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Microsoft returns to its roots at Build with smart cows

Rob Enderle | May 4, 2015
I was the top launch analyst for Windows 95 and that product effectively launched me and I've worked with that firm for two decades now. Since then I've watched and been troubled by the many unfortunate changes and mistakes Microsoft has made.

I was the top launch analyst for Windows 95 and that product effectively launched me and I've worked with that firm for two decades now. Since then I've watched and been troubled by the many unfortunate changes and mistakes Microsoft has made.

This week at Microsoft Build, I attended a rather interesting presentation by Steve Guggenheim on smart cows, and I felt like the folks that were running Microsoft were finally back on track.

No Microsoft didn't announce the Microsoft Cow — that would be a really scary thought. Using a Fujitsu technology, which looks like a smartwatch for cows (not quite as attractive as the Apple Watch, though likely more reliable), coupled with analytics they could massively improve (as in double) the successful pregnancies and the beef production on the farm. Now, before you buy your cow an Apple Watch, I should note that this also requires a massive amount of analysis to create a system able to detect when a cow wanted to get lucky based on their activity. Kind of makes you wonder why folks are trying to get you to buy smartwatches all of a sudden doesn't it?

I'm only half kidding here given that a number of the machine learning examples presented had to do with monitors we wear like the Apple Watch that are also targeted at increasing sales or improving our own productivity. In most of those cases we're the cow.   I'd guess we'd better learn to "Mooo" and like it.

Regardless, I think this is the beginning of another revolution, one where little companies could out execute big ones far more often through machine learning and analytics as cloud services.

Machine learning and the bottom line

I was raised on a ranch and spent summers on a farm, don't ask me to explain the difference because on the ranch we raised oranges and on the farm we raised nuts, grains, cows and sheep. (Looking this up, either we misnamed the ranch or this simply meant we didn't have fences, go figure?)

Small farms are slowly being wiped out by large farming conglomerates. These conglomerates are run by MBAs with ever more advanced technology only they can really afford and which optimizes their costs to produce the high-profit margins that small farmers haven't been able to achieve.

This is largely because they instrument most everything and are increasingly using automation and robotics to do what used to require expensive human labor.   However, even with what certainly seems like a massive influx of technology over the last few decades this presentation at Microsoft Build suggests we haven't seen anything yet.

Sensors (machine learning tied to analytics) will shortly revolutionize farms again and this could be far more disruptive than anything we have previously seen.

 

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