The Internet of Things, the vast and fast-growing network of interconnected machines and sensors, seems to have now caught Amazon’s attention. At last week’s AWS re:Invent, following similar initiatives by other players like Salesforce, Amazon announced their own platform: AWS IoT. But, in some ways at least, a Microsoft portal into the Internet of Things has been around for some time. While the Microsoft Continuum application for Windows 10 is primarily marketed as a way to bridge smartphone and desktop experiences, it can also serve as a hub for the IoT connectivity in your life.
Smartphones and the IoT: the role of Microsoft Continuum
Thanks to wireless technology, people now connect to the IoT through fitness sensors, watches, heart monitors and other devices. And thanks to Microsoft Continuum, Windows 10 smartphones can now stream and redirect all the data that’s produced just about anywhere.
Because they have built-in sensors providing time, location, and environmental information, Smartphones automatically generate torrents of data. With appropriate software, smartphones can automatically trigger events such as financial transactions and appointments. They can also control an increasing number of external devices, such as televisions, lights, security systems, and cars.
In a significant way – and especially considering the growing number of connected devices and sensors that surround us – smartphones can act as a gateway for the IoT, enabling smarter homes, automobiles, factories, and cities. Smartphones even change the way we work by supporting crowdsourcing, smart offices and factories, and employment-as-a-service.
Microsoft Continuum for Windows Phones
Phones running Windows 10 Continuum can turn a network of devices into a functional workspace.
Continuum for Windows Phones allows smartphone users to have a Windows 10 Desktop experience. Continuum connects wirelessly to a mouse, keyboard and monitor (TV screen or projector), with scaled apps that work as if they were running on a regular PC. Familiar operating system features such as the Start and Task View buttons as well as everyday applications make the remote workstation look and feel like the computer in the office.
Continuum uses the smartphone’s start screen as the start menu, and the applications list resembles the phone’s All Apps list. But Microsoft Office appears in desktop mode, making serious productivity possible. Because of their cross-platform design, universal apps in Continuum look and feel exactly the same as they do on a computer, tablet,or phone. Even in Microsoft Continuum mode, the smartphone can connect to a video projector and a television, making Continuum perfect for presentations and team meetings, and it will still work for phone calls and messaging, so users can maintain voice and SMS contact as they work.
Continuum only works with the latest Windows Phones, so many users will need to upgrade if they want to try it out. Users can enable the feature using either Miracast or a Continuum dock. Windows uses Miracast to support wireless monitors. The Microsoft Continuum Dock peripheral will allow the use of three USB ports, one HDMI port and one Display Port for use with Continuum. The dock can either plug into the smartphone’s power connector or use a separate AC adapter for power. Users will need to use Continuum Dock if they do not have a MiraCast display or projector.
New Microsoft powered smartphones – including the Lumia 950 and 950 XL – support Continuum, as does the Acer Jade Primo. The market should expect to see a growing selection of Continuum-compatible phones as more businesses understand their capabilities.
Thanks to Continuum, people can easily set up workstations that work just like their computers. Using a smartphone as a hub, Microsoft Continuum connects multiple devices so that they can all act in concert. Best of all, users can quickly set up Continuum, so they can do work at a moment’s notice.
In many ways, when you carry a Microsoft Continuum-compatible Windows smartphone, you’ve got a PC in your pocket. But this PC platform is poised to become a personal gateway to the IoT.
Matthew Young is a Boston based freelance writer. As an aspiring automotive journalist looking to make a name for myself in the industry, he is passionate about covering anything on 4 wheels. When Matthew is not busy writing about cars or new emerging tech, he usually spends time fiddling with his camera and learning a thing or two about photography. You can tweet him @mattbeardyoung
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