BlackBerry makes bet on crisis communications with AtHoc acquisition

BlackBerry Ltd. is continuing to bolster its software business with the acquisition of a U.S. vendor specializing in crisis communications in times of business disruption.

While BlackBerry has been struggling to put its handset business on a firm footing, it has been successful growing its mobile OS-agnostic services business, particularly in areas such as mobile device management. And BlackBerry moved to further broaden its services portfolio this week with the acquisition of AtHoc Inc., a California-based provider of secure networked crisis communications solutions.

AtHoc’s clients include organizations such as the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the American Red Cross, who have used the AtHoc suite and platform to help organizations and their employees communicate securely and effectively in a time of crisis, such as a natural disaster or a security incident.

BlackBerry plans to integrate AtHoc’s platform into its own enterprise portfolio, allowing it to offer additional mission-critical communications solutions to its enterprise customers, as well as launch new applications, such as possibly integrating AtHoc solutions with BBM Meetings to enable live video messages during a crisis.

“BlackBerry is making strategic investments in security, privacy and the Internet of Things, and acquiring AtHoc will enable us to provide a holistic, end-to-end approach to communications,” said BlackBerry CEO John Chen, in a statement. “We have a proud history of securing mission-critical communications for the public sector as well as enterprises operating in the most highly regulated industries. AtHoc’s technology and expertise will play a key role as BlackBerry works to connect and secure a broad range of endpoints.”

The AtHoc crisis communication is device agnostic, supporting devices such as iOS, Android, PC and Mac desktops, digital displays, radios, IP phones, as well as endpoints such as sirens, fire panels and speakers, which fits in well with the approach BlackBerry takes to its services business to support all vendor devices.

“AtHoc and BlackBerry share a common vision of a securely connected world,” said Guy Miasnik, president and CEO of AtHoc, in a statement. “Federal departments, state and local agencies, and commercial enterprises alike depend on AtHoc to communicate reliably during their most critical moments. Becoming part of BlackBerry will give us the ability to scale more quickly to expand our global reach and introduce new applications for the AtHoc platform, while continuing to serve our government and enterprise customers.”

Terms of the acquisition, which is subject to the usual closing conditions and is expected to close in BlackBerry’s fiscal 2016 third quarter, were not released.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras is a technology journalist with IT World Canada and a member of the IT Business team. He began his career in technology journalism in the late 1990s, covering the Ottawa technology sector for Silicon Valley North and the Ottawa Business Journal. He later covered the technology scene in Vancouver before joining IT World Canada in Toronto in 2005, covering enterprise IT for ComputerWorld Canada and the channel for Computer Dealer News. His writing has also appeared in the Vancouver Sun & the Ottawa Citizen.

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