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QNX: BlackBerry’s Passport to The Internet of Things

By October 5, 2014Outlook, QNX
Passport_QNX_Logo_BBRYFLOW

QNX is a nifty little operating system that leaves me awestruck each time I read and understand about its potential. There are multiple concurrent threads that need to be understood in totality before I introduce you to the device in question – the BlackBerry Passport.

QNX is a POSIX compliant, real time operating system which has a key differentiator from other monolithic operating systems like iOS and Android. QNX implements a self-patented technology called transparent distributed processing.

We already know that QNX is very efficient in passing the messages to and from from the kernel, making it incredibly efficient. The microkernel, dubbed Neutrino, is small enough to sit in the L1 cache of the processor, making it very fast; ideal for the mission critical systems. In effect, it means that the actual location of the hardware doesn’t matter as far as the file permissions are concerned. This exchange occurs in real time without relying on the file transfer protocols, inherently understood in the context of legacy operating systems.

This unique attribute, among others, marks QNX as one of the most powerful operating systems ever conceived; the devices, in effect, become self aware of the existence of others and the possibilities are only limited by your imagination.

The Internet of Things, or IoT, is the next wave of technological evolution. BlackBerry announced its Project Ion, headed by Alec Saunders, back in May. The exact details are scarce in the public domain but it remains under heavy development. Why does it makes sense for BlackBerry to step into a domain that has other players throwing their resources behind it?

This is because of their robust network infrastructure, and the fact that security from the ground up is in their enterprise DNA. BlackBerry still delivers value for the network carriers because it’s so thrifty in the exchange of data. Legacy devices still remain the best bet for real time exchange of information, and BlackBerry is known for its BIS compression and encryption.

BlackBerry understands the IoT landscape from inside out. The heart of IoT is going to be QNX, with rapid exchange of huge amounts of data, that potentially defies any current definition of quantitation. I’m talking exabytes of data, if not more. However, BlackBerry, with its scalable network, data compression and QNX backend, is a truly reliable partner for IoT. This fact is only bolstered by their security heritage and cryptography patents.

It is in this context, Passport needs to be seen and understood, that this is an enterprise warrior and quiet leviathan. With a huge screen at 4.5″ and the touch enabled QWERTY keypad, BlackBerry has innovated an input experience that is truly the best blend of its virtual cousin and legacy brethren. Passport delivers a form factor never seen in the mobile space, ever.

Imagine a business scenario with multiple Passports in the same room. Through its process of auto-discovery, that is likely to be introduced when the mobile OS is more mature – (similar, yet more robust, to the the Confetti demo shown on BlackBerry PlayBook), these devices would able to connect auto-magically to each other. It may be possible to push a file across all the devices and have it displayed. This distributed architecture is likely to find favour in the boardrooms and in the consumer segment, where a connected system becomes a massive multi-player gaming warhorse! The potential is immense. It’s mind boggling and we haven’t even barely scratched the surface as of yet. We can see the glimpses in BlackBerry Blend- as the mature services  iteration of this concept.

IoT comes in this context. QNX is embedded in a large number of automobiles. It runs the infotainment systems and the complex machinery reliably and securely. Imagine entering your car and your device becomes self aware of the QNX parent, connecting seemlessly. In the home segments, your device becomes the focal point of streaming media and a remote for home automation systems connected to various service points. Similarly, QNX could help to exchange the information across disparate geographies, and this concept has been implemented in the current BES architecture where the device is connected to the server without the VPN.

Passport needs to be seen in the overall perspective: the direction the company is taking for its IoT initiatives, the QNX business that is seeing a heavy development for embedded systems, and the brilliant device that lies at the heart of all this as your central hub.

Abhishek

Author Abhishek

A senior research fellow in neuro-oncology in India. BlackBerry defines my productive work flow.

More posts by Abhishek
  • mike

    Thanks, I love how you tied the pieces together. Maybe Helms wasn’t that crazy afterall.

  • Thank you Abhishek! I look forward to reading more of your work here at BerryFlow! Excellent write-up:)

  • Marva

    GREAT, INNOVATIVE…..BlackBerry!

  • Jay C

    This article was very thought provoking. I’m not very technical but, it influenced me to want to understand.

    In that context I am nonplussed regarding how the relationship between L1 cache (which is speed related) and POSIX capabilities (mobile protocols) and TPD leads to devices becoming aware of themselves. Yet, even if I force myself to accept the posit it neglects to consider whether or not they can truly exploit the technology. In other words do the engineers entrusted with this technology have the ability to construct stable programs that result in reliable systems? After my first reading about QNX and it’s micro kernel I could not understand why it would be necessary to have to reset a BB10 device. It runs nuclear plants and other critical and essential equipment; a phone should be nothing.

    Al Sacco was given a BlackBerry Passport to review and although he liked it he found the 10.3 OS to be buggy. Like him, I think that is unacceptable when we’ve had a year now with the QNX embedded BB10. I understand that iPhone has bugs and so too does Android, Windows etc., but this is BlackBerry and based on the turnaround needed, I expect more. I am placing my bets on BlackBerry to secure my digital future.

    Notwithstanding, I wish I could get a Passport tomorrow! Sidebar: a touch sensitive keyboard should have been their first device release as an introduction to BlackBerry 10.

    For the IoT to be exploited by QNX based on the vision so eloquently and energetically delivered by the author depends on the programs that will inform the system. If that is not well executed… my loss.

  • Ablefunzo

    BlackBerry and QNX keep looking into the future. This is a company some people want killed. Thanks to those who stand behind her.

  • Tim

    You have done the needful, Abhishek.

  • bbjdog

    Great article. Insightful and educational.

  • Kevin

    Whoa…this is an awesome concept…QNX and BlackBerry hardware…what a match…woo-hoo adventurous technology

  • Jack

    Great and true.

    I think that there is tremendous advantages to qnx. However…

    Is it much easier for one qnx device (ie BB10) to communicate with another (ie my car)?

    Also, I’ve been reading (and repeating) about the potential of qnx for years, but I’ve yet to see it materialize in some meaningful way to the average consumer. Maybe it doesn’t need to. But, if BlackBerry has some trick (ah hah inducing) up their sleeve, it is time to start making things actually happen.

    • AndyZ30

      I had so many high hopes when I first saw the video of BlackBerry PlayBooks connected with Confetti demoed at the conference. It lead me to buy a PlayBook of my own and now seeing it drop from the plan. I still have my PlayBook and now I read this article and see the video which is confusing. I’m definitely holding on to my PlayBook because I have an idea it will be useful at some point with Blend coming into play.

    • Jack

      @andyz30 – right, I know what you mean about the playbooks. There was/is still high expectations. But they need to get on with it. They need to leapfrog the competition. We’ve been talking that talk for a couple years now. I want to see them actually do it now.

    • Casperoui

      @ AndyZ30 – dont want to sound negative but I think I have read somewhere that blend won’t be released on playbook..i hope im wrong..

  • Rod Pantony

    Totally agree. Deep technical science and engineering can be reduced to ideas which non – experts can grasp.

  • Aero_costas

    You guys write fantastic articles. Crackberry be worried!

    • CrackBerrys only objective is to get you to buy things. Here at BerryFlow, we educate and inspire;)

  • Adam

    I’m not technically challenged but this is beyond my comprehension thanks for sharing in simple terms. Very exciting stuff, the future looks bright!

  • Samanth

    Thank you! Best I haves read on QNX thus far!

  • Dallin Crump

    This is an excellent, insightful article into QNX! Thank you for sharing this information in a way that is easy to understand. It’s exciting to think about the possibilities for QNX in the present and future.