BlackBerry CEO predicts mid-term payback for new IoT platform

BlackBerry CEO John Chen said a new Internet of Things (IoT) platform unveiled by the company this week will begin boosting its top-line earnings in the medium term, as the Canada-based company continues to diversify in a bid to return to profitability.

BlackBerry CEO John Chen

BlackBerry CEO John Chen

The company announced its IoT platform at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, when it also detailed its second development in wireless medicine in as many months, and revealed its BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) will be ported onto wearable devices running Google's Android Wear operating system.

BlackBerry is initially targeting its IoT platform at the automotive and asset tracking industries. The platform utilises technology from its wholly owned subsidiary QNX Software Systems--which already powers embedded systems in cars, industrial applications and medical devices--and BlackBerry's secure network infrastructure, which the company states handles around 35 petabytes of mobile data each month.

Chen said the platform will take time to impact BlackBerry's top line, but noted it will not be a long term payback, Bloomberg reported citing CNBC.

In a company statement, BlackBerry's VP of strategy and marketing Matt Hoffman said the platform combines the company's mobile data security and embedded systems to create a "modular, cloud-based platform that gives customers the chance to build IoT applications in a secure, efficient, and scalable way."

Concurrently, BlackBerry announced the launch of a second-generation portable medical device from NantHealth, a provider of healthcare data services in which BlackBerry acquired a minority stake in April 2014.

The second-generation HBox acts as a data hub for patients' medical data, transmitting the information between the doctor, patient, and point of care. The unit utilises QNX Software Systems technology and BlackBerry's device management and security technology.

Patrick Soon-Shiong, MD founder and CEO of NantHealth, said the secure communication "allows for a higher quality of healthcare, expediting diagnosis and treatment, as well as more efficiently and accurately providing vital information into the hands of those in need."

The HBox is BlackBerry and NantHealth's second announcement in the field of remote medicine in as many months, following the unveiling of a secure genome browser for cancer patients in December.

BlackBerry's IoT and medical pushes form part of Chen's new strategy for the company that focuses on returning it to profitability by leveraging its assets to enter new markets rather than continue trying to compete with smartphone giants Samsung and Apple in the mobile device sector.

The company unveiled another string to its diversification strategy at CES, when it revealed that BBM will be available on smart watches powered by Android Wear software. Wearers will be able to access instant messages on the smart watch without having to interact with their smartphone.

Herman Li, SVP of BBM engineering and product management, said the integration of the messenger service with Android Wear is "just one way we're expanding the capabilities of our portfolio and delivering exciting options for customers to easily access BlackBerry's cross-platform technologies."

BlackBerry cut its net loss in the three months to end-November from $4.4 billion (€3.7 billion) in 2013 to $148 million in 2014. However, total revenue fell 33.5 per cent year-on-year.

For more:
- see BlackBerry's IoT announcement
- view the company's NantHealth release
- read this BBM statement
- view this Bloomberg article

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