2021 in Review: October-December
UK Chancellor announces AI scholarships. During his speech at the Tory Party conference in Manchester this month Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak unveiled plans to build out the UK’s expertise in artificial intelligence (AI). Plans include 2,000 new elite AI scholarships for disadvantaged young people.
Ocado invests £10m in autonomous driving tech start up. The online retailer hopes the investment in Wayve will help it accelerate the development of autonomous grocery deliveries for complex urban environments.
Google’s DeepMind slapped with data breach lawsuit. The class action suit against the search giant’s AI subsiardy dates back to a 2015 app collaboration on Streams between Google and the NHS. A 2017 report by the Information Commissioner’s Office found that patients taking part in the trial were not adequately informed that their data would be used as part of the test.
UK Power Networks unveils £2m ‘Enivision’ project. To unlock new capacity for rapid EV chargers the network announced that it was investing in machine learning to enable low cost energy capacity increases as well as to help upgrade its network for a net zero future.
Siemens Energy plans to reduce its data centre footprint with migration to Google Cloud. The energy technology company wants to downsize its footprint with an ambitious plan to move 2.6 petabytes of its business data to Google Cloud over a 15-month period.
IBM launches an AI service to assist with climate change analysis. The company says that its Environmental Intelligence Suite can be used to help organizations assess their impact on the planet and reduce the complexity of regulatory compliance.
Facebook rebrands as Meta The social media giant, which also owns Whatsapp and Instagram, said its corporate rebranding aims to reflect the company’s ambition to create an online “metaverse” where people can game, work and communicate in a virtual environment with the aid of VR headsets.
COP26 Kicks off in Glasgow giving world leaders a last chance to commit to action on climate change. The main issue on the negotiating table over the course of the two week conference was to get countries to work together to halve global emissions by 2030, keeping that vital 1.5°C temperature goal – as outlined in the 2015 Paris Agreement – within reach.
France invests €1.8bn in cloud computing. The French Government’s Minister for Digital Cedric O said that the investment – which comprises of €444m of EU financing; €667mEuro of public financing and €680m of private co-financing will be spent on 23 pre-selected R&D projects that will help French tech companies compete in the global market.
The first day of the Post Office Horizon Scandal public inquiry begins: Subpostmasters and their staff were financially ruined and some imprisoned after being wrongly blamed for accounting shortfalls that were later found to be caused by computer errors in Fujitsu’s accounting system Horizon. The inquiry will look at what went wrong at the Post Office as well as other relevant evidence.
Digital Transformation leads to crisp shortage at Walkers: An IT upgrade at popular snack brand Walkers – owned by parent company PepsiCo – disrupted the supply chain of many of the nation’s favourite crisps, including Wotsits, Quavers and Monster Munch. The situation led to a ‘new condition’ bag of Walkers ready salted being auctioned on ebay for a start price of £6.20 – plus £3.20 postage.
IBM Makes Quantum Leap with Eagle. At the firm’s annual Quantum Summit it unveiled its first processor to feature more than 100 qubits which the firm claims will enable quantum computers to supersede classical super computers and potentially solve a range of problems for industry.
EV charging points become mandatory in new UK homes and businesses from 2022: The announcement, made during a speech the Prime Minster gave at the CBI’s annual conference, garnered headlines for all the wrong reasons when he appeared to lose his thread and started talking about Kids TV show Peppa Pig instead. The legislation – which also covers refurbished buildings – is significant, however, adding an extra 145,000 charging points across the country each year.
Apple sues spyware firm NSO. The tech giant files a lawsuit against the Israeli company for alleged misuse of its spyware Pegasus on iPhones, which it claims was used to target executives, government employees, journalists and activists. Apple’s position as a leader in the global technology industry makes this lawsuit significant, as doesn’t the perhaps politically more astute choice to go after the software supplier instead of its government clients.
Lush shuts down several of its social media accounts in protest of ‘harmful’ algorithms. The bath bomb behemoth’s chief digital officer and product inventor Jack Constantine outlined the decision in a site blog, adding that it was galvanized by whistleblowers such as Frances Haugen which accused Facebook of using powerful algorithms to exploit existing insecurities among its young users.
India restricts use of private crypto (but not the mechanisms it needs to launch its own). The crypto crackdown follows similar restrictions in China, where financial regulators and its central bank have made all cryptocurrency transactions illegal. India’s framework still allows for ‘certain exceptions to promote the underlying technology of cryptocurrency and its uses’ – and there are plans afoot for India to introduce a test pilot for its own central bank digital currency (CBDC) next year.
Nissan invests £13bn towards electric vehicle switch. The car manufacture aims to release 15 new EVs t by 2030, with electrified vehicles making up half its vehicle line-up at that point. Nissan added that in Europe, the UK’s Sunderland plant will take the lead towards electrification.
MI6 reaches out to tech firms to help ‘innovate faster’ than hostile state actors. The Secret Intelligent Services head Richard Moore revealed in a rare public speech that agency had already begun pursuing partnerships with the tech community to develop technologies that it was unable to develop itself.
London Mayor launches tech diversity initiative. Sadiq Khan announced that the programme – run as part of the Mayor’s Workforce Integration Network programme – has an objective to help encourage young black men into tech sector careers in the city.
UK’s Competition and Markets Authority orders Facebook to sell Giphy. Facebook bought the Gif-sharing search engine last year for a reported $315m (£236m) and had plans to integrate it with Instagram, but the CMA ruled the purchase unfair to competing social-media platforms.
Amazon Web Services reveals plans to launch a new private 5G service to support enterprise. Revealing the plans at Amazon’s AWS re:Invent event in Las Vegas, the cloud service firm’s new CEO Adam Selipsky said the new service would make it easier for organisations to deploy and manage their own private mobile network.
Donald Trump reveals he’s building his own social media platform. The move follows the former president’s permanent ban from Twitter in January after he voiced support for rioters who stormed the US Capitol.
The new platform – ‘Truth Social’ – is being built by the Trump Media and Technology Group and is set launch early next year. Trump’s would-be- mouthpiece has already raised $1bn through what was described by his technology group as “a diverse range of institutional investors.
A critical vulnerability in Apache’s widely-used open source logging tool Log4J is given a risk severity rating of 10. The vulnerability – dubbed Log4Shell – is easy to exploit and has reportedly been widely shared ‘in the wild’ [online] since it was first disclosed to the public on 9 December. Cyber security experts to urges cloud services to urgently update their software.
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