BlackBerry leans on security prowess in launching Internet of Things platform

LAS VEGAS--BlackBerry (NASDAQ:BBRY) is betting that its security heritage and technology portfolio will make its new platform for the Internet of Things (IoT) a powerhouse in a burgeoning market as technology players from Samsung Electronics to Intel look to take advantage of the IoT trend.

After hinting at the platform for months, BlackBerry CEO John Chen and top lieutenant Sandeep Chennakeshu formally unveiled the BlackBerry IoT Platform here at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show. The company is initially targeting the automotive and asset tracking vertical markets, but plans to expand beyond those eventually to areas like medical devices.

"This is the power of BlackBerry," Chen said, adding that one of the good things he inherited when became CEO in November 2013 was BlackBerry's rich technology heritage. For BlackBerry, the move into the IoT market comes as its smartphone business has declined to paltry sales figures, and it represents a potential new avenue for revenue growth.

The platform combines technology from BlackBerry's QNX Software Systems subsidiary, a leader in the embedded systems and connected car markets, along with BlackBerry's secure network infrastructure and device lifecycle management software. The company claims that its platform is based on an efficient, scalable messaging system that other services can be built on top of. Those include security, instantaneous data indexing and storage, analytics for data visualization as well as granular permissions for accessing every bit of data that goes through the platform.

Chennakeshu, president of the company's BlackBerry Technology Solutions unit, explained that BlackBerry thinks the platform needs to do a number of different tasks. At its base is BlackBerry's secure network. As an example of its capabilities, he said the platform can parse data coming from a connected car so that some data goes only to a dealer and some other data goes to a service center. Additionally, the platform can send data to other analytics platforms and can store it in various secured ways.

Then on top of that is the platform's business logic, which enables applications like data collection. Additionally, BlackBerry emphasized the idea of bicycle management, so that the platform can track when a connected device crashes and send a message to the developer in real time. The company is also going to lean on its enterprise device management heritage and use its BlackBerry Enterprise Servers to manage connected devices. Further, the platform will enable users to have a single secure identity that lets them access multiple applications. All of it will come with software or customers, as well as analytics and dashboards to get a quick view of their connected devices.

"We can solve very complex uses cases, especially those which are high value and highly mobile," Chennakeshu said.

It's easy to see why so many companies want a piece of the Internet of Things market. The worldwide IoT market is forecast to grow from $1.3 trillion in 2013 to $3.04 trillion in 2020 with a compound annual growth rate of 13 percent, according to research firm IDC.

In December, Intel unveiled its Intel IoT Platform, designed to serve as an end-to-end reference model to unify and simplify connectivity and security for the IoT. Here at CES, Samsung co-CEO Boo-Keun Yoon said 90 percent of Samsung products will be IoT devices, and the company will hit 100 percent within five years. Samsung owns SmartThings, an open IoT platform.

Chennakeshu said "every IoT platform that I have seen looks identical. The problem is the devil's in the details." He said BlackBerry's platform is based on proven, secure technology and is scalable.  

"Every node in the system is scalable across the world," he said. "Our entire system is based on a very, very efficient messaging system which is event-driven." Every device can either get or receive messages and send out notifications.  

Chen acknowledged that BlackBerry will not be able to connect or manage every connected device and is happy to work with partners with other IoT platforms. "We do not look at it as a closed system in our mind," he said. "We will have to sit down with partners. This is an open invitation to others that as long as they don't sabotage our security, we would love to host or connect to the bigger picture."
Chennakeshu said the platform can be more "holistic" and using proxy servers can connect to other companies' analytics platforms, for instance. He also said the entire platform can be licensed by someone else looking to provide more horizontal services as opposed to focusing on vertical markets.

In other BlackBerry news, the company said its BlackBerry Messenger service will be available on wearable technologies for a wide range of Android Wear smart watches. The service will be available sometime in the early part of this year and will let users receive alerts on their watch when new BBM messages come in, see the sender and discreetly preview messages. Users will also be able to read BBM messages in their entirety, navigate among messages and dismiss notifications with a simple swipe, as well as respond to messages hands-free with Google Now or choose from pre-set messages to quickly send a response.

For more:
- see this BlackBerry IoT release
- see this BBM release

Related Articles:
BlackBerry misses revenue forecast in latest quarter, vows to return to sales growth
BlackBerry's Chen sees devices as more than just phones, focuses on Internet of Things opportunity
BlackBerry brings back the keyboard with Classic phone, partners with AT&T, Verizon
Intel takes a stab at unifying the Internet of Things
BlackBerry exec: I'd 'love' to have BBM running on a wearable

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