Apple’s arrival no roadblock for QNX, exec says

If QNX Software Systems has any fears about the possibility of Apple crowding into its Ottawa territory, the company is keeping them close to its chest.

“I don’t think we would really talk about any kind of rumour or speculation,” the automotive software maker’s global director of business development Andrew Poliak said Thursday, a day after OBJ broke the news that Apple has leased space in Kanata for what many believe will be a research and development facility.

“I read your article too. I went, ‘Interesting. Cool.’”

Mr. Poliak said QNX, BlackBerry’s automotive division, first partnered with Apple in “2002 or 2003” on a project with Mercedes that connected the first iPod in a car. Should Apple’s R&D centre focus on automotive technology, it could create opportunities for more partnerships, he added.

Both the executive team at QNX and BlackBerry have indicated a readiness to work with anyone on automotive applications, he said.

“We’re really the only operating system I know that crosses the line between the great consumer experience and all those hard real-time critical operating systems that are safety certified,” Mr. Poliak said.

“We’ve continued to deploy technology with all the major device manufacturers, whether it be Google or Apple or others that throughout the years, you will find us in a lot of cars enabling the technology,” he said. “We’re kind of the Switzerland of all the different devices that want to connect to a car.”

QNX technology shipped in 20 million automotive modules in 2014, Mr. Poliak said, and although the final 2015 numbers aren’t in yet, he said he expects that number to rise significantly.

“We’re seeing an explosion not only of the level of cars, now we’re moving from typically being the premium vehicles to now being all the way to entry-level vehicles,” he said, adding he was triple-booked for meetings at the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

“We were booked solid the entire show,” he said.

Mr. Poliak said QNX is a CES veteran that began attending the event even “before it became like a giant autoshow.”

With autonomous technology becoming more affordable, it’s also becoming more mainstream, he said, which explains the interest at CES.

“Everyone’s talking about it, right? We’re just right in the maelstrom of being the centre of that,” Mr. Poliak said, noting the technology requires the kind of real-time operating system QNX provides.

QNX’s legacy infotainment technology, as it turns out, can also be used in the next generation of autonomous vehicles, Mr. Poliak said.

“That’s a very good place for QNX to participate and our technology is a natural fit,” he said.

With business ramping up, Mr. Poliak said he expects 2016 to be a busy year for QNX, with many announcements about applications for autonomous vehicles.

“The industry is looking for a leader there and we really are it already and we’re just going to keep adding on to that,” he said. “There’ll be a lot of cool things coming out this year.”