As I mentioned earlier, I was at the BlackBerry forum earlier this week and outside of the fascinating chat I had with John Chen, the BlackBerry CEO, there were three offerings the firm showcased that I think could have a far bigger impact. The offerings included a HIPAA-compliant medical social network focused on patients and collaboration; a secure communications and collaboration platform for the banking and finance industry; the powerful automotive platform (the QNX product dominates that market); Radar, a logistics tracking product currently targeting semi-trailers; a secure communications and collaboration platform for legal offices; and AtHoc, the recently acquired disaster alerting offering.
Public Safety Reference Architecture
The interesting part of this Public Safety Solution is that it is truly comprehensive, linking in physical notification systems (sirens, electronic signage, etc.), to bi-directional automated communication, geofencing and external organizations. The example was given of a major disaster in California where an oil refinery blew up, spreading a toxic cloud over the area. With the prior system, the local subway, BART, was notified and the trains skipped the affected open air depot, which had been closed and locked. However, Cal Train was on a separate system and it dropped its passengers off on this now secured location, locking them into an unsafe environment, effectively a potentially toxic cage.
Recalling that on 9/11, BlackBerry was one of the few systems that continued to function after the attack, this solution could save massive numbers of lives during a terrorist attack, school shooting or natural disaster.
Health Care Reference Architecture
This health care reference architecture was basically a significantly enhanced social network designed around health care providers that was secure and HIPAA compliant. I’ve been looking at health care for a while and one of the recurring issues is that good collaboration between practitioners is more of an exception than a rule. That often results in unneeded procedures (adding significantly to insurance and patent cost), bad diagnoses, and the failure of efforts that otherwise might have been successful. On top of that, when they do share, they may violate the legal rights of the patient because the methods they use can be unsecure and non-compliant.
This reference architecture, designed with close collaboration with the medical community (a practicing nurse did the presentation, consistent with a best practice that I’ve seen firms like IBM do regularly), loops in asset management, alerting (including alarms), collaboration (including pictures and medical charts), first responders, hospice, physicians, clinical collaboration, site management (operating room scheduling, etc.) and home care.
There has been a lot of conversation regarding dropping the cost and increasing the effectiveness of health care. Outside of IBM Watson’s AI medical solution (which could be looped into this), this is arguably the most powerful medical tool I’ve ever seen to address both problems.
The first two examples could save thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of lives, so you may wonder why I’d include Radar, which is basically an IoT solution to manage truck trailers, in my list of BlackBerry hits. At the heart of this solution, though, is a physical box with two years of battery life and a host of sensors that monitor semi-truck trailers in exquisite detail. This small sensor pack can tell and report where the trailer is, whether the doors are open or closed, whether the trailer is empty or full, whether the trailer is too hot or too cold and, according to the firm that is deploying it, this one solution will help the company continue to grow at around 10 percent annually, and it will drop their trailer-related costs by 30 percent. So what?
The “so what” here is that this is basically an IoT comprehensive security solution in a box that doesn’t need power for two years. It could be used as a more generic security device with a different sensor load out to secure permanent or temporary storage, to monitor a large number of physical locations as part of a reporting ecosystem very cheaply, and as the heart of small business or home security systems.
Now apply it to intelligence gathering on criminal organizations or terrorists. This could be part of an install and forget system that could automatically and cheaply monitor tens of thousands of locations and alert out (with a different sensor set) whether it smelled drugs, explosives or, with a speech-to-text add-on (which could be a hacked Amazon Echo), certain keywords or phrases.
In short, while the first two things could mitigate the damage of a 9/11-like attack, this potentially (with modification) could, relatively cheaply, massively reduce the chance of it occurring in the first place.
Wrapping Up: Seeing BlackBerry in a New Light
I think it is going to take us awhile to see BlackBerry as something other than a smartphone and secure email vendor. However, at the analyst event, it showcased powerful arguments that it had moved on, and perhaps we should as well with regard to how we view the company. In a disaster, these solutions could get us, or our children, the help we need, or even prevent the disaster in the first place. Now, that is a powerful way to end the week.
Rob Enderle is President and Principal Analyst of the Enderle Group, a forward-looking emerging technology advisory firm. With over 30 years’ experience in emerging technologies, he has provided regional and global companies with guidance in how to better target customer needs; create new business opportunities; anticipate technology changes; select vendors and products; and present their products in the best possible light. Rob covers the technology industry broadly. Before founding the Enderle Group, Rob was the Senior Research Fellow for Forrester Research and the Giga Information Group, and held senior positions at IBM and ROLM. Follow Rob on Twitter @enderle, on Facebook and on Google+