Blackberry to buy crisis alerts firm AtHoc

AtHoc provides its networked comms services to a bevy of marquee customers, including the US Department of Defense and the US Department of Homeland Security.
Written by Natalie Gagliordi, Contributor

Blackberry said on Wednesday said it is acquiring AtHoc, makers of a secure software platform for crisis communication. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

AtHoc's communications software is essentially a messaging alerts system, but for entities that need to exchange potentially sensitive and critical information between devices, organizations and people when other forms of communication may be unavailable. The software supports a variety of devices and platforms, including iOS, Android, PCs and Macs.

The purchase highlights how Blackberry continues to cater its platform toward regulated and government agencies. Privately-held AtHoc provides its networked comms services to a bevy of marquee customers, including the US Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, and the US Department of Veterans Affairs.

Blackberry obviously stands to benefit from absorbing AtHoc's high caliber clientele, but AtHoc's software will also get powerful injection by integrating with Blackberry's BBM messenger.

BlackBerry's COO Marty Beard said in a Q&A on the Inside Blackberry blog:

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.

Beard went on to say AtHoc's platform is also ideal when it comes to making crisis management part of the Internet of Things.

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.

The AtHoc platform will also be used as a starting point for further application development. Blackberry said new applications may include integrating AtHoc with BBM Meetings during an alert to enable live video feeds, or to transmit messages for real-time collaboration between key decision makers.

Looking at the bigger picture, the acquisition of AtHoc really complements Blackberry's previous strategic buyouts. In April, Blackberry scooped up WatchDox, a secure enterprise file-sync-and-share (EFSS) provider. That deal followed last year's buyout of Secusmart, a German mobile security company.

The AtHoc acquisition is expected to close in BlackBerry's 2016 fiscal third quarter.

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