BlackBerry on Tuesday announced a new line of business to provide developers with a secure, cloud-based, mobile communications platform for texting, voice, video and file sharing.
Developers can insert these capabilities into their existing custom apps and services using the new BBM Enterprise SDK (software developer kit), BlackBerry said. The SDK will be sold as a per-user license on a subscription basis to developers, including those employed at enterprises, and to independent software vendors (ISVs).
BlackBerry didn’t say what the licenses would cost, but did say the cost would be affordable, especially compared to communications products from competitors that usually charge on a usage basis for texts, voice and video calls. The SDK will be available worlwide later in February for apps running on iOS and Android.
All communications in the new platform will be highly secure and encrypted with keys kept under the management of the application developers, not BlackBerry, said Frank Cotter, vice president of enterprise products, in a conference call.
These communications will be transmitted via the Internet Protocol and not the SMS channel typically used by competitors. The communications also will be compliant with the Federal Information Processing Standard 140-2 that the U.S. government uses for approving cryptographic modules in devices, Cotter said.
Using the new BlackBerry platform will allow physicians who text patient information to stay within the requirements of HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), Cotter said. “Other vendors sidestep HIPAA and say they are just a pipe and that HIPAA doesn’t apply,” he said.
In one example, Cotter said an emergency room physician could use the communications platform to reach out to another doctor via a text, then quickly escalate that text to a voice or video call and transmit a picture of a patient’s injuries while continuing the call. “We bolt [our software] into existing workflows and apps,” he said.
In another example, Cotter said a dashboard tablet used by a police officer during a high-speed chase could quickly be turned to a secure channel with a dispatcher showing video from the scene and the police cruiser's location.
BlackBerry already works with developers in a partnership program that has created more than 4,000 third-party enterprise apps, said Marty Beard, chief operating officer of BlackBerry. The new SDK promises to build on those apps, he said.
“The timing of this is right. Current providers aren’t meeting the needs of the enterprise and we know BlackBerry can,” Beard said, citing Twilio as one such competitor.