BlackBerry opens up smart city infrastructure for connected car testing in Ottawa

smart city
Stock photo used for representational purposes only.

A new offering from BlackBerry could spur the development of new autonomous vehicle technologies with Ottawa acting as ground zero for the pilot program.

BlackBerry announced Monday it is making a new Security Credential Management System (SCMS) service free to the public and private sectors in an effort to encourage autonomous and connected vehicle pilot projects.

Using public key infrastructure (PKI) based on BlackBerry’s Certicom technology, the service will manage digital certificates used to ensure trustworthy communication between connected vehicles and infrastructure such as traffic lights.

After a year of interoperability testing, BlackBerry is making the SCMS service free for private and public organizations involved in smart city and connected vehicle pilot projects. In a press call on Monday, BlackBerry’s chief marketing officer Mark Wilson said he hopes this will further BlackBerry’s footprint in the evolving connected vehicle industry.

“Vehicles need to be able to securely communicate with other vehicles, infrastructure and a plethora of smart devices,” said Wilson, adding that the autonomous vehicle ecosystems of the future will rely on connectedness.

The first pilot project to use the service will be a partnership with Invest Ottawa that will see the technology integrated into the West Ottawa 16-kilometre private AV test track in early 2019. Connected and Autonomous Vehicles program director Kelly Daize confirmed that Invest Ottawa will work with the city to use the technology in the Kanata North public test track once it’s been fully tested on the private track.

The test tracks integrate emerging technologies such as 5G networks with existing city infrastructure including traffic lights and pedestrian walkways.

Daize said partnering with BlackBerry will help Ottawa to raise its international profile as a hub for autonomous and connected vehicle development.

Jim Alfred, head of Certicom for BlackBerry, said during the call that the company hopes making the SCMS service available will encourage more of these pilot projects.

“What we're doing today is expanding the market for connected vehicle pilots … and encouraging smart cities and OEMs and road operators to work with us,” said Alfred, explaining that connected and autonomous vehicle pilot projects can help the private and public sectors to understand possible business models for smart cities.

Alfred noted that BlackBerry’s SCMS service isn’t much different from what the United States Department of Transportation is using in current pilot projects, except that it’s built to scale up. However, he added there’s a lack of government policy for connected vehicle digital certificates. He said he hopes BlackBerry can position itself as an industry expert and integrator when it comes time to make autonomous vehicle infrastructure more than just a series of pilot projects.

“Intelligent transportation systems, we believe in them strongly … what we're trying to do is catalyze the market and be major players,” Alfred said.