BlackBerry Drops Smartphones for Driverless Software

BlackBerry is hoping to rev up sales with cybersecurity software products for driverless cars

At onetime BlackBerry dominated the world of smartphone technology.  In fact, their product inspired the term “Crackberry,” because people were forever frantically typing away on them.

But the company failed to miss the rise of more sophisticated touch-screen phones, such as Apple’s iPhone and Samsung’s Galaxy. While BlackBerry was initially able to hold onto its B2B fans who admired the company’s commitment to data security, sales dipped as consumers coveted apps to provide day-to-day convenience.

Now, the company is switching lanes into the world of autonomous vehicles.

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Cybersecurity for Cars

BlackBerry is building on its heritage of tight data security and turning from hardware to software. Driverless cars rely on software. Lots of software. BlackBerry is betting it can pull off a turn-around by providing cybersecurity software for the automotive industry.

Skeptics worry that hackers can infiltrate driverless car systems, making them a danger to society. BlackBerry’s new software and service products fends against them.

John Chen, CEO of BlackBerry, explained the about-face in a recent interview. “The phone market on the high end is saturated,” he said. Rather than compete there, BlackBerry decided to focus on where it could compete, not burn its resources trying to launch new devices.

BlackBerry’s Jarvis platform functions as a code-scanning software that detects vulnerabilities in automotive systems. It then resolves them via dashboards with specific cautions and advisories. According to Chen, once a car company signs up for Jarvis, the platform can be customized for their own software supply chain. This allows car companies to scan files for problems at all stages of development.

Jarvis is already in trial with several major automakers, including Jaguar and Land Rover.

BlackBerry’s other software product designed for driverless technology is QNX. The operating platform connects a vehicle’s “automatic” features, such as self-parking, collision avoidance and lane departure assist into one system. Ford uses the technology and through their partnership, QNX is already in 50 million cars.

Mission to China

For BlackBerry’s latest product development, they partnered  with Chinese company, Baidu. Their new Apollo platform will provide a secure and reliable solution that consists of cloud services. Big names like Microsoft, Bosch and TomTom are assisting with development of Apollo.

The Apollo project is significant because it could give the Canadian-based company a leg-up in China, the largest automotive market in the world.

With QNX as a foundation, the Apollo platform will be modular and open source, allowing car makers to choose the features they want in their system.

Of course, with cybersecurity as a focal point for driverless technology, BlackBerry is poised to provide software that ensures protection from cybercriminals – and safety for consumers.

Israel Salas-Rodriguez is a senior journalism student at Brooklyn College. He is the Sports Editor at the school’s newspaper, The Kingsman. When he isn’t writing about sports, he can be found in Sunset Park dribbling a basketball up and down the courts. Aside from the world of sports he enjoys nights out in the city with friends, typically where ever margaritas are served.  


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