BlackBerry next big bet could be an ‘asset tracking box’

BTS, the new arm of BlackBerry, could end up being the next big thing from Waterloo

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In the three months ending November 28, BlackBerry reported global revenue of $548 million, up 11.8 percent from the previous quarter, Digital Trends reported. (Reuters photo)

You might not have heard of Sandeep Chennakeshu or the BTS that he heads, but this relatively new arm of BlackBerry could end up being the next big thing from Waterloo. The unassuming Chennakeshu is a man of ideas with over 70 patents to his name. But it does not take long to realise that he is more than excited about his latest invention, a 200mm ‘asset tracking box’ that could revolutionise the logistics industry and BlackBerry in the process.

“You can fix it to containers that carry highly valuable goods and since it has GPS, sensors and a cellular modem it can measure temperature, humidity pressure and movement. It can also figure out the location, if someone has opened the door and cargo levels in the container and send the data securely to the cloud,” Chennakeshu told in New Delhi.

It was last year that Chennakeshu took over as president of BlackBerry Technology Solutions (BTS), a new business unit that brings under one umbrella technology assets likes the QNX embedded software that powers everything from cars to medical equipments, the new Internet of Things application platform called Project Ion, cryptography applications company Certicom and RF antenna tuning firm Paratek along with BlackBerry’s extensive patent portfolio.

He explains that the box will help logistics managers track the cargo at any given point of time and thus add to the efficiency and saving on costs. And with over 177 million cargo trucks plying around the world at the moment, the opportunity is certainly not one that lacks scale. For instance, if Walmart tasks a truck company to pick and deliver a container for it, at the yard the box will make its location known to the trucker, he says, adding how it reduces drive time and saves on fuel and time from the start.

“Plus, you can also draw your own geofences so that the company knows its tax jurisdictions have been crossed. And if someone opens the door, the company knows and this is crucial if the cargo is sensitive,” says Chennakeshu who is originally from Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu and has a PhD in electrical engineering from Southern Methodist University and a Post Graduate Diploma in Industrial Management from the Indian Institute of Science.

“For the logistics manager, time is money and he has to manage his assets cleverly.”

The rugged, weather-proof box has an IP67 rating and a built-in battery that can easily last five years.

And this is why BlackBerry is already thinking of a variety of uses for the same. “The box could be used to track a very expensive car, for instance or use it to track children or police cars,” says Chennakeshu. “I went after a specific market because it is massive with 177 million trucks, but the uses could be much more varied.”

The idea is to sell everything related to the box from the hardware, the cloud service and even the smartphone app in a subscription model. In his 25-year-long career, Chennakeshu has worked with giants like Sony, FreeScale and Ericsson.

“It is 100% our design and concept. We have patented it and will start proof of concept trials in November… I am very proud of my guys. This has never been done before, not with power of its own,” he says.

“When we started, the idea was to build it cheap. And I should be able to install it in less than 10 minutes.”

Tied with other verticals like Certicon which can be used to verify digital signatures, the asset tracking business could offer widespread reach for BTS in everything from retail to automobile industries. “We could do things like verifying authenticity of high value products and we can do this because our digital signatures are short and don’t use too much memory or power,” he says, highlighting how this is all basically tapping into BlackBerry’s strengths in security everything from devices to services.

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First published on: 18-09-2015 at 00:18 IST