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Microsoft Buys Orions Systems, Adds to AI Vision Capabilities in Dynamics 365

Microsoft announced the acquisition of Orions Systems last week to enhance the video AI and management capabilities of its Dynamics 365 Connected Store, an in-store retail optimization solution that uses computer vision and other sensor-based data analysis.

Snoqualmie, Wash.-based Orions Systems makes artificial intelligence-based video analysis solutions for governments and Fortune 500 company markets that can be trained by humans (so-called human-in-the-loop machine teaching). The solutions use design data based on semantics and its patented "tagonomy," which company founder Nils Lahr has described as "the only known way of generating semantic data from a directed graph." The use of tagonomy is considered a better approach for handling unstructured data in machine learning systems than the typical taxonomy approach. A tagonomy "can generate ontological data, freeing the data from the limited structure and bounds of either being a simple string array or a rigid taxonomy," Lahr explained in the post. 

The Orions Systems acquisition will help Microsoft's Dynamics Connected Store, currently in preview, better assess customized store spaces, said Muhammad Alam, corporate vice president of Microsoft Dynamics 365, in a statement, as well as adding unspecified capabilities to the Microsoft Power Platform. Dynamics Connected Store uses cameras and sensors to gauge things like a store's stock, customer experience, and refrigeration temperatures. The U.K.-based Marks & Spencer retail chain recently deployed the Microsoft Dynamics Connected Store solution in a London store, according to this Microsoft video.

"The acquisition will bring additional technologies that will allow solutions like Dynamics 365 Connected Store and the Microsoft Power Platform to offer retailers and other organizations a way to build and train their own AI models to customize and optimize how they can learn from their physical space," Alam said. "This extra set of tools will deliver on scenarios beyond what is offered out-of-the-box today and can adapt to the truly unique dimensions and needs of their physical spaces."

Lahr not only founded Orions Systems but co-founded the Microsoft Windows Media Department, according to the company's site description. The company is credited with building the first live streaming platform for the Olympics, as well as providing the first video content distribution network. The company also offers an Orions AI City product for collecting and analyzing video content across cities. 

The acquisition was acknowledged by Lahr in a Tuesday LinkedIn post:

It is with great excitement that I can announce the acquisition of Orions Systems by Microsoft today. Orions Systems, founded 8 years ago, has become the leader in lighting the way for how to turn video fused with sensor data into business and operational intelligence in real-time. Unlike other solutions built on aging technologies and cloud-only runtimes, our solutions provide development through deployment solutions for live video-driven digital transformation applications. Additionally, the platform enables all levels of a company, from data scientists to decision-makers, to participate in a human-in-the-loop machine teaching system that continues to get smarter over time. 

The terms of the deal were not described in Microsoft's announcement.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.

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