Home Could Blackberry have a real chance in IoT?

Could Blackberry have a real chance in IoT?

The world may be melting down into Brexitian chaos, but for a company like Blackberry that’s the least of its worries. After all, customers already voted themselves out of Blackberry’s ecosystem years ago, choosing to embrace Apple’s iPhone or Google’s Android phones. Brexit is just one more kick in the teeth for a company that has struggled for years to regain relevance.

And yet…there are signs of life at Blackberry.

The most important sign is the Internet of Things. While every company is pretending to have an IoT strategy these days, Blackberry actually has the raw materials necessary to build a highly relevant IoT business.

Chasing a niche is a good plan

To be honest, it has been years since I last thought about Blackberry, either as a vendor or as blog fodder. I didn’t want to use their phones and I couldn’t muster any energy to write yet another eulogy for the once powerful company.

So when I saw that Larry Dignan had penned a piece suggesting that Blackberry Radar could fuel a turnaround, I was surprised but intrigued. Larry is a smart guy. Why would he bother writing about a corporate corpse?

Blackberry Radar is an “end-to-end, Internet of Things (IoT)-based system that monitors the location of trailers and containers and delivers timely, actionable data to transportation managers via a secure, online portal.” In one sense, it’s a niche solution for the Transportation vertical. Even though Blackberry CEO John Chen rightly calls out the “there are anywhere between three million to 12 million [truck] trailers currently in the U.S. alone,” a fraction of which (14 to 20%) with telematics services attached to them, it’s still hardly something worth going long on BBRY as an investment.

Does Blackberry have the right IoT assets?

However, it’s not so much Blackberry Radar of itself that is interesting. Rather, it’s that Radar reminds us of the systems expertise that Blackberry has honed over decades.

For example, Chen went on to talk about QNX, the embedded, real-time operating system that has been around for eons, and sits at the heart of Blackberry’s connected car platform:

We’ve built and operate a secure end-to-end system to deliver over-the-air software updates to cars, to automotive, automobile. This technology is a growing imperative for automotive OEMs, with the average vehicle nowadays using about 60 million to 100 million lines of software code. Our solution will help the auto industry provide proactive maintenance update, without time consuming visit to the repair shop. This solution has been derived from our technology for updating 50 million mobile phones in over 100 countries.

If that sounds like exactly what is needed to operate a powerful, sophisticated IoT network then that’s because it is.

It Just Works

Two years ago I wrote about how a lack of standardization in IoT would make open source an imperative. While that shift toward open source is happening, it’s also true that developers and the enterprises they serve are hungry for workable platforms that can get them started faster. That’s where Blackberry comes in.

Companies have been calling out for someone to solve the Wi-Fi, real-time location tracking, bar codes, mobile and GPS-related IoT problems they have. Blackberry, because of its years building out a massive smartphone network, coupled with its QNX experience, has this in spades.

So today it’s right that Blackberry should start with an isolated market like trucking logistics. But there’s no reason that this same system, and its underlying assets, can’t power a whole host of other IoT projects in vastly different markets. Could this be the start of a Blackberry resurrection?

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