BlackBerry unveils BlackBerry Labs

BlackBerry today announced the creation of BlackBerry Advanced Technology Development Labs (BlackBerry Labs), a new business unit operating at the forefront of research and development in the cybersecurity space.

Led by CTO Charles Eagan, BlackBerry Labs will include a team of over 120 software developers, architects, researchers, product leads and security experts, each working toward the common goal of identifying, exploring and creating new technologies to ensure BlackBerry is on the cutting edge of security innovation.

With a strong focus on data science and machine learning, BlackBerry Labs’ innovation funnel will investigate, incubate and facilitate technologies specifically designed to further the company’s commitment to safety, security and data privacy for its customers.

Initial projects from BlackBerry Labs will focus on machine learning approaches to security in partnership with BlackBerry’s existing Cylance, Enterprise, and QNX business units.

“The establishment of BlackBerry Labs is the latest in a series of strategic moves we’ve taken to ensure our customers are protected across all endpoints and verticals in the new IoT,” said Charles Eagan, BlackBerry CTO.

“Today’s cybersecurity industry is rapidly advancing and BlackBerry Labs will operate as its own business unit solely focused on innovating and developing the technologies of tomorrow that will be necessary for our sustained competitive success, from A to Z; Artificial Intelligence to Zero-Trust environments. We believe this highly experienced team will allow us to remain nimble, engaged and, above all else, proactive in our efforts to be the most trusted security software leader in the market.”

Though the new cybersecurity R&D business unit is now operational, the lab space itself — which will be based at the company’s operations centre in Waterloo, Canada — is still being built.

Back in February, BlackBerry acquired AI-powered cybersecurity startup Cylance for $1.4 billion. The Cylance acquisition was entirely in line with BlackBerry’s effort to become “the world’s largest and most trusted AI-cybersecurity company,” as CEO John Chen put it at the time. The deal was all about securing endpoints for enterprise customers and was specifically designed to boost BlackBerry’s enterprise-focused IoT platform Spark and its UEM and QNX products.

The integration of Cylance into BlackBerry’s core product is expected to be complete in early 2020. And the new cybersecurity unit is effectively setting a foundation on which Cylance — or BlackBerry Cylance, as it’s now known — can flourish.

“Primarily, my role is to make sure that we’re making the most of the Cylance acquisition and that we have connectivity between all the different business units,” Eagan said.

“We’re really focusing on the importance of integrating BlackBerry Cylance’s machine learning technology into BlackBerry’s product pipeline. However, it’s not just about creating an ecosystem of machine learning-based solutions, but rather smartly and strategically adopting machine learning into the work we’re accomplishing each day. My role is primarily helping to bridge the different teams and create this connectivity and cross-pollination between the various business units.”

BlackBerry is trying to reinvent itself by investing in new cybersecurity technologies.

“BlackBerry Labs is an intentional investment into the future of the company,” Eagan said.

“The investment of the people we’ve put into BlackBerry Labs is significant, as we’ve handpicked the team to include experts in the embedded IoT space with diverse capabilities, including strong data science expertise.”

In the more immediate term, Eagan said BlackBerry Labs will focus on automotive-based applications for machine learning in cybersecurity, particularly relevant given the expected growth of connected cars in the coming years.

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