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Answering the call to water: Blackberry’s new innovation challenge

Thursday, 10 February 2022

Former mobile phone icon Blackberry is answering the call to global water challenges as the company launches an innovation challenge.

Answering the call

Former mobile phone giant Blackberry may have put the phone down in global smartphone race, yet it is making a new call to help tackle global water challenges.

The Canadian cybersecurity and software company has partnered with the University of Waterloo's Water Institute to launch an innovation research challenge.

The Water Innovation Challenge is seeking entries to apply new applications for BlackBerry's technology to address the current and future global water challenges.

This includes challenges such as developing the cybersecurity of water systems, water emergencies, and Internet of Things (IoT) water management solutions.

“The Water Innovation Challenge will connect our researchers to BlackBerry technologies in new ways to address the most urgent global challenges of today,” said Roy Brouwer, executive director at the Water Institute.

The competition is targeting students and professors to develop new research and technological innovation that advances the sustainability and water-related United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“The Water Innovation Challenge will connect our researchers to BlackBerry technologies in new ways to address the most urgent global challenges of today.”

It comes after more innovation challenges appeal to the next generation, with Xylem launching an innovation contest to solve four of the water sector’s biggest challenges.

“BlackBerry was founded with an agenda of addressing some of the world’s most critical needs, specifically cybersecurity and connectivity," said Neelam Sandhu, senior vice president and chief elite customer success officer, BlackBerry.

Applications will close on 24 February 2022, with the chosen applicants commencing their research in Spring 2022.

From BBM to IoT

The ambition of the innovation challenge is to find ways BlackBerry's existing products, solutions and services can be applied to water challenges.

Applicants hoping to bring the BlackBerry mobile phone back via the water sector might not see their proposals going far – the organisation is focusing itself as a software and services company.

The following categories include IoT and Water, cybersecurity and water, emergency events and water, greener technology for wastewater treatment.

The Water Institute suggests proposals such as developing “smart” water IoT solutions that intelligently automate instruments, tools and processes to improve efficiency, reduce water use and improve water quality.

A new chapter for a former tech icon

The Canadian company was one of the most known technology brands around the world, reaching a wide range of acclaim for its smartphone with a physical keyboard.

However, the dawn of Apple and Samsung in the smartphone game saw Blackberry's once-revolutionary innovation become slowly obsolete.

In January 2022, the organisation announced that it would discontinue its services on all BlackBerry phones not running on Android. The following month, the company announced it would sell its legacy patents that are primarily related to mobile devices, messaging, and wireless networking for the sum of $600 million.

The focus on water started in August 2021, when BlackBerry announced a flood risk and clean water monitoring solution, based on BlackBerry Adhoc.

“It can identify seasonal and unseasonal water-related risks and generate cost savings.”

Partnering with the University of Windsor to deploy the solution in Canada, it can identify seasonal and unseasonal water-related risks and generate cost savings for governments, utility companies and local communities.

While BlackBerry may have put the phone down on its hardware, it looks set to join the call on tackling global water challenges.

- To join the challenge and request the RFP template, click here.

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