Will the Internet of Things be BlackBerry’s Redemption?

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BlackBerry is making a play for the Internet of Things with its new Project Ion, in the belief that it’s security expertise can help connect devices, sensors and everything else to the cloud in a secure fashion.

Project Ion actually consists of a series of projects that BlackBerry hopes can promote the development of IoT. The main thrust though is its plan to build a new, water-tight application platform based on QNX that’s designed to gather data from a wide range of operating environments and devices. Meanwhile, in order to promote its new platform, it’s launching strategic partnerships with the Application Developer Alliance and the Industrial Internet Consortium.

The project was announced by BlackBerry’s vice president of cloud Alec Saunders at the O’Reilly Conference in San Franciso, as he called for developers to build applications on its new IoT platform.

BlackBerry’s main goal with Project Ion is to help enterprises gain access to thousands of new insights by connecting every aspect of their business to the IoT. BlackBerry already does so to a certain extent with its management of MDM gear like computers and mobile devices. But it sees a big opportunity for collecting new data and insights via sensors connecting smart cars, environmental and weather measurement devices, industrial machines and so on. The Industrial Internet holds massive promise for any company that can get a foothold in it, in part because it could revolutionize just about every industry on the planet, from transportation to healthcare and oil and gas.

It won’t be easy going for BlackBerry though. The market for IoT clouds is already a pretty crowded space with upstarts like Ayla Networks and PrismTech all battling for relevance. But Saunders says BlackBerry’s privacy and security expertise (not to mention the weight of its brand name) will give it a big advantage. It’s also very experienced when it comes to connected devices, having once been the world’s pre-eminent smartphone make. It’s ultimate plan seems to be to create a secure platform that covers both the data-gathering devices and the cloud back-end.

In any case, Steve Jennis, Senior Vice President, PrismTech, welcomed BlackBerry’s foray into the world of connected devices.

“This is type of announcement is welcome news because Blackberry and the other Cloud Services vendors represent potential partners for our intelligent data sharing platform,” Jennis told SiliconANGLE via email. “Our enabling software, Vortex, allows Cloud Services suppliers to add a real-time public/subscribe intelligent data-sharing capability to their PaaS offering. In other words, they can provide a more advanced PaaS.”

“It’s an opportunity because we’re positioned to provide a potential upgrade to allow these vendors to meet the requirements of business-critical IoT systems, not just simpler data-collection systems,” Jennis added.

BlackBerry also wants to build something called ‘context-awareness’ into IoT devices, which would allow specific kinds of data to be shared only under certain conditions. Using the example of connected cars, Saunders said that manufacturers might be able to request all of a vehicle’s data, whereas dealers would only get diagnostics.

So will the Internet of Things help BlackBerry bounce back from its near-death experience in the consumer devices market?. That remains to be seen, but given the expertise it already possesses, building an IoT cloud should be a piece of cake – it’s got nothing to lose by giving it a go and everything to gain if it pays off.