BlackBerry reinvention includes the world of freight and logistics

Cargo tracking concept

By Cate Hull

BlackBerry, once a dominant force in handheld communications before the era of smartphones, can teach all of us a lesson about reinventing yourself to stay relevant in the business world.

At this week’s American Trucking Associations’ Technology & Maintenance Council Annual  Meeting in Atlanta, BlackBerry Limited launched BlackBerry Radar H2, a new intelligent, data-driven asset monitoring device that can help automate operations, improve utilization of trailers, containers, chassis, and other remote assets, as well as ensure assets are safe and secure.

BlackBerry Radar H2 expands on the core capabilities of BlackBerry Radar-M, to provide enhanced coverage and connectivity to the latest 4G LTE cellular networks, as well as a wireless gateway that can also connect to wireless sensors, such as cargo sensors, tire pressure monitoring systems, brake sensors and weigh-in-motion devices.

Additionally, when mounted on a chassis, BlackBerry Radar H2 can detect whether a container is either ‘on’ or ‘off’ with no additional wires or external sensors.

“For the intermodal and trucking industries, timely and accurate information on asset location, performance, and utilization improvement has never been more important,” said Christopher Plaat, SVP and GM, BlackBerry Radar. “BlackBerry Radar H2 will deliver what our solution has long been known for – data you can trust, 10-minute installation, long-lasting battery life, low maintenance and the scalability that fleet owners need as business needs change.”

But today’s BlackBerry is not just into freight and logistics.

Earlier this month, the NATO Communications and Information (NCI) Agency awarded a contract for BlackBerry’s SecuSUITE for Government to encrypt the conversations of its technology and cyber leaders wherever they communicate – in the workplace, at home or travelling abroad.

The NCI Agency helps NATO’s 29 member-nations communicate securely and work together in smarter ways. It acquires, deploys, and defends communication systems for NATO’s political decision-makers and command centres, working on the frontlines against cyber-attacks. Due to the classified nature of the information the NCI Agency handles, it is critical that all their communications remain secure, combatting any opportunity for a cybercriminal to electronically eavesdrop on conversations.

“As cybercriminals and state-sponsored actors become increasingly more sophisticated, we needed a highly-secure way for our cyber leaders to have phone conversations with people inside and outside of our organization regardless of where they are in the world,” said Kevin Scheid, general manager of the NCI Agency. “BlackBerry’s voice encryption technology helps solve this challenge and strengthens our elite cyber-defence strategy.”

BlackBerry—now 35 years old—is embracing its past. The high-tech guts that made its hand-held device so popular before iPhone—mobile messaging technology and vaunted security software coveted by government agencies and regulated industries—are the centerpiece of its plan to tap into rising markets such as internet-connected devices and connected cars.

BlackBerry’s QNX software, for example, is embedded in more than 120 million cars. The company’s Spark Communications Platform lets developers stitch together chat, voice, video, and data via smart devices and mobile and web apps, forming a network it calls the Enterprise of Things.

“It’s very important that we don’t detach entirely from the phone; it is part of our heritage and brand,” CEO John Chen told Barron’s.

“We are taking all the know-how of the company and applying it to emerging markets,” said Chen. “We want to connect things rather than build things.”

By moving from hardware—where it was responsible for manufacturing the devices it designed—to software and services, BlackBerry has been able to improve operating margins and profits. It is using its increased cash flow to invest in next-generation technology.

The lesson to be learned from BlackBerry is a valuable one. When markets shift and technology advances, winning companies find ways to adapt.

Cate Hull is the CEO of FreightExchange, a freight and logistics company based in Sydney.