Microsoft announces “Cloud for Healthcare” at #MSBuild2020

As Microsofts’ annual dev conference Build opened today (May 19 2020), Microsoft announced the launch of the Microsoft Cloud For Healthcare, — a new Microsoft Industry Cloud solution.

Microsoft said that the solution aims to integrate Microsoft Cloud with an “industry-specific data model” “cross-cloud connectors,” and APIs to better help serve the global healthcare industry.

Global capabilities uniting the healthcare industry

The Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare wi bring together capabilities from across many Microsoft Cloud Services 365. This includes Microsoft 365, Dynamics 365, Power Platform, and if course Azure. This will be powered by a common data model which will allow the sharing of data across various applications to provide better analytics. Microsoft say that this will allow health providers globally to provide better services for patients, clinicians and doctors by helping make it easier to deploy resources to the needs of all hospital and care units.

For example, Cloud for Healthcare, will focus on what Microsoft has identified as important needs for the field, like engaging patients, facilitating health team collaboration and improving operational efficiency, all with strict security measures.

Sample Health App powered services


Of course, an important component of healthcare is aftercare, where medical professionals need to keep in touch with their patients to follow up on their recovery and any post opp treatment, tools available to do so are generally limited to follow-up phone calls and emails, which are not only tedious but can sometimes not meet security standards or provide the best care.

Microsoft’s Healthcare Bot Service will be available as part of this service, which Microsoft say is behind more than 1,500 instances of COVID-19-based bots that have gone live globally since March 2020. These bots can help alleviate the strain on emergency hotlines for public and provide health providers while addressing common questions that patients might have.

Availability

Microsoft has said that a public preview will be coming in coming days and will be free for 6 months for evaluation, with general availability bringing late this calendar year.

Microsoft has also said that although the healthcare industry will be “first served” with the solution, they also promised that more industry-specific clouds solutions will follow.

Thoughts..

What do you think.. Is industry specific Cloud solutions a good next step for Microsoft?

Surface EarBuds … Wow!

Last week Microsoft opened (after initially announcing back in November 2019) the availability of their new Surface EarBuds.

My Earbuds arrived today and I’m already really impressed (ok I love the Surface brand) – and I hope this blog will gives you a good summary and justifies why I’d recommend you go and grab a pair

Spoiler…. They work with any device, feature gesture controls not buttons, have fantastic battery life and work with any digital assistant…

Price

I managed to pick there up direct from the Microsoft Store for £179 including delivery (Microsoft are currently offering a discount of 10% for teachers, parents, NHS and armed forces)!

Look and Feel

Microsoft’s new Surface Earbuds look quite big on first look (compared to say Apple’s) but I love the them.. They look very pretty “Surface”.

The charging case is sleek and protects them when not in use as well as keeping the charge topped up.

In Ear Feel

So they do look a little big when you first get them out the box and pop them in (I’m used to wearing Platronics 8200 headset so the buds are bigger than what I am used too). After 4 hours though, I had forgotten I was wearing them at all. – They fit really well but Microsoft also supply removable tips in three sizes: small, medium and large. The medium ones were fine for me.

Connectivity

Pairing is simple and can be done like pairing any other Bluetooth device but you can also use the new Surface Audio app which is available across all the 3 app stores.

Pairing is initiated using the pairing button on the bottom of the case and really is oneclick. If you are using the latest Windows10 built the Bluetooth quick pair works seemlessly.

As soon as mine were connected the Surface Audio app popped up and told me there was a firmware update to install which took about 5 mins.

Surface earpods firmware update

Sound Quality

OK, so 4 hours in… Good. Really good.

With some random #spotify lockdown songs playing, sound was good. Immersive, good mix of bass, mids and treble (if fact bass was suprisingly good and clear for EarBuds).

Being on COVID-19 lockdown, I don’t get much background noise at the moment. It’s worth pointing out that Surface earbuds do not have active noise cancellation, but I found that because the Surface Earbuds fit snug into my ear I don’t imagine this will be too much of a problem.

The EarBuds have dual microphones per bud and seem to be really good at only picking up the sound you want them too (me). On a Teams call earlier today, my attendees said said they could hear me clearly.

Controls and gestures:

One of the coolest features of the Surface Earbuds is its extensive app integration (not just Cortana). With a triple tap, you can open Spotify and then you can tap or swipe to increase the volume, skip tracks or summon your preferred digital assistant with a 5 second press. These controls also work with other apps… Netflix, Disney Plus..etc

The smooth, flat surface of the Surface Earbuds has perfect senstivity, so even a light tap works. Once I had practices a few times my success rate of using gestures to perform tasks was almost 100%.

Personally, I love that Microsoft opted for gestures rather than buttons, which I think would have ruined the feel and pleasure in using these buds… No one likes pressing a large plastic gadget into ones ears!

Microsoft 365 Integration

Being Surface, these are supported by Microsoft 365 apps and can be used transcribe text in Word use live translation in PowerPoint as your present. You can also use these to read your emails in in Outlook on iOS and soon Android too.

Battery life

According to Microsoft, Surface Earbuds will last 8 hours on a charge, which is among the longest battery life of any wireless earbuds currently available.

The charging case also holds another 24 hours worth of charge, or three full charges.

Mine have been playing to themselves for 5 hrs so far and have just over 30% battery left.

Summary

1 day in but love them. Some may criticise the larger pod design when compared to apple for example but it works really well and is needed for guesture control which is really nice and unique. These really feel premium and what I what expect from a device carry the Surface brand.

  • Intuitive gesture controls
  • Great feel in your ears
  • Crisp, sharp and loud sound
  • Excellent battery life.
  • Microsoft 365 integration.

Keen to know your experience..

Thanks for reading.

Rob

Microsoft’s Spring 2020 Surface Updates

Yesterday (May 6th 2020), Microsoft have announced their annual “spring updates” to the Microsoft Surface for Business line-up with new and updated devices and accessories to help your employees, teachers and front line worker, work, connect and learn anywhere, including:

  • Surface Book 3
  • Surface Go 2, and
  • Surface Dock 2.

Now more than ever with COVID-19, the way your teams work, connect, collaborate, and learn continues to change. As more people turn to their devices to get things done, it has never been more important to empower them with the best technology to help them succeed and retain their key talent – their staff.

The new Surface devices and accessories are available for pre order today

Surface Go 2 Image

Surface Go 2
Lightweight portability for the task at hand. Surface Go 2 has a bigger, 10.5” touchscreen display in the same compact size, up to 10 hours of battery life, and is
64% faster than Surface Go with the Intel® Core™ m3 Processor. Available with optional LTE/4G Advanced, the Surface Go 2 is a super lightweight 2-in1 with the full power of Windows 10.

Surafce Book 3

Surface Book 3
This is Microsoft’s most powerful Surface laptop which is up to 50% faster than Surface Book 2, pairing speed, graphics, up to 17.5 hours of battery life with the versatility of a high-performance robust laptop, powerful tablet, and portable design studio. For the first time, Surface Book 3 15” offers an option of NVIDIA Quadro RTX 3000 which has more graphics performance than the top of the line MacBook Pro 16”.

Getting the kind of power and performance needed to do complex modeling and graphics intensive work, with an Intel 10th generation CPU with up to 32GB RAM and 2TB professional-grade SSD.

 

SurfaceDock2

Surface Dock 2

Finally updated, the new Surface Dock 2 instantly transforms Surface into a desktop PC with all the next-gen ports you need, including USB-C®. Simply plug in the familiar Surface Connect cable to charge your device and access external monitors, a keyboard, mouse, and more. Surface Dock 2 was built to maximize efficiency at the office, in a flexible workspace, or at home.

Surface Dock 2 offers Enterprise grade features including frictionless firmware updates, Wake on LAN, network boot and centralised IT control over who can connect to docks and how.

Surface Headphones 2

Surface Headphones 2: The Smarter way to listen

New and in different colours, Surface headphones 2, allow you to listen and talk in comfort and style all day. Music and phone calls sound spectacular with enhanced Omnisonic sound now offering aptX™ codec support. . You can effortlessly rotate the on-ear dials to adjust the volume or noise cancellation and has 4 microphones per ear cup for exceptional voice clarity and also 20 hr battery.  Use touch to control your music, calls, and more. Now you can rotate the ear cups to 180 degrees for greater comfort when wearing around your neck. Now available in Matte Black.

 

Microsoft to bring all tasks across Office365 into new “Tasks in Teams”

Tasks in Teams

Tasks in Teams – this will be the new name for the Planner app currently in Teams today, which will consolidate tasks across To Do, Teams Channels, Planner as well as Outlook Tasks. The goal is to bring all your tasks to ‘Tasks in Teams’ no matter where you create them.

Tasks In Teams

The new Teams Tasks app (which will replace the current planner app) will allow users to see their individual tasks as well as team tasks in a single app. This latest update will begin to rollout in May /  June this year.

Why the change?

According to the Microsoft 365 Roadmap, the “Tasks in Teams,” feature describes the coming Tasks app as ‘providing users with a consolidation of tasks across Microsoft To Do, Teams channels, Planner and Outlook Tasks.’

New Teams Tasks View

The Microsoft 365, Teams Public Roadmap ID 57213, describes the reason for the change is that “with the new Tasks experience in Teams, we are delivering several capabilities that will support new levels of team collaboration. Tasks targeting, publishing and reporting in Teams allows corporate and regional leadership to send task lists targeted to the relevant locations, such as specific retail stores, and track their progress through automatic real-time reports. Managers have tools to easily direct activities within their stores, and Firstline Workers have a simple prioritized list available via their personal or company-issued mobile device showing them exactly what to do next.”

Good idea?

What do you think. Is this a good move, confusing or a logical coming together of all your tasks in one place.?

Check out the Microsoft Tasks In Teams YouTube video

There’s now 4.1 Billion Meeting minutes a day in Microsoft Teams

Microsoft said yesterday that they have now passed 75 million daily active paid users in Microsoft Teams. The news came as part of their Q3 2020 results announced yesterday (29 April).

Incredible usage numbers

Microsoft have seen over 200 million meeting participants a day in April, generating more than 4.1 billion meeting minutes. Just last month they hit a previous record of 2.7 billion in just one day… This has nearly doubled in a month…up over 70% since last months huge surge.

What’s more.. Of the 75 million (which of course are all business use today), Microsoft said that over two thirds of these are using the richer collaborate features of Teams, sharing content, doing live authoring, collaborating and interacted with files and other apps within Teams.

The difference between apps like Teams and Skype, Zoom, Google Meet, Webex and other video conferencing only services that Microsoft Teams is not just a video calling platform (while of course it does that extremely well as the stats above show). Teams is Microsoft’s “Hub for Teamwork” and is the central focus for Microsoft 365.

In the earning announcement yesterday, Microsoft said “Teams is about actually getting work done where meetings and video is one part. So that’s, for example, something that utility of it will only increase for our customers as some people come back to work.

Speaking about healthcare specifically, there have seen “more than 34 million Teams meetings in April alone and as education establishment becomes online classrooms, more than 183,000 educational institutions now rely on Teams, and there are now over 20 organisations with more than 100,000 employees are also now using Teams.”

Now Focus on Security, Adoption and Change Management

I have seen many many many of our customers and other organisations rolling out Teams and incredible pace over the past 6 weeks to ensure people can stay connected. With this now the new norm,(for now anyway) the shift is now around focussing on the foundations to ensure Teams and more agile working becomes a new way of working. Security & Complaince and of course User Adoption.

User Adoption and Change Management is key as true collaborative working (not just scheduling video calls) requires time, a change in mind set and skills, practice and reinforcement to change a employees mindset into a truly collaborative workforce (Co editing and authoring for example rather than still sending files around in email).

Ensuring Security and Compliance across Office365 and Microsoft Teams is of course important. With more users accessing corporate data across mobile, their home decides and of course away from home, checking, enabling data and lifecycle management and data within Teams is important. Like Office365, Teams is Secure by design, and uses the following standards:  ISO 27001ISO 27018SSAE16 SOC 1 and SOC 2HIPAA , and  EU Model Clauses (EUMC) . Within the Microsoft compliance framework, Microsoft classifies Office 365 applications and services into four categories described more here.

What happens after Covid19?

Of course, once this Covid-19 pandemic is over (or some form on normality returns) it will be interesting to see how the use of these platforms continues of whether this huge advance in digital transformation and collaboration will tail off and people revert back to previous ways of working.. Habits die hard after all.

“SMS sign in” for Microsoft Teams* now in public preview.

Another #MicrosoftTeams feature is rolling out (ok so it’s in public preview so pretty much rolled out).

This time is a feature aimed more at front line workers like retail for example who may oy have a mobile phone to access their busienss apps.

Introducing SMS based user sign-in

With SMS based user sign-in, users can simply sign-in with their phone number and receive a code via SMS, which will then log them in (the number needs to be registered against them in Azure Active Directory).

How’s it works?

Worth noting that this is just in preview and is still some key features missing (a key one being this doesn’t yet work with MFA… But it will).

As I mentioned in the introduction SMS-based authentication, lets users sign in without needing to provide, or even know, their username and password. After their account is created by an identity administrator, they can enter their phone number at the sign-in prompt, and provide an authentication code that’s sent to them via text message. This authentication method simplifies access to applications and services, especially for front line workers.

Whilst this will work for any Office 365, it’s primary aim is to help front line workers use and login to Team in mobile device as the illustration below shows

Each user enabled for SMS-sign in must have one of the following Azure AD or Microsoft 365 licenses:
– Azure AD Premium P1 or P2 or
– Microsoft 365 F1 or F3

Current limitations

Microsoft have clearly detailed a number of limitations which will apply during the public preview including.

  • SMS-based authentication isn’t currently compatible with Azure Multi-Factor Authentication.
  • With the exception of Teams, SMS-based authentication isn’t currently compatible with native Office applications.
  • SMS-based authentication isn’t recommended for B2B accounts.
  • Federated users won’t authenticate in the home tenant. They only authenticate in the cloud.

To learn more and for instructions in how to active and configure SMS sign in, see the Microsoft supporting information here.

Other Azure AD Passwordless options.

For additional ways to sign in to Azure AD without a password, such as the Microsoft Authenticator App or FIDO2 security keys, you can review the Passwordless authentication options for Azure AD.

“Pop out” chat support starts rolling out in Microsoft Teams

Multi-Window Chat is a new Microsoft Teams feature which enables users to multitask more efficiently by popping out their chat conversations into separate Windows much like was possible in Skype for Business and Lync before.

Microsoft announced this was rolling out this month (April) as part of a wave of updates announced on their 3rd “birthday”.

Why we need it (and we so do)!

Pop out chat (video and others are coming soon too) has been one of the most requested features in Teams since when enaged in multiple chats, is can be a little cumbersome (especially now with us all working from home) to effectively to monitor and manage chats across multiple teams or groups since you can’t currently have these chats in separate Windows.

This new pop-out feature helps you overcome this challenge, allowing you to “pop out” chats your Teams’ chat in a separate window meaning you can keep important conversations and chats going while you are in a meeting or working elsewhere in Teams without loosing context.

How it works.

As with most things in #MicrosoftTeams there’s a couple of ways users can pop-out their conversations:

  1. The simplest – double click on the display picture (avatar) of the person whose chat you want to pop-out
  2. Click “Pop out chat” from the context menu for a chat that is listed in the chat list
  3. Click the ‘pop out’ button in the top-right corner of the chat header.
  4. For those that prefer the command prompt, use the slash command /pop
Pop out chat in Microsoft Teams

Available now..?

Almost.. At the time of writing, I’ve seen tweets that some of my customers and friends are seeing this already as of today (Friday 24th April) mine hasn’t updated yet…

Keep hitting the “check for updates”!

Verizon jumps into video conferencing space by acquiring BlueJeans

As the COVID-19 pandemic is forcing most companies to shift their operations to collaboration and video conferencing tools like Slack, Zoom, Webex and Microsoft Teams, all of these services have seen a huge jump in useage and in their share prices!

Verizon isn’t a name you’d usually think of in this suave until, maybe, now with their acquisition of Bluejeans.

BlueJeans, provide a video interoperability gateway service as well as a simple but encrypted videoconferencing platform with around 15, 000 customers. By acquiring Bluejeans, Verizon will not only be able to compete in the video conferencing space, but can also leverage its global footprint to scale the service further and assist users in areas including field service work, distance learning and telemedicine.

Verizon’s CEO, Tami Erwin, said in a press release

“As the way we work continues to change, it is absolutely critical for businesses and public sector customers to have access to a comprehensive suite of offerings that are enterprise ready, secure, frictionless and that integrate with existing tools.”

Verizon’s CEO, Tami Erwin

Quentin Gallivan, CEO of Bluejeans has said that the agreement will allow the company to “accelerate product development to innovate secure and immersive collaboration experiences for our customers. In addition, we will be able to leverage the R&D of both companies to create compelling innovations to enhance our offering in use cases like telemedicine, distance learning and field service.

Longer term?

Who know how this will develop and extend. Whether they verizon will keep this as a niche product set or if they will plan to look to compete and integrate / interoperate it with other products will remain to be seen..

What’s your thoughts?

4 to 9 is not 49 but its’ a leap in the right direction for #MicrosoftTeams

There’s no doubt Microsoft haven’t been busy this past few months with some may say, it’s own rapid #MicrosoftTeams feature response took to #covid_19.

Whilst in preview for many at Microsoft for a while, Microsoft posted to twitter and the uservoice feedback site this afternoon (Monday 13th April) to announce that it will very shortly (we beleive this month) be increasing the number of participants viewed simultaneously on the meeting view from the current 4 to 9.

Teams 3×3 display (Image (C) Microsoft.)

Zoom however, lets users see up to 49 participants on a single screen

Microsoft have also said though publicly, that they are “continuing work to increase this limit even further.”

User voice update

Is this all just to compete with Zoom?

In parts I think… Yes

But… Microsoft have been working on this for a couple of years but was obviously never really seen as a huge priority (despite the number of user requests).

Bear in mind Teams isn’t Zoom, but we often compare aspects of a product with a different solution. Zoom is purely a video conferencing service (whereas Teams is far more than that… Chat, channels, co-authoring, secure collaboration and integrated into Microsoft 365).

Of late though with everyone working from home, due to #covid19, Zooms features have been priased both in both the enterprise (security noise aside) and personal space…

I think this is mainly because Zoom lets users see up to 49 participants on a single screen and whilst this is probably not practice to required for most Enterprises (but great maybe for schools and gym classes) the user community seems to think that the changes don’t go far enough to help with orgs with large team sizes….so the pressure on Microsoft to increase this further is by far from over!

Zoom can show up to 49 live video windows

Summary

Given the focus on enterprise and quality however it is likely Microsoft will put security and quality ahead of just features in this “turf war” and they have said they are continuing work to increase the limit even further “soon”.

Cisco and Microsoft report huge surge in Webex and Teams as use of Video Surges due to Covid-19

Cisco and Microsoft are amungst the two enterprise leading platforms that have seen a huge surge in usage numbers as organisations around the world move to online meetings to working and distance learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Microsoft and Cisco measure and record their numbers differently so its sometimes hard to compare one with the other, but the overall set of numbers are staggering.

Cisco Webex

Cisco’s has said their Web conferencing platform Webex has unsurprisingly seen a huge surge in usage numbers as organisations around the world move to online meetings to working and distance learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cisco recorded a peak of record 4 million meetings in one day on March 18 2020 up almost 100% on the number of global meetings that took place before the week before the outbreak hit.

Cisco have said that in the first 20 days of March alone, they hosted 7 billion minutes of meetings on Webex (an average of 350 million minutes a day) day with the duration of the meetings typically 22% longer than usual. company also saw a drastic increase in users signing up on its platform.

Cisco also recorded a record 324 million meeting attendees last month.

Microsoft Teams

Cisco’s news comes the same week as Microsoft also announced they had seen a new peak of a staggering 2.7billion minutes in one day, a 200% increase on the previous week and the total number of video calls in Teams grow by over 1,000 % in the month of March.

Image and data from Microsoft

Turn on Video to make online meetings more natural…

Cisco, like Zoom and Microsoft have recently made Webex free during Covid-19 with a view naturally to attract new users to the platform and to help grow usage within existing business who adjust use Webex across parts of their business. This is naturally driving usage of the platforms at huge pace as most of the world works from home!

While video can’t truly replace in-person meetings, it can actually be more productive, peoplr are using video more than normal as the social distancing seems to be a new way of life for a time to come.

In Microsoft’s Remote work trend report, they state that “Researchers like Dr. Fiona Kerr have found that eye contact and physical connection with another human increases dopamine and decreases the stress hormone cortisol. Her research shows that you can even physically calm someone down simply by looking them in the eye. So as the world works remotely, it is no surprise people are turning on video in Teams meetings two times more than before many of us began working from home full-time“…

Image from Microsoft.

Summary

So turn on that video everyone…personally I find it really helps me feel ready for my day. When I went to the office I’d (try) to make myself look presentable, so just because I’m working from home for the foreseeable future why should that change… The notion of getting ready for work and expecting face to face communication certainly gets me into work mode and seeing people (even over Teams or Webex) really does make me feel more connected and less distant from the people I am used to seeing on a daily basis.

Sources: Remote work trend report & Revoult Business Report.