Blackberry and Boeing Developing Self-Destructing Smartphone


Canadian tech company is working with the Boeing Co. on the development of a smart-phone that self-destructs. The highly secretive project is intended for use by the military, contractors and employees of the Department of Homeland Security. Limited news of the project was announced by Blackberry CEO, John Chen on the company’s earning call on Friday Dec 19. He stated that Blackberry was collaborating with Boeing to create a secure solution for mobile devices powered by Google’s Android Operating System, and the company’s BES12 secure mobile management platform. BES12 was introduced in November, as Enterprise Mobile Management platform for controlling devices across all mobile operating systems, including iOs, Android, and Windows.

The collaboration may seem to be an attractive proposition for both companies; Boeing expands into other areas, as sales for military components have declined after budgets by the Pentagon and Blackberry fortifies its position as a government and enterprise provider, following declines in commercial sales. Boeing had announced the development of a secure smart phone, called the Boeing Black, earlier in the year, but there was very little said about Blackberry’s involvement. However, Andy Lee, a spokesman for Boeing has since stated that a number of opportunities are being pursued, where the Boeing Black would be coupled with the Blackberry Enterprise Service to ensure an ultra-high level of security, such as is required by security and defense communities.

In a brochure published on the Boeing website, there are very few technical details about the smart phone, which is described as being able to deliver security, productivity and modularity in a fully trusted mobile device. However, a few key features are mentioned in the product specification card, and Bruce Olcott, who is retained as counsel to Boeing, had earlier requested in a letter to the FCC, that design and technical details be kept undisclosed.
The phone does not seem to be dramatically different from other smartphones, but as well as providing encrypted call, it includes a covering of the heads of the screws that hold the casing together. It is this covering that is most intriguing, as it identifies any attempts to dismantle the device. When attempts are made to open the phone, functions to delete software and data contained in the device are triggered, rendering the device inoperable.

The Black phone has been in development for three years, and includes support for biometric identification as well as satellite, WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity. It is also capable of operating on solar power using multiple modes and frequencies. According to the filings made to the FCC, the Boeing Black, on which the company is working with Blackberry, is aimed primarily at government contractors and agencies with a need for high levels of secure data transmission. The handset is slightly larger than the iPhone and has been designed from the ground up. It weighs slightly less than 170 gm, and measures 13.2 cm in length, and is 6.7 cm wide. Details about the networks, nor associated manufacturers are not disclosed, nor is there yet any mention of price or availability, but the company indicates that the device is already being offered to potential customers.

By Dale Davidson


The Financial Post



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