M2M FEATURE

May 27, 2014

BlackBerry Battles Google for the Internet of Things: Let's Hope BlackBerry Wins


The war for smartphones is not over, but it is rapidly moving on to the Internet of Things, where most of the appliances, vehicles and devices around us are both connected to the Web and to each other. But there is an inherent problem in this market -- while there are interconnect standards, there has been no platform that has emerged as dominant, and the standards that do exist haven’t yet fully addressed the emerging need to manage or secure these devices.  

BlackBerry actually has the missing parts pretty well in hand and is planning to take its QNX platform, already dominant in automobiles, to the Internet of Things as an alternative to Google’s similar effort. I think we’d rather this go to BlackBerry. Let me explain. 

Standards

When you are talking about connecting everything you don’t just need standards on how these devices talk to each other, but some kind of a standard platform so software developed for one type of device can easily and cheaply be used on another. If this isn’t done, the cost of each solution and its inability to work across vendors will prevent any eventual success.

We saw this first with PCs and then with smartphones, until we got a single platform to be dominant enough interesting applications were almost non-existent and there was really not revenue stream for developers. But Microsoft DOS and then Windows created a lucrative platform for PCs, and eventually Apple and Google did the same thing on smartphones.  

But with the Internet of Things, we are talking about a massive increase in the number of connected devices, and no one wants to manage them one at a time. Standards bring with them risk -- folks who want access to these devices (because they want to know more about you or do you harm) now have an easier path through those standards.  So while we don’t have our cars and appliances being hacked (well, not much), now once standardized this won’t remain the case, much like we found with PCs and smartphones.

So we need standards, but we need the solution to be secure or we’ll be screwed. 

BlackBerry vs. Google

Google’s solution will undoubtedly be cheaper because it can sell the information it gathers about those who use its products to others subsidizing their costs like they do with Android. However, I think it is ill-advised to have anyone sharing this much information about any of us. In addition, the firm’s platform, Android, has been the least secure of the major platforms, suggesting that that Google’s winning this battle wouldn’t be in our best interest.

BlackBerry, thanks to its QNX platform, is actually farther along and it doesn’t sell information to advertisers. BlackBerry has security in its DNA because its primary market has always been corporations that require a much higher base level of security than consumers do. 

BlackBerry Ion

Blackberry launched Project Ion this month to address this specific need, and with healthcare as a short-term target. This is one of the areas that has proven to be low hanging fruit for this Internet of Things movement because so many of the related devices must communicate back to some central service so remedial action for a health problem can be both timely and effective. This, of course, brings with it a higher security requirement because laws typically require a high level of confidentiality in this segment. 

Also critical to this effort is the ability to analyze this information in real time on a large geographic scale so broad problems with the devices, tracked medication and the illnesses themselves can be rapidly identified and fixed. That is all designed into this program. 

Also designed in is a heavy partnership component, which will undoubtedly be BlackBerry’s ability to capture a critical mass of partners that will be critical to this effort. 

Fingers Crossed for BlackBerry

Running against Google won’t be easy, given the company’s size and financial resources. Fortunately, Google has never learned to focus on any one thing, which is what gives BlackBerry this opportunity to steal the Internet of Things market. Given how Google makes money, off of our information, I think it is in all our best interests if BlackBerry wins this fight.  

Regardless, Project Ion showcases that we are marching forward to a time when our devices all talk to the cloud and each other. Let’s hope they say nice things about us.    


Edited by Rachel Ramsey


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