe.

We’re grateful to have a support group made up exclusively of former TweetMeet hosts, who volunteer to translate communication and check the quality of our questions and promotional materials. They also help identify the best candidates for future events, provide relevant resources, promote the events among their networks, and, in general, cheer everybody on.

When and how can I join?

Join us Tuesday, February 19 from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. PST on Twitter using the hashtags #MSFTEduChat, #Literacy and #MicrosoftEDU (which you can always use to stay in touch with us). To find the event time for your specific location, use this time zone announcer.

From our monthly surveys we know that you may be in class at event time, busy doing other things or maybe even asleep – well, no problem! All educators are most welcome to join after the event. Simply take a look at the questions below and respond to these at a day and time that suit you best. You can also schedule your tweets in advance. In that case, be sure to quote the entire question and mention the hashtag #MSFTEduChat, so that everyone knows the right question and conversation to which you are responding. Mark the exact timings – they are different this month.

How can I best prepare?

We also have a special Minecraft: Education Edition resource from two of this month’s hosts:

Verona Adventure

Explore this Minecraft: Education Edition world made by hosts Ben Spieldenner and Simon Baddeley. Take your students through an argumentative writing adventure set against the background of the classic story of Romeo and Juliet, staged in the city of Verona.

Plus, get ready Skype in the Classroom’s Literacy Month:

We are partnering Little Brown Young Readers and will be wrapping up our celebrations with a free broadcast event and live Q&A. Classrooms and families are invited to join us on March 6th to meet Cressida Cowell, author and illustrator of the hugely popular “How to Train Your Dragon” series. Cressida will inspire students to tap into their boundless imagination and will show how using character development and details in stories make them more believable and fun.

TweetMeet questions

In response to your feedback, we’ve reduced the number of discussion questions to just 4. This will give everyone more time to engage with one another.

Hosts

We’re excited to introduce the 13 hosts for this month’s TweetMeet. They’re all passionate about literacy and thrilled to talk to you and offer their insights. You can see them all and follow them with a click on our TweetMeet list.

  • Ben Spieldenner @BenSpieldenner (MIE Expert, Minecraft Global Mentor, Co-Director Cross Pond Collaborations, High School English Teacher & Educational Technologist – Ashland OH, USA)
  • Bushra Anis Naqvi @banaqvi (Teacher, trainer, researcher, speaker, futurist and active enthusiast working to prove how technologies can change educators and education – Lahore, Pakistan)
  • Claudia Daniels @ClaudiaRDaniels (Aspiring for Better – making a difference in the life of a child through reading, writing, poetry, Flipgrid, ClassDojo, MIE Expert – Cobb County GA, USA)
  • Dyane Smokorowski @Mrs_Smoke (2013 KS Teacher of the Year, 2009 NSBA Top 20 to Watch, Google Certified, Skype MT, ECET2KS, Inst Tech Coach, EdCampKS, Speaker, Global Collaboration Evangelist – Andover KS, USA)
  • Hammed Abdulazeez @hammedabdulaz (MIE Expert, MIE Master Trainer, Skype Master Teacher, EduTech Expert, Member British Council Liberary of Experience for Diversity and Inclusion – Lagos, Nigeria)
  • Holly Holland @HollandEdTech (Reading Coach, MIE Expert, Skype Master Teacher, OneNote Avenger, Seesaw Ambassador, Flipgrid Ambassador – Tampa FL, USA)
  • Jacek Zablocki @JacekZablocki (Primary school teacher of English and ICT, MIE Expert passionate about Mystery Skype – Wasilkow, Poland)
  • Linda Edwards @LindaEdwardsi (Special Needs Educator, TDSB, Seesaw Ambassador, Buncee Ambassador, Class Dojo Mentor, Flipgrid GridGuide & Ambassador, MIE, Go Bubble Ambassador, Wakelet Member – Toronto, Canada)
  • Martha Bongiorno @Mrs_Bongi (MIE Expert passionate about future-ready libraries, embedding technology within literacy campaigns, and student voice in the library – Atlanta GA, USA)
  • Milena Vojinović @voj_milena (Elementary/Middle School ESL Teacher from Serbia, MIE Expert – quite passionate about using ICT tools in class – Leskovac, Serbia)
  • Mirela Tanc @MirelaTanc (Secondary School teacher, TEDx Speaker, Let’s do it Ambassador, MIE Expert & Trainer, member of Harvard Learning Community, TeachSDGs Ambassador, Skype Master Teacher – Oradea, Romania)
  • Natacha Camus @litteratum1 (College and High School Literature Teacher, MIE Expert, passionate about art and its transmission through digital technology – Dijon, France)
  • Simon Baddeley @SimBadd64 (Director of Cross Pond Collaborations, Minecraft Global Mentor, Minecraft Certified Trainer, Content Creator, Innovator, English Teacher – Castleford England, UK)

What are #MSFTEduChat TweetMeets?

Every month Microsoft Education organizes social events on Twitter targeted at educators globally. The hashtag we use is #MSFTEduChat. A team of topic specialists and international MIE Expert teachers prepare and host these TweetMeets together. Our team of educator hosts first crafts several questions around a certain topic. Then, before the event, they share these questions on social media. Combined with a range of resources, a blog post and background information about the events, this allows all participants to prepare themselves to the full. Afterwards we make an archive available of the most notable tweets and resources shared during the event.

TweetChat expert Madalyn Sklar recently published this helpful introductory guide:
Your Complete Guide to Twitter Chats: Why You Should Join & How to Make the Most of It

Please connect with TweetMeet organizer Marjolein Hoekstra @OneNoteC on Twitter if you have any questions about TweetMeets or helping out as a host.

Join for next month’s topic: #MakeWhatsNext with STEM