Microsoft has been busy over the past 12 months. The company has bought SwiftKey and LinkedIn, rolled out HoloLens and opened data centres in the UK, among other things. The Microsoft UK News Centre has covered a lot of news during 2016, so here are the 10 best-read articles of the year.
Even though it was only published earlier this month, this article makes it into our top 10 most-read stories of 2016.
Police forces across London have stepped up the fight against crime by using Microsoft’s Azure cloud service to store and review millions of hours of footage filmed on officers’ body cameras.
Around 22,000 police men and women from 32 boroughs in the capital have been given wearable video cameras so they can automatically record criminal acts, helping with prosecutions.
Microsoft revealed that the footage will be uploaded to its Azure cloud service, where officers can study it and use it in court against those accused of wrongdoing.
The Rocket Car Challenge – run every year by Microsoft, The British Army and the Bloodhound Engineering project – helps schoolkids construct miniature foam cars powered by rockets and fitted with tiny on-board computers.
“The whole idea of this project is to get kids excited by science,” said Mark Chapman, Bloodhound’s Chief Engineer. “And there’s nothing more exciting than building a car yourself, putting a rocket in it and firing it across your playground. My kids have done it and their eyes were like dinner plates.”
From October 1, fans could collect under-the-tab codes on special cans of Rockstar Energy Original and use them online to unlock exclusive in-game content. Gamers were also be entered for competitions to win more than 500 prizes, including Xbox One S consoles, Samsung HDTVs and games.
The UK can design featured a yellow skull, the red Gears of War logo and a Lancer, one of the weapons used by the soldiers in the popular gaming series. The third-person game focuses on the war between humans, a subterranean species known as the Locust Horde and their mutated counterparts, the Lambent.
This year’s Future Decoded event saw Chancellor Philip Hammond deliver one of the keynote speeches. He said that his “three-pillar plan” of Defend, Deter and Develop to protect the privacy of citizens, tackle online criminals and boost internet security skills would provide a “once in a lifetime opportunity to futureproof the economy of post-Brexit Britain”.
“Britain is already an acknowledged global leader in cyber security thanks to our investment of over £860 million in the last Parliament, but we must now keep up with the scale and pace of the threats we face,” he told thousands of attendees at Microsoft’s annual event aimed at showing how businesses can digitally transform, at London’s ExCel.
This article revealed how schools are benefitting from using Minecraft in lessons, with children learning more when the game is used as part of a balanced curriculum.
Lings Primary School, in Northampton – a Microsoft Showcase School – installed new ICT suite, introduced an array of tablets and desktop PCs, and set up an onsite radio station (run by the kids). Leigh Wolmarans, headteacher, believed the greater emphasis on computer science-based teaching made a real difference to the school life of his pupils.
“For children, learning comes down to three key principles: engagement; relevance; and enjoyment,” he said. “If you can tick all three boxes, you’re onto a winner. We’ve been using computer science for a little while now and we’ve seen an improvement in our pupils’ level of understanding during lessons. Yes, it’s fun and, yes, it’s engaging but the way we use something like Minecraft, it’s not a game. It’s a genuine learning technique.”
Satya Nadella, Microsoft chief executive, announced plans to open UK data centres in November 2015. The announcement, made at Microsoft’s Future Decoded event, was read throughout 2016, even after the company opened the UK sites in September.
During Future Decoded, Microsoft also announced the completion of the expansion of its Ireland site and that its data centre facility in Middenmeer, the Netherlands, was operational.
In September, an art project at Tate Britain used AI and machine learning to match artwork with photos from news agency Reuters.
The creators of Recognition, which runs 24 hours a day online as well as in the gallery, hope the digital project will not only unearth some pieces of art that people rarely see, but also create a virtual gallery of its own.
“The Tate archive is very difficult to explore, and this makes it easy,” said Isaac Joseph Vellentin, 22, one of the creators. “In our digital age, there is so much content. We are juxtaposing these images to get more out of them. We are taking two things that are close but far apart in their time frame. But we are also looking at human life. It’s more what people take away for themselves.”
In August, The Future Laboratory – a consultancy that tries to predict trends in 14 industry sectors – teamed up with Microsoft Surface to look at the jobs that today’s students will be undertaking by 2025.
Called the “Tomorrow Jobs” report, the study looked at what the creative careers of the future might look like and identified 10 job categories that don’t exist today, along with the skills needed in order for students to future-proof their careers. These jobs included Space Junk Archaeologist and Virtual Habitat Designer.
In June, 12-year-old Vlad Vitske was invited to tour Microsoft’s headquarters in Reading.
Just a month before that visit, he had appeared in the Channel 4 reality show The Tiny Tots Talent Agency. The programme focused on Bizzykidz, a London-based company trying to find the next generation of stars. But Vlad didn’t want to be famous for singing or dancing, he wanted to work with computers.
“I love Microsoft. I have always liked Microsoft but I really got into the company after Windows 8 came out. It was something new, things other companies didn’t have, like the live tiles. That was really interesting,” he said.
So, Microsoft made his wish come true for a day.
In September, Microsoft made its Cloud service available in the UK, with Azure and Office 365 generally available from multiple data centre locations in the country.
The Ministry of Defence (MoD), which employs around 250,000 people, signed up to use Microsoft Office 365 and Microsoft Azure cloud services, with the Government citing value for money and security as key reasons for the agreement.
“Microsoft’s secure and transparent cloud service in the UK fits perfectly with the MoD’s digital transformation agenda,” said Mike Stone, Chief Digital and Information Officer at the MoD. “This agreement, which is based on Microsoft’s world-class reliability and performance, will allow us to deliver cost-effective, modern and flexible information capabilities. It will ensure we are better-placed in our ever-changing, digital-first world.”
South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, the country’s largest mental health trust, Aston Martin, Capita and Rosslyn Analytics have also agreed to use Microsoft’s UK data centres. They join thousands of other UK businesses and organisations — such as Glasgow City Council, Marks & Spencer, Confused.com, Natural Resources Wales, Pizza Hut Restaurants and Virgin Atlantic – already using Microsoft’s cloud services.