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BlackBerry has debuted a new cybersecurity offering that brings Cylance’s AI-powered protection to the automotive industry, enabling carmakers and fleet operators to automatically verify drivers, address security threats, and issue software patches.

The concept solution debuted at CES 2020 in Las Vegas today and is a product of BlackBerry’s recently announced R&D Lab, spearheaded by the company’s chief technology officer (CTO) Charles Eagan.

“No one knows security better than us, and we now have a transportation-focused framework that the industry can tap to enhance the security, trustworthiness, and safety of connected vehicles, providing peace of mind to drivers, passengers, and pedestrians alike,” Eagan said.

Cylance, for the uninitiated, is an endpoint protection platform that thwarts advanced threats by inspecting networks for weaknesses. BlackBerry shelled out $1.4 billion to buy Cylance last year, and the Canadian tech company revealed at the time that it would gradually integrate Cylance’s machine learning smarts into BlackBerry’s existing product lineup.


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In the 11 months since the acquisition closed, BlackBerry has extended Cylance to its Unified Endpoint Management (UEM) platform that protects enterprise mobile devices, while plans are afoot to expand this to other BlackBerry products, including its Spark Internet of Things (IoT) platform. But today’s news is all about QNX, BlackBerry’s operating system (OS) for embedded systems such as those used by connected cars.


BlackBerry’s transition from phonemaker to enterprise software provider is well documented, and the automotive industry is now among its core target markets — covering areas such as infotainment and advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS). In fact, QNX is now embedded in more than 150 million cars.

While QNX has previously been integrated into other AI platforms, it had not directly offered AI functionality itself. The new integration between QNX and BlackBerry Cylance will help predict and detect “advanced malicious threats” in the infotainment system while also scanning for software vulnerabilities before they lead to bigger problems. BlackBerry can also issue over-the-air (OTA) software updates automatically to millions of vehicles when required.

Perhaps most interestingly, the new offering leverages CylancePersona, which launched last March, to identify drivers in real time by comparing them with a historical driving profile. It looks at things like steering, braking, and acceleration data to figure out who’s behind the wheel. This could conceivably be used for multiple safety and security scenarios, but BlackBerry also envisages CylancePersona being used to help cars with multiple drivers deliver personalized messages through the infotainment system — purely by analyzing their driving style.

Above: BlackBerry and Cylance bring driver verification to automobiles

Moreover, BlackBerry suggests that this type of driving data could be used to help commercial fleets detect driver fatigue, enabling command center operators to contact the driver and determine whether they need to rest up.

While BlackBerry is showcasing this integration at CES 2020, the technology itself isn’t yet ready for the public sphere — the company is now looking to pilot the platform with carmakers and fleet operators to codevelop new applications for the technology and solve “real-world transportation industry issues,” a BlackBerry spokesperson told VentureBeat.

“Working with, and gaining access to, OEM [original equipment manufacturer] data is going to be a key element in making even more compelling use cases come to life,” the spokesperson said.

It’s worth noting that BlackBerry is pitching this new product as a modular system that automotive companies can tailor to their own needs, even incorporating their own data and AI/machine learning models to “create an aggregate view” of their vehicles’ health from a single console.

“With the average new car containing more than 100 million lines of code and some of the most complex software ever deployed by automakers, the need for a holistic view into the overall health and security posture of a vehicle’s entire code base throughout its full lifecycle is absolutely critical,” Eagan added.

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