BlackBerry to Acquire AtHoc: The Executives’ Perspectives

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Today, BlackBerry announced it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire AtHoc, the leading provider of secure, networked crisis communications. We had the opportunity to talk to BlackBerry’s COO Marty Beard and AtHoc President and CEO Guy Miasnik to explore what this move means for both companies.

Tell me a bit more about what AtHoc does — and why it’s a good fit for BlackBerry.

GM: The short explanation is that AtHoc makes the world safer. When crises happen, there are always groups of people who leap into action, provide help, mitigate problems and generally get things under control. But to do this effectively, those people need to communicate and collaborate — and they need real-time awareness of what’s happening. That’s where AtHoc comes in. Our secure software platform provides a seamless exchange of critical information between devices, organizations and people. We’re proud to be the #1 provider to the U.S. Departments of Defense and Homeland Security, and be trusted by other organizations around the world, including more than 200 hospitals across U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Kaiser Permanente and Health and Human Services, who must respond quickly in the face of any potential disruption to their business.

MB: BlackBerry is focused on enhancing our capabilities in security, privacy and the Internet of Things. We’re making the move to acquire AtHoc, because we knew we could take a government-grade, secure software platform meant for crisis communication and enhance it with our current enterprise portfolio and trusted global network. And when we unite BlackBerry’s experience and innovation with AtHoc’s expertise and technology, we’ll be able to deliver new solutions for safety, security and mission-critical business communications. Ultimately, we’re building a holistic, end-to-end approach to communications and pushing the boundaries of what customers expect from their mobility partner.

What kinds of companies would need these solutions?

GM: The mass notification sector is actually a pretty significant and growing market. Governments are an obvious market as many agencies provide critical services. The defense industry is another key market. We’re also seeing traction among many organizations that need to coordinate large numbers of people to respond to any kind of disruption — think of a university or a chemical company. Really, any organization that has a disaster recovery plan involving the coordination of larger groups of people could be a customer. That’s potentially an $8 billion a year global market within the next five years.

MB: The AtHoc platform is also ideal for organizations that want to connect people and endpoints to make the Internet of Things useful and impactful. For example, today the AtHoc platform integrates with endpoints such as sirens, fire panels and speakers. A sensor in a fire panel, for example, could trigger an alarm, at which point the platform notifies users of the issue via mobile devices. Or, an alert triggered by the user and pushed via the AtHoc platform can sound an alarm to notify people in the area of an issue. There are endless combinations and possibilities for this interaction between things and users.

How will being part of BlackBerry benefit both organizations?

MB: BlackBerry is building a comprehensive set of products and services targeting the needs of our enterprise customers. From a business perspective, that means meeting needs today and anticipating areas where we see needs emerging. AtHoc’s technology really addresses an emerging need we’re seeing for systems that can gather information from different places, alert people when action is required — and provide a secure, reliable platform for those people to coordinate and collaborate in real time. It’s the logical extension of an increasingly mobile workforce that depends on a variety of devices to access, share and action upon information.

For AtHoc, we provide the strength of our sales team in regulated industries and a global footprint that will help AtHoc expand. BlackBerry’s overall R&D and established leadership in security will also be incredibly impactful.

What we’re getting with AtHoc is a proven system — recognized as a Leader in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for U.S. Emergency/Mass Notification Systems. That’s a great addition to our enterprise portfolio.

GM: For AtHoc, the question is: how can we get this technology into more organizations? Becoming part of BlackBerry allows us to expand globally with increased access into the kind of security-conscious, often regulated customer that needs our solution. And, increasingly, the endpoint of our platform is a smartphone — it’s how people communicate and collaborate most frequently. It’s also becoming an amazing tool for gathering real-time information that can be shared for situational awareness. BlackBerry understands what it takes to deliver and secure mobile data. Our combined expertise, I think, is a pretty formidable combination.

What’s next?

GM: From our end, it will be looking at how we will integrate our products into BlackBerry’s enterprise portfolio and planning for new capabilities. To give you a sense of what this may look like, integrating with BBM Meetings during an alert can enable live video feeds or transmit messages to provide real-time collaboration. The combination of AtHoc and BlackBerry technology is already a pretty natural fit, so I’m pretty excited about the possibilities.

MB: I second Guy’s excitement. Beyond the product and people integration, we’ll also need to finalize the acquisition itself, which will go through the customary closing conditions. We expect to have the transaction completed in our fiscal third quarter.

You can see Marty and Guy live on stage at the 2nd annual BlackBerry Security Summit (#BBSecurity) in New York City tomorrow, July 23. Watch the livestream at www.blackberry.com/LiveEvent or get updates on Twitter at @BlackBerry4Biz and @BlackBerryNews. Stay on top of the latest BlackBerry news here at INSIDE BlackBerry.

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