BlackBerry fleshes out Spark strategy with new partnerships and projects

Following BlackBerry’s announcement of its Spark platform for what they call the Enterprise of Things in September, they used their October event in New York City to highlight new strategic relationships and applications that have already developed from Spark.

NEW YORK CITY — John Chen, BlackBerry’s Chairman and CEO, decided to change things up a bit at BlackBerry’s fifth annual Security Summit in New York City.

“Usually I talk here about our go-forward strategy, but this time it’s slightly different, and I’m going to talk about some of our new partnerships and projects,” he said. These themes were in essence a sequel of sorts to the huge announcement BlackBerry made on September 12 on London, at BlackBerry’s European Security Summit.

“In London, we introduced BlackBerry Spark, our seamless platform for the Enterprise of Things,” Chen said. “We are focused on being the most secure platform. The  foundation is what we provide for UEM [Unified Endpoint Manager]– but it goes much beyond that.”

The full BlackBerry Spark is still a futures item, which the product slated for release in about a 12-month time frame. It is still a communications platform, however, and major parts of it exist today as other BlackBerry components.

“Spark is really an extension of our UEM,” said Charles Eagan, BlackBerry’s CTO.  “It is a technologically-agnostic interconnect that lets you morph your solutions as your technology grows over time.”

“The full version of BlackBerry Spark will add seamlessness, but many components of the communications platform exist today,” said Alex Thurber, Senior Vice-President and General Manager of the Mobility Solutions Division at BlackBerry. That means that strategic partnerships can have an impact today, not months from now.

“The full platform is still somewhat of a conceptual thing,” Chen said. “I learned this from big companies who like to announce things way ahead of time! But I have been surprised by the support from around this  from our ecosystem. So instead of talking about the future, I can give you some examples of partnerships already struck or ones which are very close, with everything not quite all buttoned up.”

One key partnership adds a quantum-resistant code-signing server to BlackBerry’s array of cryptography tools, through a partnership with ISARA Corporation, which makes agile quantum-safe security solutions. The new solution will allow software to be digitally signed using a scheme that will be hard to break with a quantum computer.

“With this, BlackBerry security goes quantum,” Chen said. BlackBerry already has had a strong cryptographic capability with BlackBerry Certicom, which provides managed PKI, key management and provisioning technology that is used to prevent product counterfeiting, re-manufacturing, and rogue network access.

“This takes our cryptology library one step further,” Chen stated. “Quantum computing eventually will have enough power to break any code. So we are now working with another company [ISARA] who makes a quantum-resistant code that even a quantum computer can’t break. This deal is signed, and will show up in product starting in November of this year.”

The second partnering revolves around another key BlackBerry strategic priority – getting to the stage where the commercial and consumer worlds are essentially one.

“In London, I talked about connecting the enterprise and consumer world,” he said. “Both will come together, and we would like to work on managing secure communications, so these devices that sit in your home could be the front point of your workflow engine as well. So we are now working with Amazon Web Services around privacy and security on how to bridge from the enterprise to the consumer. We are very excited about this. Since the Spark announcement, these things are picking up in speed quite a bit.”

“We will apply some of our portfolio to Alexa to make it more trusted,” Eagan said. “That applies particularly to their newer Alexa for Enterprise. That’s an area where we can help enterprise-ize the Alexa device. Any Alexa device also needs to have workflows and skills that are enterprise enabled – things like rescinding rights when people leave an organization. Some of this more grown-up behavior is needed around Alexa.” Eagan said that Q1 would be a likely time when this comes to market.

Another key partnership – and project – involves working with Spire, a biotech company, to provide ultra-secure storage and transfer of medical data.

“At BlackBerry, we have three businesses, embedded, licensing and enterprise server, but the key is to have them converge to have one platform,” Chen said. “We want to connect all the Enterprise of Things appliances to BlackBerry Radar Hub, and use Spark to manage the Radar and all the endpoints. Shire has picked us as their technology provider to power a blockchain digital ledger provided by ONEBIO from our NOC [network operations centre], and we will use Spark for this. This agreement is being formally signed today.” The ledger built by ONEBio anonymizes the data to stay compliant with health care regulations and patient privacy expectations. Shire’s plan is to launch this early next year.

Chen also announced a Spark-focused partnership, with the Toronto-area headquartered Mackenzie Innovation Institute around healthcare.

“They picked us to build a next-generation hospital from a security standpoint,” he said. “They will do everything medical and physical, and we will do everything virtual.”

BlackBerry also announced that following a successful trial, the Melanoma Institute Australia [MIA], which pioneers the prevention and cure of melanoma through world-class research, treatment and education programs, has selected BlackBerry Workspaces to save and share data from medical histories and clinical trials to assess the effectiveness of treatments and interventions.