Following up on Microsoft Build 2016

April 06, 2016 BY Jean-Martin Roux


Microsoft Cortana on Windows phone Microsoft Cortana on Windows phone

Last Friday marked the completion of Microsoft’s annual developers’ mass, Build. LIDD was fortunate enough to be invited to this event, granting a first glimpse at new technology trends and the tech giant’s corporate focus.

Our challenge: Define how these new technologies will shape your supply chain application park.

First, If Siri, Alexa or Cortana have yet to make their way into your living room, you will be shocked to realize that personal assistant bots are already at the doorstep of your warehouse and production floors. With the success Cortana is having across multiple platforms, Microsoft hopes to convince developers to use their machine learning and bot programming tools to create a wide range of applications. Software engineers gave a very convincing demonstration of the tools’ capabilities through a Domino’s pizza ordering bot:

Presenter: “I want two large peperoni delivered to my crib bro”
Domino’s bot: “What crust would you like”
Presenter: “The thinnest one”
Domino’s bot: “Two large thin crust peperoni pizza will be delivered to address …”

Impressively, the system interprets slang fairly flawlessly.
I bet that conversation-based processes will make their way into WMS in a not so distant future. I can picture something like:

User: “Hey WMS, where is pallet 34567 supposed to go?”
WMS bot: “This pallet is assigned to a putaway task; would you like to complete it?”
User: “Sure thing!”
WMS bot: “All right, you will need a reach truck, location is BC-01-F-02”
WMS bot: “Once you get to the location please read me the check digit”
User: “Its AW7612M”
WMS bot: “Thanks, I completed the task“
WMS bot: “I found a replenishment opportunity close by, it was assigned to you…”
User: “Ok, getting to it”

The geek in me thinks this is a very exciting idea!

Microsoft also showed off their new cognitive service APIs. For those of you fearing the big brother apocalypse, the technology Microsoft is now making available to developers will give you goosebumps. Most notably, years of R&D in picture recognition are now available to be embedded into your day to day apps. The AI at the end of this web service is highly impressive. In milliseconds, it was able to identify a range of objects found on a table. Water bottles, laptops, mobile phones, note pads and a few pens couldn’t hide from the computer model. It was even able to recognize a herd of cows through extremely long grass!

This technology will no doubt enhance warehousing operations in the years to come. For instance, imagine a real time QA validation of received quantities by having an automated picture based count. In that context, AI would greatly improve inventory accuracy and vendor performance metrics.

Finally, the Seattle gurus spared no efforts in wooing the global developers’ community. Providing an open source C environment marked a new corporate direction for Microsoft in 2015. Then earlier this year, Microsoft released a version of MSSQL server capable of running on a Linux OS. Last week at Build, it surprised the developer world announcing that BASH, a programming platform previously available only on LINUX OS, will be supported by Windows 10. This give a whole new group of creative minds access to the Microsoft universe and ultimately generate many new innovations based on a Microsoft back end.

Build was a great conference which got LIDD to the heart of the latest and coolest technology ideas. Do you have great ideas for your warehousing technologies? Are you currently working on improving these systems? If so, we would be glad to hear about it below.