Welcome to our latest round-up of news from the technology and hosting world. Here’s what we’ve discovered this month.
UK maintains GDPR status after Brexit
There’s been some good news for UK companies that store and process the data of EU citizens. Following Brexit, the European Commission issued a draft data adequacy decision this week which says that UK’s data protection levels are equivalent to those provided by GDPR and the EU’s Law Enforcement Directive. As a result, data can continue to move between the UK and the EU without disruption.
This is an important decision for businesses because, until the announcement, Brexit had automatically relegated the UK’s status to that of a third country. Though there was a six month transition period lasting until June, long-term it could have put an end to the free-flow of data and caused significant issues for UK companies and cost them up to £1.6 billion.
This, however, is not a one-time decision. Being independent of the EU, the UK will need to be reassessed every four years and the EC will continue to monitor developments in the UK, particularly any agreements the UK makes with other non-EU countries and any changes it makes to its data protection laws.
Digital transformation fund for SMBs
As the pace of digital transformation accelerates, the UK government is keen to see that SMBs in the North and Midlands don’t get left behind. Following a successful pilot scheme in which over a thousand companies accessed funding for digital technologies, the government has now launched the Made Smarter initiative. This will provide a fund of £8 million to help small businesses in those regions finance the procurement of digital and automation technologies.
Besides receiving matched funding for the purchase of technology, companies will also get funded internships and benefit from free expert advice and training. The initiative is available to manufacturing SMBs located in Yorkshire, Humberside, the North East, North West and West midlands.
Amazon takes customer choice to new levels
As Jeff Bezos leaves Amazon for more philanthropic adventures, it seems that one of his final acts is to hand customers some control over the future development of the company’s smart tech products.
Going forward, rather than having execs exercise total control over which gadgets to make, the Build It programme will see a selection of these devices showcased to consumers and it will be they who decide whether to go ahead with development and manufacture. However, rather than simply voting for the products they want; the programme takes a leaf from the Kickstarter manual and requires interested consumers to pre-order the product. Only if enough orders are made within a 30-day window will production commence. To incentivise participants, the pre-order price is heavily discounted.
In the world of smart tech, this is a smart move as it enables Amazon to gauge potential demand and, through empowering customers, increases interest in and awareness of new products before they have even reached the production line.
The initial offerings of the Build It programme included a food scale that measures portions by nutritional value rather than weight, a smart cuckoo-clock with in-built speakers that can be used as an alarm or timer and a voice-activated printer of sticky notes.
Malware put to good use
While malware is a constant threat to most, it’s precisely that threat that makes it of value to the military and secret service. Recently, it has been adopted by the UK as a means to disrupt extremist networks and disable their devices. According to General Sir Patrick Sanders, head of the UK’s strategic command, and Jeremy Fleming, the director of GCHQ, the UK has been deploying malware as a key part of its cyber offensives, especially against militant groups like Isis.
During these campaigns, the UK military has taken down mobiles and laptops that extremists rely on to communicate. These have successfully prevented extremist leaders from issuing orders to militant cells and, in some cases, operatives have even managed to modify the message contents to send unknowing militias directly into the path of British and allied troops. Malware has also been used to take servers used by extremists offline, to delete and corrupt data stored on them and to take down extremist content on websites and social media.
With a recent survey showing that 65% of employees are quite happy to continue remote working once the lockdown ends, it is no surprise that Microsoft has been quick to develop a new platform aimed at work at home employees.
Microsoft Viva offers a suite of collaboration tools that are designed to integrate with a company’s existing platforms and with Microsoft 365 and Teams apps. It aims to help remote employees with engagement, learning and knowledge and, importantly, to assist with their wellbeing.
According to Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella, the remote working made necessary by the pandemic ‘has had a dramatic impact on the employee experience.’ With this in mind, Viva provides every organisation with a unified employee experience, providing everything an employee needs for successful remote working, in a single, integrated experience.
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