The 2016 Presidential campaign will see its very first results tonight with Iowa caucus voting for Republican and Democratic candidates today.
But the Iowa caucus results will play another important role this year, with both parties, for the first time, partnering with Microsoft and Interknowlogy to use an app for mobile and PC, along with a cloud platform to report voting results.
The apps, according to a blog post from Microsoft, will be available to both Republican and Democratic parties, and will allow each caucus precinct in the state (close to 1,700 in total) to first verify an authorized individual before being able to to report their results to party headquarters and press.
The results will be stored and managed by Microsoft's Azure cloud platform, the company explained, while a separate app for each party will allow headquarters to monitor incoming results.
The future system?
Microsoft believes its platform will enable more accurate results than has been achieved with previous systems, which involved reporting over the phone via a touchtone keypad.
Four years ago, Mitt Romney was prematurely declared the Iowa caucus winner, and it took two weeks before it was discovered in the final tally that Rick Santorum had actually won the state by 34 votes.
The new app and cloud platform will require precincts to double check their results before allowing an authorized and trained individual to report the results via the app.
The separate monitoring app for headquarters will highlight any "anomalies and potential problems," allowing officials to follow up on them as soon as they are flagged by the app.
Microsoft's new platform will also allow for quicker reporting as well, which should help minimize human error and the potential for prematurely announcing a winner incorrectly, as we saw in 2012.
Questions over security
Still, while Microsoft's goal may be better and more accurate reporting, there have not only been questions about the security of the system and the potential for hacking, but also the integrity as well.
Pete D'Alessandro, the Iowa campaign leader for Bernie Sanders, last week questioned the neutrality of Microsoft's involvement, as many Microsoft employees have donated to Hilary Clinton's campaign over the years.
"You'd have to ask yourself why they'd want to give something like that away for free," he said to MSNBC about the tech giant volunteering the reporting platform.
In response, Microsoft told the news outlet that it "is providing technology and services solely to administer and facilitate a neutral, accurate, efficient reporting system for the caucuses."
To counter any issues, according to the report, Clinton and Sanders' headquarters have both also prepared backup reporting systems to check against Microsoft's systems.
While we won't see just how Microsoft's reporting app and cloud platform performs until later tonight, the below video gives more details on how platform works.