When some patients of Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in New Hampshire step on their bathroom scale at home, Microsoft’s computers know about it. The corporation’s machines also get blood pressure readings taken at home. And they can even listen to calls between nurses and patients to gauge a person’s emotional state. Microsoft’s artificial intelligence software parses that data to try and warn patients and staff of emerging health problems before any human notices.
The hospital is previewing both the future of health care and of Microsoft’s business. It’s using a suite of new “cognitive” services recently added to Microsoft’s cloud computing service, called Azure. The company says renting out its machine-learning technology will unlock new profits, and enable companies of all kinds to subject their data—and customers—to artificial-intelligence techniques previously limited to computing giants.
“Customers are going to mature from classic cloud services to services that use elements of machine learning and AI,” says Herain Oberoi, director of product management at Microsoft, who oversees the company’s cloud machine-learning services. “Every company I talk with has someone extremely senior tasked with thinking about how to make this technology work for them.”
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