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How BlackBerry Is at the Center of Creating a Sustainable Planet

As originally seen in the ‘Climate Action’ published by Raconteur Media on July 31, 2023 in THE SUNDAYTIMES.

Extreme events pose increasing danger, and only a few technology companies have earned citizens’ trust to deliver innovative and secure solutions that save lives.

Earth is ablaze – and awash. As wildfires burn out of control on one part of the planet, floods, famine, or man-made disasters like war and cyberattacks, are devastating lives in other regions.

With extreme events becoming increasingly commonplace, it’s a relief that companies such as BlackBerry are working to reduce both environmental and manmade threats, while bolstering global sustainability – and they’re helping in more ways than one. 

“Complex problems – like climate change – often require complex solutions. Reducing carbon emissions is critical, but that’s only a starting point,” says Neelam Sandhu, BlackBerry’s chief elite customer officer, chief marketing officer, and head of sustainability. “Industry and technology helped create and accelerate many of the adverse impacts we face today. It’s now up to us to apply science and technology to help solve the issues.” 

But what can a former phone maker do about it? More than most people realize, contends Sandhu, who has been with the company for more than 14 years. “Changing people’s perceptions – about BlackBerry, and about the real keys to achieving sustainability – that’s one of the biggest challenges we face.”

BlackBerry’s Seeds of Change

Most consumers still equate BlackBerry with its best-selling smartphones, which pioneered the ability to communicate securely from anywhere. However, as phone margins dwindled, BlackBerry made the tough decision to shed its popular hardware businesses, instead focusing on its core software capabilities in the fields of security, connectivity, and device management. Several strategic acquisitions along the years further propelled the almost 40-year-old company to its current leadership positions in high-growth areas including cybersecurity, connectivity, embedded device control systems, and artificial intelligence. 

“At our core, we remain a secure communications company and a pioneer of the Internet of Things (IoT). Security is integral to thriving in the digital world, and it is here that BlackBerry excels.”

Some people might be surprised to learn they still rely on BlackBerry technology daily. From governments to financial institutions, from cars to trains, the safety and security of these diverse sectors is down to BlackBerry’s products. “For instance, our reach extends to 235 million vehicles on the road today, including 24 of the top 25 electric car manufacturers worldwide,” points out Sandhu. 

Helping the auto industry retool to embrace cleaner, greener fuel sources is, again, only one of the ways BlackBerry is working to forge a more sustainable world. Achieving carbon-neutral status in 2021 is another. But the Canada-based tech company has set its sights on other, even more critical objectives.

In partnership with the University of Windsor, the system is built on BlackBerry® AtHoc®, a critical-event management and alerting solution used around the world by government agencies, first responders, armed forces, and corporations. Using data gathered from remote sensors via secure IoT connectivity, the system can provide year-round monitoring of water supplies and environmental conditions across large regions. The BlackBerry technology ensures secure, targeted, and timely connectivity that provides authorities with continuous real-time updates on conditions, and can even be automated to issue alerts and keep communities safe. 

“In addition to helping with flood alerts, we realized the same technology could monitor water quality,” says Sandhu. “With over 2 billion people globally lacking access to clean water, an early-warning system for threatened water supplies can prove crucial.”

Closing the Trust Gap

As the IoT extends beyond sensors, smartwatches, and doorbell cameras, increased data security and connectivity risks come to the fore. The convergence of information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT), connected via the IoT and fueled by advancements in artificial intelligence (AI), presents a future that many find both exciting and scary.

The impact of convergence and digitalization on critical infrastructure seems to be of particular concern in developed nations like the United States. In a recent Gallup poll on world affairs, a staggering 85% of U.S. respondents identified cyber terrorism as a “critical threat,” surpassing all other concerns – including nuclear attacks and global warming. 

Considering IoT will connect and act as the “nervous system” of critical infrastructure, it’s evident that establishing and maintaining trust among the citizenry is paramount for government entities, and the tech companies they partner with to deploy these “smart infrastructure” systems. In fact, the most recent Edelman Trust Barometer report found that businesses are trusted more than governments when it comes to issues such as addressing environmental threats and sustainability. 

“Currently, we stand at the precipice of a ‘digital trust deficit’ that threatens the societal benefits of digitalization, and impedes innovation,” says Sandhu. “Unfortunately, few organizations possess the necessary expertise to build and maintain this trust. BlackBerry is different.” 

The level of integration needed to create “converged” systems and infrastructure that can inspire trust is vast. It requires a unique combination of core competencies, focused research, and intellectual property spanning multiple diverse fields, including industrial and embedded device software control systems; secure communications systems; AI and machine learning; and highly effective security systems to prevent cyberattacks and protect data privacy. 

“BlackBerry has established itself over four decades as one of the most trusted technology brands in the world, primarily because we bring innovative solutions that just work,” explains Sandhu.

The Road Ahead

Reaching the company’s goals for supporting sustainability will require teamwork. “By its very nature, delivering security and connectivity demands collaboration between trusted partners, which is why we so often align ourselves with other pioneers and leaders, including Amazon Web Services, top academic institutions, and government bodies,” she says. 

Looking at the coming years, the BlackBerry executive concludes: “The path ahead is daunting, yet filled with opportunities to make a meaningful difference. As we journey forward, let us remember the power of trust, the promise of technology, and the strength of a shared vision.” Underlining her message, she adds: “Together, we can shape a future where we all survive and thrive.”

To explore BlackBerry’s commitment to sustainability please visit:
Steve Kovsky

About Steve Kovsky

Steve Kovsky is Editorial Director at BlackBerry.