Windows 11 may look like just a fresh coat of paint on top of Windows 10, but, even a year after its release, Microsoft is continuing to add new features including Android app support, scheduler updates, and better consolidation of Control Panel items into Settings. One bugbear that's plagued the tech community about Windows 11, however, is compatibility. Since the announcement of the existing version, there has been quite a bit of consternation about the strict hardware requirements for Microsoft's latest and greatest.
While Microsoft has released a list of minimum specifications that computers need to meet in order to install and run Windows 11, some of the requirements are not obvious. If you know a little about computers, you can probably figure out if you have enough RAM, a compatible graphics card, and a compatible CPU. What might not be easy to find — even to the more technically inclined — is the Trusted Platform Module 2.0 (TPM 2.0) requirements for Windows 11.
Trusted Platform Module (TPM) and TPM 2.0 increase device security in a few key ways, according to Microsoft and Trusted Computing Group [PDF]. In short, TPM is a technology that helps keep your computer safe by adding secure hardware to store and process sensitive information. A TPM creates and stores cryptographic keys securely in a semi-persistent co-processor, and runs hardware validation checks to make sure that there has been no interference or changes.
While TPM used to mostly be an add-on module for PCs, TPM 2.0 allows chip manufacturers to integrate the Trusted Platform Module into the CPU itself. The end result of this update is AMD's fTPM (firmware TPM) and Intel's PTT (Platform Trust Technology), which are both TPM 2.0 implementations that are integrated into the processor. On the AMD side of things, all Ryzen CPUs including and after the 2000-series desktop and 3000-series laptop CPUs feature fTPM. When it comes to Intel, everything starting with the 6th generation Core processors features PTT (via OnLogic).
According to PCMag, Microsoft is pushing heavily for improved security on Windows 11. TPM 2.0 is simply hardware that Microsoft needs to reach a certain level of security. Leveraging TPM lets Microsoft make Windows Hello Sign-in more secure, and helps enable a host of other features, including BitLocker drive encryption and protection from malware attacks. The added layer of security comes from these security processes being handled by dedicated hardware rather than software emulation.
Despite demanding consumers' computers meet a pretty demanding list of requirements before letting them install the OS, Microsoft still wants to make Windows 11 adoption easy. In an effort to make installation and compatibility less of a hassle, Microsoft added a pop-up in the Updates and Security page in the Windows 11 Settings app and launched the PC Health Check app. If you don't see "This PC can run Windows 11" in Settings, get the PC Health Check app and run the check manually.
The app will automatically conduct a compatibility check with your computer's hardware. After the scan is complete, you will see a pop-up stating whether your computer is compatible with Windows 11. You can click the "See all results" button to see a detailed list showing which components do and don't meet the Windows 11 minimum requirements. If you're looking at the scan results and you notice the only thing holding your system back from a Windows 11 installation is the TPM requirement, don't panic just yet.
If your hardware has PTT or fTPM and you're getting an error about TPM not meeting the requirements to upgrade to Windows 11, the feature may just be disabled in your PC's UEFI (previously known as the BIOS). First, you need to get into your UEFI/BIOS — you can do this from Windows — and then you need to enable the relevant feature. Microsoft explains how to do this in a support document.
After you've enabled the TPM module in your UEFI/BIOS, you can re-run the PC Health Check App to validate that it was enabled, and then install Windows 11. Keep in mind that the firmware TPM feature's name will differ based on your PC's manufacturer. If you're confused about what it's called or where to find it, check in the Security sub-menu in the UEFI/BIOS, consult your device's owner's manual, or get in touch with the manufacturer's customer support for help.
Read this next: How To Fix Windows 11's Most Common Issues
While the current drawdown has been painful for many large-cap technology companies, I believe Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:NASDAQ:MSFT) is the best of the bunch and is set to outperform peers. Microsoft has the most leverage to mission critical business functions (office productivity software, cloud computing) that is relatively more immune to economic headwinds. Furthermore, Microsoft's valuation has already normalized to pre-COVID levels, which offers an attractive entry point.
As many investors know, 2022 has been characterized by almost indiscriminate selling of high growth technology stocks, with some former high flyers such as Meta Platforms, Inc. (META) falling by almost 60% YTD (Figure 1). Even the largest technology company in the world, Apple Inc. (AAPL), has begun to falter in exact days due to concerns of slowing demand for its new handsets, which I wrote about in a exact article.
Is this a replay of the early 2000s tech bust, and investors should run for the hills and avoid all tech investments for years? While there are signs of speculative excess in the past few years (the meme stock and SPAC phenomena, for example), I don't think we will see a lost decade like in the early 2000s, particularly for solidly profitable companies like Microsoft.
Each of the large technology megacaps are facing unique challenges and issues. For example, Alphabet Inc. (GOOG, GOOGL) and Meta are facing threats in their core advertising businesses from Apple and Amazon.com, Inc (AMZN), as well as headwinds from a worsening economy. Apple is seeing slowing demand for its handsets, which drives the majority of corporate profits. Amazon's retail business is also threatened by a consumer slowdown due to the worsening economic outlook. The one company out of the five technology mega caps ("MAGMA") that seem best positioned to outperform is Microsoft.
Analyzing Microsoft's operations through its main business segments, we can draw several observations. First, the Productivity and Business Processes segment, which encompasses the Office productivity franchise, continues to see strong revenue growth. In the LTM to June 30, Productivity and Business Processes saw 17.6% YoY growth. Operating Income grew even faster at 21.7% YoY, to a 46.8% operating margin (Figure 2).
Essentially, Microsoft has a stranglehold on office productivity software. In years past, companies could choose to delay upgrading to the latest version of Office. As long as users didn't care about the latest bells and whistles, core business functionalities like spreadsheets and word processing were not affected by using an older version of the software. In fact, I have personally only used four versions of Office over two decades (2000, 2007, 2013, and Office 365), as the IT departments of the companies I worked at did not think the other versions offered significant benefits compared to their cost.
However, as customers have been migrated to the SaaS subscription-based Office 365 (and the equivalent consumer offerings), the delayed upgrade cycle is no longer possible. If companies don't pay the subscription fee, they lose access to all of their mission critical software and data.
Furthermore, the SaaS subscription model gives Microsoft the ability to raise pricing on a yearly basis, with companies essentially locked in.
Increasingly, businesses find it cheaper and more convenient to obtain computing power from the "cloud" rather than build their own server farms. Amazon's AWS, Microsoft's Azure, and Google's Cloud Platform ("GCP") together account for more than 60% of the cloud computing market (Figure 3).
Although some analysts have highlighted increased competitive pressures in the cloud computing market, so far it has not led to margin pressure. AWS reported operating margins of 29% in the latest quarter, and Microsoft's Cloud segment appears to be even more profitable, with 43.4% operating margins in the LTM to June 30 (from Figure 2 above).
Although economic weakness could curtail some cyclical growth in the cloud business, I believe the secular tailwind from increasing cloud adoption should still provide plenty of growth and profit opportunities for Microsoft Azure for years to come (Figure 4).
The weakest business segment in Microsoft's portfolio is the "More Personal Computing" segment, which encompasses OEM installation of Windows, Bing search revenues, and Xbox revenues. These are more cyclical businesses that could face headwinds in a tough economic environment. So far, from Figure 1 above, we can see that revenue growth has slowed to just 2.1% YoY in the latest quarter, and operating profits actually dipped to 31.9% operating margin vs. 34.7%.
However, investors need to put these figures into context. A business that generates $14 billion in quarterly revenues at a 32% operating margin is still fantastic!
Microsoft currently trades at a 23.3x FWD P/E, above the sector median 16.7x. Compared to the rest of MAGMA, MSFT also does not screen cheap, having the 2nd highest FWD P/E multiple.
However, valuation multiples should be viewed in the context of profitability and risk. Out of the MAGMA peers, Microsoft has the highest net margin at 36.7% (Figure 6).
Also, when we think about the core business of each of the MAGMA peers, we find that they are all at significant risk from a weakening economy. AAPL's business is consumer-facing, and the consumer is hurting right now from high inflation. AMZN derives the vast majority of its revenues from its online retail operations, which is also consumer facing. GOOGL and META both generate the majority of their revenues from advertising, which could see headwinds as companies cut back on ad-spending.
Microsoft, in contrast, has 70% of revenues tied to mission critical functions (Office 365, Cloud compute) that companies are unlikely to cut back on, unless absolutely necessary.
Furthermore, when viewed through a historical lens, Microsoft's current valuation appears to have normalized, with both FWD P/E and EV/EBITDA returning to pre-COVID levels.
Although Microsoft's valuation can still fall further, at least Microsoft is not trading at a significantly higher valuation than pre-COVID like AAPL, for example, which is currently trading at 23x FWD P/E vs. 15x FWD P/E pre-COVID.
From a technical perspective, we can see that Microsoft has been in a multi-year sideways consolidation pattern, relative to the technology sector, as represented by the Technology Select Sector SPDR Fund (XLK). I think this chart pattern will break out to the upside, as Microsoft's sticky productivity and cloud businesses will allow it to outperform technology peers in the next few quarters as the global economy weakens (Figure 8).
In summary, While the current drawdown has been painful for many technology companies, I believe Microsoft is the best of the bunch and is set to outperform peers. Microsoft has the most leverage to mission critical business functions (office productivity software, cloud computing) that is relatively immune to economic headwinds. Furthermore, Microsoft's valuation has already normalized to pre-COVID levels, offering an attractive entry point.
As the White House researched its AI Bill of Rights, several organizations drew attention to concerns about Microsoft's interest in facial recognition, emotion detection, and data collection, newly published documents show.
The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy published its AI Bill of Rights on Tuesday. It's not an enforceable law, but a call for companies and institutions to make ethical rules for using automated systems.
OSTP wrote the bill after asking researchers, companies, and civil-rights organizations for feedback earlier this year. Many groups singled out Microsoft's historically biased facial-recognition system, data-based collaborations with police, and interest in health data and emotion detection.
The AI Bill of Rights — which applies to technologies like facial and voice recognition on home assistants, search-engine results, targeted online advertising, anti-cheating software for students, and automated loan-underwriting tools — has a set of guiding principles for using this technology.
The bill's main objectives are to ensure individuals' right to know when automated systems are being used, to speak to a human, to opt in or out, to have control over their data, and to be protected from real-world discrimination from said systems.
The feedback from 130 respondents, which was posted publicly on Tuesday, shows a clear divide.
Civil-rights organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation flagged concerns about companies' data collection, the opaque use of this data, and the potential for harm.
Meanwhile, companies like Google, Microsoft, and Palantir, and facial-recognition companies like Clearview AI and CLEAR, told the White House that they valued responsible use of AI and already operate ethically. (Several major companies, including Apple and Amazon, did not submit responses.)
Microsoft said in its feedback that since 2018, it's made efforts to better understand the social implications of facial-recognition software, safeguard against certain risks, and adopt internal policies like its Facial Recognition Principles and Responsible AI Standard. Likewise, its Face API facial-recognition tool has a Transparency Note that mentions "the importance of keeping a human in the loop for deployments" of facial recognition.
It also reiterated its 2020 position on not selling facial recognition to US police departments "until a strong law, grounded in human rights, has been enacted."
Still, civil-rights groups and researchers raised concerns about Microsoft's emotion-detection technology and how police can use its facial-recognition systems. Microsoft did not respond to Insider's request for comment.
Brooklyn Defender Services drew attention to the NYPD's Domain Awareness System, a program created by Microsoft and the NYPD that aggregates video surveillance, detainee profiles, and other data.
More than 10 organizations, including the ACLU and National Fair Housing Alliance, also pointed to Gender Shades, a 2018 Microsoft research project that analyzed different facial-recognition systems for accuracy on the basis of race and gender. The study found that Microsoft's facial recognition had higher error rates among darker-skinned women than lighter-skinned men.
These groups say this study proves the risk that facial recognition can create highly disparate outcomes on the basis of race and gender, possibly resulting in civil-liberties violations, violence, or discrimination.
A large coalition that included the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and NYU School of Law noted Microsoft only stopped selling facial-recognition technology to police departments in 2020 "after public backlash" amid the Black Lives Matter movement.
Several groups expressed concern about Microsoft's interest in emotion-detection and biometrics technology.
The NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund said Microsoft's interest in emotion-detection tools could spell specific risks for Black people. Microsoft's Face API, per 2018 research the group cited, mistook anger for contempt in a collection of basketball players' photos. This "gambles with the livelihoods, security, and safety of entire communities," the NAACP argued.
Coworker.org expressed concern about a 2020 patent Microsoft received for using "audio and visual data from workers in meetings" to assess whether workers appeared "concerned, ambivalent, appeared distracted, annoyed, etc."
The group also highlighted Microsoft's partnership with HireVue, a video-based job-interview tool that searches for insights based on a candidate's emotions, and Microsoft Wellness Insights, a health tool for collecting workers' biometric data like heart rate and blood pressure to provide "wellness recommendations." The Center on Privacy and Technology at Georgetown Law argues that the tool impacts low-wage workers in particular.
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Converting files from one format to another is a challenge without the right tools. Turning a PDF file into something that Excel can open doesn’t have to be impossible, though. We're going to explore the perfect website for the job.
The TinyWow PDF to XLSX converter makes it easier than ever before to make these non-compatible formats work together. You can turn any PDF into an excel spreadsheet without having to work out any of the complicated steps for yourself. But what are these different file types?
PDFs are one of the most common file formats in the world. Made as a universal format for reliable and easy file sharing, PDFs are used for just about everything, from instruction manuals to utility bills. PDF stands for portable document format, and this name makes sense given how easy it is to use PDFs across operating systems and platforms.
XLSX files are Microsoft Excel Open XML Spreadsheets that are usually created by Microsoft Excel. Like any spreadsheet, XLSX files have rows and columns to store data, and this file format is almost as common as PDFs.
Converting any PDF to Excel is easy when you use the TinyWow PDF to XLSX converter. This system does not convert images or retain styles from your PDF, but will process any text in your PDF and apply it to a spreadsheet’s structure. Each line of your PDF will create a new row, while columns in the PDF will create new columns in the XLSX file.
Converting your PDFs to XLSX files is a three-step process that anyone can perform. Your files are stored for one hour on the TinyWow servers, making it possible to convert or get them again without having to re-upload them. But how do you convert your files in the first place?
1. Go to the TinyWow PDF to XLSX converter page and select Upload from PC or Mobile. You can also drag your file into the white box to initiate the upload process.
2. Navigate your files to find the PDF you would like to convert and select the file. Conversion usually takes just a few seconds, but you may need to wait longer if your PDF is very large or complex.
3. Once the conversion is complete, select Download and choose either Save to device or Save to Drive. You will need to connect to a Google Drive account to use the Drive feature.
Converting PDFs to Excel is much easier with the help of TinyWow, but these aren’t the only file formats this site works with. In fact, you can convert just about any file type using this system, and you don’t have to pay a penny in the process.
During a Surface press event today, Microsoft announced integrations of AI-powered image-generation technology into its Bing search engine, Edge browser, and a new Office app called Microsoft Designer. The technology will be powered by DALL-E 2 by OpenAI, which made waves in April for its ability to generate novel images based on written prompts. The technology has also been the subject of ire among some artists due to ethical concerns.
Microsoft's offerings aim to help creators overcome blank-page syndrome by suggesting creative courses of action. In an example of Microsoft Designer provided by Microsoft, someone types a description of what they want to see, such as "Ombre cake decorated with flowers and fall foliage," and they can then scroll through AI-generated image examples that they can choose to add to their design. "Designer invites you to start with an idea and let the AI do the heavy lifting," wrote Microsoft in a press release.
Microsoft Designer originated as part of PowerPoint, where it currently suggests design ideas as a subset of that program. But Microsoft plans to break out Designer into its own Microsoft 365 app that will be available both as a free app and as a premium app available to Microsoft 365 Personal and Family subscribers. For now, Microsoft is limiting Designer to a free public web app, which it will use to gather feedback from public testing.
Microsoft also announced that it will be integrating Designer into Microsoft Edge to deliver "AI-powered design suggestions to visually enhance social media posts and other visual content without having to leave your browser window." And AI image synthesis will also come to Bing with Image Creator, where people will be able to type in a prompt and get a novel result, powered by OpenAI's DALL-E 2.
Since OpenAI debuted DALL-E 2 in April, AI image generation has been controversial with some artists because of how it works. Image synthesis models like DALL-E 2 use deep-learning neural networks to analyze millions or billions of images found publicly on the web without seeking consent from artists or copyright holders. These models, including DALL-E competitor Stable Diffusion, statistically link the content of those images with descriptive captions found on the web to associate them with words. The result is that these models can generate images based on text descriptions, and they can imitate the distinctive styles of specific human artists.
Further, the creators of these image synthesis models caution that they reflect social biases such as racism and sexism in their training data, and they are also capable of producing disturbing or illegal imagery if safeguards are not put in place. Microsoft says it is addressing these issues: "To help prevent DALL∙E 2 from delivering inappropriate results across the Designer app and Image Creator, we are working ourselves and with our partner OpenAI, who developed DALL-E 2, to take steps and will continue to evolve our approach as needed."
Mitigations include removing "the most explicit sexual and violent content" from the training dataset and adding filters to "limit generation of images that violate content policy." Regarding bias, Microsoft mentions applying "additional technology that helps deliver more diverse images to our results," which is likely the same as the random diverse prompt injections OpenAI introduced to DALL-E in July, which was met with some controversy itself. Perhaps because of these issues, Microsoft is taking a slow-release approach instead of completely opening the gates.
"We are taking a measured approach to roll out [Image Creator]," wrote Microsoft in a press release. "We will soon start with a limited preview for select geographies, which will allow us to gather feedback, apply learnings, and Excellerate the experience before expanding further."
With these moves from Microsoft, image synthesis tools are quickly becoming more mainstream. Canva added text-to-image generation capabilities in mid-September.
For Marc Powell, a seemingly simple trip to the store to buy medication or other consumer health products is often an onerous, complicated undertaking.
Powell, who is blind, usually must ask a store employee to help find what he needs and then read the information on the packaging to him, which can feel intrusive. At home he’ll ask his partner, who has partial sight, for help, but the print is sometimes too small for her to read. In a pinch, he’ll scour the internet or wait until a family member stops by and can read aloud to him the information he needs.
“I’m incredibly reliant on somebody else to let me know about the product — what I’m meant to do with it, how many tablets I can take or what it contains,” says Powell, the accessibility innovation lead for the U.K.-based Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), who lives in Cambridge, England. “It’s crazy to say that, isn’t it?”
A new collaboration between Microsoft and global consumer health company Haleon aims to make health product information more accessible for people who are blind or have partial vision, or individuals with low literacy. The companies worked together to expand the functionality of Microsoft’s Seeing AI app to provide detailed audio information for more than 1,500 Haleon products in the U.S. and the U.K., including brands such as Centrum, Sensodyne and Emergen-C. The initiative was launched in recognition of World Sight Day Oct. 13.
Using Seeing AI, users can now scan the bar code on Haleon products and hear the same information that is provided on the packaging, such as the product name, usage instructions and ingredients. When users point a phone at a Haleon product, the Seeing AI app guides them to the bar code with a series of intensifying beeps. After scanning the code, users can navigate between sections to get the specific information they want, a feature that has been well-received by partially sighted people who tried out the functionality before its launch.
“We have had great feedback from people who are blind and have low vision,” says Tamara Rogers, global chief marketing officer at Haleon. “They really value the increased independence that comes from being empowered to access our product information themselves.”
The new functionality was developed not just for people who are blind or have low vision, but also for those who have literacy challenges, Rogers says. “There’s a classic health industry saying which is, ‘Always read the label, always read the instructions,’ and for some, that just isn’t possible,” she says.
“This initiative will make Haleon products more accessible to people who are blind or have low vision. It will also provide more independence to people with low literacy levels. This is a great way of being able to communicate in a different way, audibly, rather than asking people to read.”
Launched in 2017, Microsoft’s Seeing AI application is an AI camera-based app that can read text such as documents or signs, describe scenes, recognize currency and even identify friends. Available in 19 languages, the app has become a multipurpose tool that is helping people who are blind or have low vision navigate their daily lives. The newly enhanced functionality helps consumers in the U.S. and U.K. read packaging details in English. Previously, there wasn’t an easy way for Seeing AI to read detailed information on packaging without a user moving a camera around the text.
The collaboration with Haleon “is really important and exciting, because Seeing AI has always been able to recognize products, but the challenge has been having access to data that is really rich, and that comes from the manufacturer,” says Saqib Shaikh, an engineering manager at Microsoft who led the team that developed Seeing AI.
“Now you can just scan the barcode and hear exactly what was written on the package. It’s directly what the manufacturer wanted you to hear. The information is really accurate, and you’re getting it all in one place. You’re not having to scan all the different sides of the package to find the bits you want. It’s all right there once you’ve scanned the barcode.
“Now you can supply more information, and trustworthy information,” Shaikh says. “Haleon is leading the way in doing this.”
Shaikh hopes more companies will follow Haleon’s lead and use technology to provide audio information for people who are blind or who have low vision, or those with literacy challenges. Doing so could provide important information not just for health products, he says, but for food items and countless other things people use in their daily lives.
“I’d love to make every product out there accessible so you can just scan it, whether by bar code or some other future technology, and know what it is,” he says. “This data is out there. It’s just that all the data’s in siloes. What we were able to do here was, by the companies having the will, to break down these siloes.”
More than 3 million people in the United States and more than 2 million in the U.K. are living with sight loss, and millions more struggle with poor literacy. A study commissioned by Haleon found that 93 percent of respondents didn’t think health products were accessible enough, and almost one in five said they had taken an incorrect dosage of a product because they couldn’t read the packaging.
Haleon saw technology as a tool to address those issues, Rogers says, but wanted to build on an existing platform rather than creating new technology that people who are blind or have low vision would need to adopt. Haleon approached Microsoft about using the Seeing AI app to create audio guides for its products, and the two companies worked closely together to build out the new functionality for Haleon’s bar codes. Microsoft developed an end-to-end pipeline that allows Haleon to control the data for its consumer products, which is stored in Azure, and update information or add new items as needed.
Powell says to his knowledge, Haleon — a spinoff of GlaxoSmithKline created in July 2022 to focus on consumer health products — is the first consumer health company to provide accessible information through Seeing AI for its products.
“I think this will be really useful,” he says. “This allows us as blind people to have the same level of knowledge and understanding as someone who can read the packaging. So this is a really good step.”
The MarketWatch News Department was not involved in the creation of this content.
Oct 14, 2022 (Reportmines via Comtex) -- Pre and Post Covid is covered and Report Customization is available.
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Can the people of the world be fed without ruining the planet in the process? Among the many scientists, organizations, companies, and farmers working on this problem is Microsoft. Yesterday, the tech giant open-sourced what they call the toolkit for the farm of the future. It’s a set of algorithms designed to increase food yield while decreasing cost and environmental impact.
“The soils are not getting any richer,” says Ranveer Chandra, who founded Microsoft’s agriculture research division in 2014. “The water levels are receding; then there’s climate change. How do you get the world to grow more nutritious food in a sustainable way? One of the most promising approaches is that of data-driven agriculture.”
Agriculture is the fifth-greatest greenhouse gas emitter in the world, responsible for over 11 percent of annual emissions. Yet, it is integral to the survival of humanity and is in peril from climate change-related extreme weather events, like drought.
[Related: Why the road to robotic farming is uncertain]
Inspired by this predicament, Microsoft Research started their agricultural research division eight years ago, with the goal of creating “farmer-augmenting” technologies like the newly released FarmVibes.AI. Inside FarmVibes.AI is a package of algorithms intended to help agriculturalists like Washington-based farmer and software engineer Andrew Nelson increase accuracy when it comes to planning, planting, harvesting, and distributing their crops. The Microsoft Research team has been testing out Project FarmVibes on Nelson’s 7,500 acre farm since 2017, where he saved 35 percent on one herbicide alone this spring. With the help of Microsoft and his background in computer science, Nelson flew drones and put sensors in the ground while running Project FarmVibes’ algorithms. Together, these tools let him create maps to strategically spray herbicides and understand ideal seed depths for planting. Now, some of these same algorithms are becoming open-sourced, meaning anyone can get them, redistribute them, and edit them for their own use.
FarmVibes.AI is only the first of Project FarmVibes’ several software releases planned with the goal of increasing precision and productivity in farming. This first release includes four main components in the FarmVibes.AI suite. One component, Async Fusion, uses in-ground sensors along with drone and satellite images to create maps of nutrient and moisture distribution across a select patch of land, giving farmers information on where fertilizer and seeds should be placed, thereby reducing overfertilization and waste.
Then there’s SpaceEye, another now open-source FarmVibes.AI program announced by Microsoft in December 2021, which can digitally remove clouds from satellite images and enable farmers to detect where weeds are growing so they can apply herbicide more precisely. “SpaceEye takes radar imagery, and the signals go through clouds,” Chandra says, revealing the previously obscured land underneath. “Then we use another AI scheme we developed called partial observation GANs, and we start predicting what image is below the clouds,” Chandra adds.
Another FarmVibes.AI tool, DeepMC, brings hyper-localized climate predictions to farmers by gathering information on temperature, pressure, humidity, radiation, precipitation, wind, and more from a distributed sensor network and forecast data from local stations. These micro-climate predictions allow farmers to customize what they plant and when to the conditions specific to their farm.
“For some of our chemicals, if you apply them and there’s a freeze, you lose 40 percent of your yield,” says Nelson. ”The problem is, our weather forecasts are very general for the area, and we have rolling hills. Sometimes between the top and bottom of the hill, there can be a 10 to 20-degree difference, so having the localized DeepMC down at the crop level makes a big difference.”
As for sustainability, FarmVibes.AI has a “what if” analytics tool that estimates the impacts of farming on carbon sequestration. As plants, including Nelson’s crops, photosynthesize, they absorb carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas from the air. These plants then store this carbon in their own biomass, thus contributing to atmospheric carbon removal. Soil is made from decayed plants, making it the largest terrestrial carbon sink in the world. If farmers choose to take precautions through methods like conservation tillage and minimally disrupt their soil, they can help promote prime conditions for sequestration. Through the “what if” tool, farmers can learn how the conditions on their farm combined with farming methods can best allow them to store carbon. This may generate an additional source of income for farmers in carbon credits, earning farmers up to 30 dollars per acre per year at popular startup Indigo Ag.
But of course, plants aren’t the largest producers of greenhouse gasses in agriculture; it’s animals—more specifically, cows. Although Microsoft hasn’t done as much testing with animals, Chandra says these tools can be repurposed to gauge emissions from livestock. “Similar to how Andrew flies a drone to measure crop stress, we flew drones over cows in pasture. You could see how they were moving, how they were pooping,” Chandra says.
Although the tech isn’t intended to be directly used by farmers yet, unless you happen to be a software engineer like Nelson, the fact that it is now open-source does provide an avenue for Microsoft’s partners, like Land O’ Lakes and the USDA, to build products with these algorithms and release them to farmers, Chandra said.
[Related: Can industrial farming be a force for good?]
The release of FarmVibes.AI comes shortly after John Deere announced plans to bring new autonomous tractors to market. John Deere has said it will build a fully autonomous farming system by 2030. This development is in line with where Microsoft is headed with its agriculture projects. “We have partners that work in the autonomous tractor space,” Chandra says. “We would expect our precision agriculture tools to be able to feed into tractors. I think the challenge is how do you do that at an even more micro scale? And that’s some of what we’re looking at.”
Ultimately, FarmVibes’ success lies in its ability to aggregate existing tools that have previously worked separately from one another or were difficult to overlay, Nelson says. Now, Nelson is able to create a map in 18 minutes of where he should spray his field. Previously, that would have taken days. “It’s definitely stepping stones,” he says.
Correction on Oct. 7: This article has been updated to clarify that it was Microsoft’s agricultural division that began in 2014, and not Project FarmVibes. Additionally, it has been updated to clarify that Nelson is now able to map his field in 18 minutes, not spray them in that amount of time.
Oct 12 (Reuters) - Networking firm Cisco Systems Inc. (CSCO.O) will add Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT.O) Teams messaging app to its meeting devices, the two firms said on Wednesday, offering users an alternative to its own Webex video conferencing app.
Cisco's Jeetu Patel, head of Security & Collaboration, said the company aims to be the hardware platform for a wide range of conferencing software platforms.
"The way this market is evolving is very similar to the way that the movie entertainment market evolved," Patel said, with consumers having multiple subscriptions to streaming services like Netflix, Disney, HBO and Hulu.
"There's going to be times that people want to jump on a Microsoft Teams call, they want to jump on a Zoom call, they want to jump on a Google call."
Asked whether the strategy could cannibalize market share for Cisco's Webex app, Patel said he believed the company will benefit if customers have a better experience using multiple platforms.
Webex, once a widely used conferencing platform, has lost out to several newcomers including Zoom Video Communications Inc (ZM.O), which was founded by an early Webex engineer and grabbed a large share of the market during the coronavirus pandemic.
Ilya Bukshteyn, vice president of Microsoft Teams Calling and Devices, told Reuters the Teams Room software already runs on several other hardware devices and will be available on Cisco devices from the first quarter of next year.
Microsoft made the announcement at its annual Ignite conference.
Patel conceded "many people have a misconception of Webex as their granddad's software" but said in the last two years Cisco has launched many new functions, including real-time translation and transcription of meetings, that would eventually allow a multi-language conversation through Webex's video platform.
Reporting By Jane Lanhee Lee; editing by Richard Pullin
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
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