BlackBerry stages ANZ comeback as crisis comms specialist

By Geoff Long

BlackBerry has significantly ramped up its ANZ presence in the area of secure crisis communications, signing up new partners in Optus Business, Melbourne-based Briggs Communications and Mobile Mentor in New Zealand. It will also this morning launch a pilot public safety initiative called the “Melbourne Shield” that aims to provide a secure communications channel for Melbourne-based organisations during critical incidents.

BlackBerry VP for APAC Paul Crighton told CommsDay that signing up Optus was an important move for the company in growing its partner network and providing ongoing momentum in its transformation to a software security company. All three new partners will deliver, deploy and support the BlackBerry AtHoc platform in the region.

“Obviously it’s massive to have a tier-one telco, especially one with the breadth of Optus,” Crighton said. “Clearly the reach they have is critical, as is the breadth anddepth of their technical skill set, so it’s massively important.” BlackBerry acquired the AtHoc business in 2015 and it forms part of a US$1 billion arsenal of acquisitions the company has made in the security software space over the past couple of years. Others include Good Technologies and Watchdogs (now Workspaces) that allow it to secure devices, people, content and growth areas such as the Internet of things.
BlackBerry AtHoc helps by providing a secure communication platform that can deliver accurate, targeted or en-mass information in real-time through an encrypted network, if necessary, inside and outside an organisation.

In the case of an incident, it helps to ensure business continuity, interoperability and account for the safety of people and stakeholders organisations are responsible for. The BlackBerry technology is used by an estimated 80% of US Federal government agencies and the military. While ANZ penetration is not as extensive, it has made inroads into the government sector and with early adopter Macquarie University.

The company is also announcing today that the Bank of New Zealand is one of the latest customers in the region to deploy BlackBerry AtHoc. Following earthquake activitythat disrupted its business in 2013 and 2016, BNZ said it adopted the technology as part of proactive measures to ensure business continuity and the safety of its customers and staff in case of future incidents.

“From natural disasters and cloud outages, to terrorist and cyber-attacks, there have been numerous incidents in Australia and New Zealand that continue to challenge the way organisations and departments maintain operations and keep people safe,”Crighton said. “We hear from our customers that being able to account for personnel and maintain business continuity is a priority, and this is where BlackBerry’s encrypted, multi-platform solution is helping. We are pleased to see companies like Bank of New Zealand lead by example.”

Melbourne Shield initiative

BlackBerry is launching its Melbourne Shield pilot project this morning with new partner Briggs Communications. Any major Melbourne
organisation with a duty of care for people is free to join the project. Briggs, a crisis management specialist, will lead the initiative. It aims to create a secured, connected community in both the private and public sector that can effectively communicate with other businesses, departments or personnel in real-time, should an incident take place.

During the pilot, each member of the Melbourne Shield will be provided with access to the BlackBerry AtHoc solution. In the event of any threat to public safety, a security or facilities manager will have the ability to distribute secured alerts and information to other members of the Melbourne Shield within minutes.

“Melbourne is a well-known cultural and sporting destination that hosts millions of people for its major events. Any city is vulnerable and in times of crisis, organisations need a way to get the right messages to their people,” said Ly Tran, Blackberry AtHoc SVP, who was in Australia to launch the project.

Turnaround story

Meanwhile, Crighton said BlackBerry’s turnaround from smartphone vendor to software security provider was entering a new phase. In the next
six to 12 months he expects to announce a number of new initiatives in the ANZ region, including further tie-ups with telcos. “I think if we look at the turnaround story, we’ve now turned around. Financially we’ve got over 1 billion in the bank, we’ve made over a billion dollars in acquisitions, we’ve got some amazing integration that’s happened . . . So quite frankly for the next six months and 12 months, it’s scale, fast growth, it’s working with our partners specifically to drive these new and innovative technologies to market,” he said.

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