BlackBerry and preparation for the software-defined car


Last week was BlackBerry’s annual analyst summit. Since the BlackBerry and . utilities QNX control system is expected to be heavily used in next-generation cars, this event often offers a glimpse into the future of automobiles. That future is coming very soon, and it promises to change almost everything we currently define as a car, from who drives it, to how it behaves while you own it. These changes are also expected to drastically reduce private car ownership.

These future cars will increasingly resemble computers with wheels. They have more computing power than the supercomputers of a few years ago, are packed with services, and come preloaded with accessories that you can turn on later. The only thing these cars will have in common with today’s cars is their looks, and even that is not certain. Some of the proposed designs look like rolling living rooms, while others are flying.

Let’s talk about the software-defined vehicles (SDVs) that will hit the market in just three to four years. Then we close with my product of the week, also from BlackBerry, which fits perfectly with today’s conflicted and changing world. It’s something every company and country should have implemented by now – and it’s critical to the pandemic and hybrid work world we currently live in.

The difficult journey of carmakers to the SDV

Software-defined vehicles have slowly made their way to the market over the past two decades, and it hasn’t been pretty. This future car concept, as I noted above, is basically a wheeled supercomputer that can autonomously navigate on and sometimes off-road as needed, often far outperforming a human driver.

I first looked at SDVs in the early 2000s when I was invited to visit GM’s OnStar effort, which had significant operational issues. The problems were that OnStar’s management didn’t come from the computer industry – and even though they hired computer experts, GM wouldn’t listen to them. The result was to recreate a long list of mistakes the computer industry had made and learned from over the decades.


Later, the automakers opposed vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) technology because they didn’t want competing vehicles to talk to each other. They thought that if they (who were not software experts) created an autonomous driving platform, their competitors would license it from them (something that would never happen). In fact, in the beginning, GM was hardly an outlier in its own approach to the problem and its lack of trust in the software experts it had hired to solve it.

This is one of the reasons Tesla blew through the much larger and better-funded existing car companies. Tesla used the knowledge of the technology industry to create a superior rolling computer. While Tesla’s competitors tried to recreate what was already known in the computer industry, Tesla sold cars and dominated the electric car segment.

As time went on, this proprietary approach declined in popularity. Realizing that they were still decades away from matching Tesla, the auto companies began partnering with tech companies that knew how to better build a computing platform.

Expected birth of the SDV

Over time and surprisingly slowly, automotive OEMs began to adopt technology from the computer industry. Nvidia has been hugely successful here as most automakers now use their Omniverse-based simulation platform to develop their software. Since this is the least risky approach initially, some also plan to use Nvidia’s hardware, at least initially, to avoid the likely liability and potential recalls that result from using a hardware platform that does not. was part of the entire Nvidia solution.

On the software side, BlackBerry has delivered its QNX operating system that is designed to meet very demanding military and infrastructure needs (think nuclear power plants) specifically focused on security. You want the operating system on your car to be very secure because no one wants to take a nap in the back of their car when it gets hacked and suddenly thinks it’s in a demolition derby.

This combination of technologies is enabling car companies to rethink how they deliver cars. Until now, for most modern cars you get what you order. If you want to change something, you arrange it in the aftermarket. But car companies have realized that they can build features into the cars that can be enabled later due to subscriptions. This in turn can extend the revenue potential for their products beyond the first sale and give their users immediate satisfaction.


Just as you can run a variety of apps and games on your phone, you can gradually do the same with your car. But with these capabilities come similar risks that the car can get compromised and do bad things, and since we’re talking about a speeding, heavy vehicle at high speed, those “bad things” could turn out to be a brand killer if enough hacks happen. in a very narrow window.

BlackBerry shared that the combination of the move to SDV coupled with the use of BlackBerry technologies like QNX and IVY (which I’ve talked about earlier) helps automakers make this software-defined transition safe and secure, so we’re not worried about that. about. of taking us for a ride, our cars will take us for a ride instead.

Wrapping up: anticipating tomorrow’s cars

The cars that appear in the middle of the decade, in just three short years, will be vastly different from the solid products we have today. They are software upgradable, safer, more autonomous and some can even fly. To get there, with few exceptions, auto companies have moved to adopt and use technology from companies like IBM, Nvidia and BlackBerry.

When cars can pick you up and don’t need drivers, there’s an argument that we won’t own cars anymore, but pay for a service. But even before that becomes commonplace, our cars will be software-defined, meaning they can be upgraded wirelessly — including the addition of features you didn’t initially order, but later found you wanted, and they’ll be increasingly capable of to drive yourself.

Ensuring the outcome is safe is critical to our lives as drivers and pedestrians alike, as well as minimizing OEM liability and maximizing OEM revenue, while reducing vehicle churn and keeping more cars out of landfill.

The automotive world will change a lot in the second half of the decade and look very different from now.

BlackBerry AtHoc

While watching the war in Ukraine, I noticed a BlackBerry product that should be used much more widely, namely AtHoc

AtHoc is an employee tracking and care application designed to assist employees in a disaster both by letting their managers know about their condition and by keeping the employees informed of hazards and how to handle them safely .

Many may recall that BlackBerry pagers remained in use during the 9/11 attack even after the telephone infrastructure went down, allowing first responders to receive critical information about the nature of the disaster and where to go to mitigate it.

We don’t have those beepers anymore. Instead, we have AtHoc that, in times of disaster, helps match an employee at risk with the resources and information they need to significantly reduce that risk and move them to safety.

Unfortunately, according to BlackBerry CEO John Chen, it is not yet used in Ukraine, but has been used successfully to protect workers during other military attacks and has performed in an exemplary manner. It’s also been very helpful during the pandemic by tracking infections in workers, enabling better replenishment, and ensuring the infected worker gets the resources they need to get well.

Currently, AtHoc is being used aggressively by government (including public safety and law enforcement) and education. But given the risks we face, I think it needs to be implemented much more broadly to ensure that an employee in need gets the help they need quickly enough to ensure their safety and health.

AtHoc is arguably the best product on the market focused on employee safety, and we need that focus today. Blackberry AtHoc is my product of the week again.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ECT News Network.