BlackBerry wants to give CES visitors a trip to the beach – and a look at the near future of connected vehicles.
Along the way, they'll watch battery-strength readouts update to a fraction of a kilometre. They'll follow directions to a reserved parking spot, its fee automatically added to their credit account. They'll sense the climate controls adjusting as the children fall asleep in the back seat on the ride home.
The excursion is, of course, virtual, unfolding on screens at the technology show that opens Wednesday in Las Vegas. But BlackBerry, headquartered in Waterloo, Ont., says the Ivy software platform that underpins the demonstration, a car-to-cloud collaboration with Amazon Web Services, is ready for the real road.
Announced in December 2020, Ivy is BlackBerry's bid to be as big a player in intelligent vehicle communications as it long was in vehicle infotainment systems. The platform collects and interprets data from dozens of sensors in a modern car and oversees the flow of information between vehicle, manufacturer and service providers.
Initial versions are already in the hands of potential customers. No sales have been announced but "we're seeing lots of interest," Sarah Tatsis, a BlackBerry senior vice-president, told Automotive News Canada.
Turning interest into orders, however, will depend on convincing automakers that Ivy is a competitive alternative to both their own nascent connected-car systems and to platforms from the world's tech giants. The biggest threat? Google, which with its Android Automotive operating system has already wrested a big share of BlackBerry's infotainment business.
BlackBerry, though, is taking a page from the Google book, opening its platform to outside software developers it hopes will produce a rich library of applications akin to the myriad apps available on Android phones. It launched a US$50-million fund in March 2021 to invest in startups developing services to run on Ivy.
That could broaden the platform's appeal to automakers that would otherwise need to develop their own apps – especially when Ivy's are backed by the Canadian company's reputation for reliability in vehicle systems.
“We're bringing a lot of knowledge, obviously, in safety and security,” Tatsis said.
Still more credibility may come from the alliance with Amazon, the world's largest provider of the cloud services that are key to the vast data movement required for connected cars.
Automakers are eager to duplicate the over-the-air updates pioneered by Tesla and unlock software subscription services that can continue to earn revenue after vehicles are delivered. But for consumers making the nervous switch to electric cars, range certainty will be an immediate lure.
Figuring large in BlackBerry's CES demonstration is the “state-of-charge” display provided via a battery monitoring and control program from Boston, Mass., supplier Electra Vehicles, Inc.
In a December preview at BlackBerry's QNX labs in Kanata, Ont., senior software development manager Sue Ludwig outlined how the system can make precise predictions based on routes and road conditions and what it has learned of the driver's habits at the wheel.
The goal is to extend range and battery life and get the family home on a single charge. But if a top-up becomes necessary, “it will find a charging stop and book an appointment automatically,” Ludwig said.
While several exhibitors have dropped out of the 2022 CES over concerns about the latest coronavirus wave, BlackBerry is mounting a full display. Along with demonstrations of the Ivy platform and Jarvis security software, showgoers will see an “augmented reality” Jaguar I-Pace electric crossover and a Tarform Luna eco-cycle, and a Tarform Luna, a battery-powered motorcycle with flax-seed body panels, vegan leather seat and technology from BlackBerry ally Electra Vehicles.