Out-of-fashion smartphone brand BlackBerry is seeking to reinvent itself as a provider of security solutions in a hyper-connected world with the launch of BlackBerry Spark.

Internet of Things (IoT) is the network of physical devices – including vehicles and home appliances – which are connected to the internet.

The number of IoT devices is forecast by some to exceed 10bn this year.

BlackBerry chief executive John Chen talked about the company’s new strategy at the BlackBerry Security Summit in London yesterday, when he dismissed remarks about Microsoft as a competitor, saying: “Fighting for yesterday’s tech is kind of dumb for smaller companies like myself. I add security and mobility.”

Chen puts the ambition of a security-focused BlackBerry in simple terms: “I just want to network everyone securely.”

BlackBerry chief technology officer Charles Eagan BlackBerry explained the security concerns around IoT technology, saying: “As we add nodes of communication, we add exposed nodes of communication.”

The problem is that “one vulnerability can take down an entire system”, if properly exploited, added Mark Wilson, BlackBerry’s chief marketing officer.

He said that in a fast-evolving technological world which involves AI, this means protecting against automotive vulnerabilities and hacks, towards a place where Alexa is secure enough that doctors can ask her for patient records.

From smartphones to security, BlackBerry makes the switch

So the company have moved from hardware to software, by developing its new “Enterprise of Things” platform BlackBerry Spark, which claims to secure ultra-secure hyper-connectivity.

From a smartphone that was once used worldwide by businesses and prime ministers (Theresa May swapped her BlackBerry for an iPhone in March 2018), BlackBerry is seeking to become a name in security.

BlackBerry can do this because despite a steep decline in sales, BlackBerry phones are still considered some of the most secure in the world.

Dirk Didascalou, VP of IoT from BlackBerry Spark cloud partner Amazon web services, said the new platform “enables our mutual customers to quickly integrate any ‘thing’, from a consumer device, to a simple sensor, to complex industrial equipment, while applying the appropriate enterprise protecting their data, brand and people”.

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BlackBerry Spark is able to cut off connectivity by detecting the person’s location and deciding on a risk factor which is confirmed by the user.

BlackBerry’s Unified Endpoint Management system ensures that updates happen across devices, and notifications of security threats are sent out for confirmation in real-time.

BlackBerry’s security clients include the Transportation Security Administration in the US and the University of California in Los Angeles.

BlackBerry launches the ‘London Shield’

And the company now has plans to develop what it calls the ‘London Shield’. This is a system whereby it says the more businesses and people use BlackBerry technology, the more data will be available to train the AI software and the more secure the organisations and individuals will be.