John Chen tells #TheDisruptors how IoT might revitalize BlackBerry

The Disruptors

Amber Kanwar, co-host of BNN’s The Disruptors, had exclusive interviews last week with top BlackBerry players on how the company plans to turn its luck around with the next wave of the Internet: The Internet of Things (IoT).

BlackBerry already has a presence in this emerging market, as its QNX operating system has become a leader in connected car software. John Chen, CEO of BlackBerry, said the company makes over $100 million a year in this market. “The company started as a hardware company and has been a hardware company for most of the 30 years,” Chen said. “What we’re trying to do is add on to that and other business, which is software, that can connect all of these devices and expand that in the future in the Internet of Things.”

As IoT grows in popularity, privacy and security concerns are growing with it. Knowing this, Chen hand-picked experts to set BlackBerry up as a formidable competitor, including David Kleidermacher, Chief Security Officer at BlackBerry, who recently published a book on embedded security.

“What you have with the Internet of Things is that you don’t necessarily know where your data is going to go,” Kleidermacher said. Giving the example of a physician who has data stored on their tablet and sent over to insurance companies, Kleidermacher said that WatchDox, a company that BlackBerry acquired earlier this year, can provide extra security in that sense.

“What WatchDox does is that it says, ‘I don’t necessarily know where that data is going to go, and I’m going to tie the encryption to the data itself’. So wherever it goes I have access, control, and encryption tied to the data,”
The four key industries that BlackBerry is targeting are hospitals, automotive, transportation, and eventually people’s homes.

While the company is optimistic about their chance to be a leader in this market, cybersecurity expert Gary Miliefsky says that the competition against other players in the market, including Cisco, puts BlackBerry in a “David vs. Goliath” situation. “There’s 20 major players in the Internet of Things, and BlackBerry is number 19,” he said. “Nobody is unhackable but BlackBerry’s done a great job with encryption, multi-factor authentication, and a push technology that’s very advanced. BlackBerry has some great stuff, but they are in a turnaround mode right now.”