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BlackBerry AtHoc is a next-generation crisis communications platform that lets organisations connect and collaborate in real-time. Over 70% of the US federal government departments, including military and defence, have deployed this solution, says Sanjay Saini, general manager, BlackBerry AtHoc. “While AtHoc is purpose-built for crisis communications, it can—and does—play a valuable role in secure message control for a wide variety of other applications,” he tells Sudhir Chowdhary in an interview. Excerpts:

What is the importance of the BlackBerry AtHoc solution, especially in a market like India?
As India transforms to a digital economy and people and things become even more connected, next-generation crisis communication solutions will become a priority as ‘Smart Cities’ become a reality. With this hyper connectivity, government and private organisations must also rely heavily on technology to ensure robust crisis communication procedures are in place to keep people safe and data secure.
That is exactly what we do. BlackBerry AtHoc is a next-generation crisis communications platform that lets organisations connect and collaborate in real-time, offering authority and control in times of crisis.

Do you have any recent case studies for AtHoc that you can talk about?
For a start, it is used by over 70% of USA federal government departments, including military and defence. In Contra Costa County in California, this ‘Smart City’ uses BlackBerry AtHoc to protect over one million people and six industrial facilities, using sirens, phone notification, text, email and social media. It can reach all users, citizens and relevant organisations with the push of a button, scaling from 20 to 20,000 homes and agencies. The BlackBerry Connect feature integrates the county’s crisis communication system with the community, sharing information with others, even if they are not BlackBerry AtHoc customers.

Macquarie University in Australia uses BlackBerry AtHoc to keep students and staff safe on and off campus, sharing alerts via email, text, RSS feeds and social media—all managed from the security operations centre.

Which are some of the sectors relevant for BlackBerry AtHoc adoption?
Whether it is a cyber threat, natural disaster or terror attack, BlackBerry AtHoc allows speed, reach and enhanced security for crisis communications in the physical and digital ecosystem. It is for any organisation with a duty of care for people, from large finance or mining corporations that may have hundreds, or even thousands of employees, contractors and visiting clients over vast geographies. Or it might be stadiums or shopping centres where people gather en masse. Then there are the major areas of infrastructure, government agencies, hospitals, defence forces, emergency services and other important decision-makers that are ultimately responsible for citizen safety—and the people protecting those citizens.

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How does the solution ensure secure communication in a crisis situation?
Things can happen in an instant and life-saving decisions need to be made quickly. BlackBerry AtHoc delivers secure interoperable communication with other agencies and organisations, in a crisis.

The network is permission-based, so organisations keep control over who is included and what information is shared and meet government requirements, such as data privacy laws. Different entities can use it to bridge communications so that they can share trusted information with each other. Response teams and leaders are better informed, gain visibility into the status of employees and assets, and can collaborate securely, accurately and efficiently with internal resources and third-party services.

How important is the aspect of security when it comes to crisis communication?
In our hyper connected world, data traffic and multiple end-points like home appliances, connected cars and drones have increased threat landscape exponentially. Now, it is more important than ever to have strict protocols and the technology capability in place to protect sensitive information and enable secure communication among all stakeholders.