Ottawa

Big tech companies offer holiday boost to local startups

Christmas came a little early for three local tech companies working on autonomous vehicle technologies. They’ve been chosen to be part of a new accelerator program run by BlackBerry and local software-as-a-service accelerator L-SPARK.

Martello, Evolved Vehicle Environment and Bluink among 7 lucky companies chosen for accelerator program

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visits the Blackberry QNX facility in Ottawa as the company announced its Autonomous Vehicle Innovation Centre (AVIC) in 2016. Blackberry is partnering with the company L-SPARK on an accelerator program for smaller start-ups working on autonomous vehicle technology. (Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Christmas came a little early for three local tech companies working on autonomous vehicle technologies. They've been chosen to be part of a new accelerator program run by BlackBerry and local software-as-a-service accelerator L-SPARK.

Communications services firm Martello Technologies, cyber security company Bluink and automotive software developer Evolved Vehicles Environments are the local firms who will join four other companies in the six-month project.

They were chosen from applications that came in from across the country.

L-SPARK managing director Leo Lax said it makes sense to pair Blackberry's established global footprint and technology with innovative and energetic startups.

"The companies participating in the accelerator are receiving priority access to the Blackberry technical resources, and will demonstrate their innovative solutions to the Blackberry team. This provides a unique opportunity to showcase their products and engage in further discussions for future collaboration," Lax said.

Priority access

The companies have six months to do what might otherwise take several years.

"The startups have attended a three-day training session on the BlackBerry QNX Real Time Operating System and defined in detail the product demonstrations they expect to showcase in April," said Lax.

"Once we completed that, the teams started the implementation and a number of them are well advanced toward their first milestone of building an integrated solution on the BlackBerry car platform. We hope to see more tangible evidence of progress toward the end of January, when in-car integration is planned to start."

Martello Technologies CEO John Proctor said he's excited about the road ahead.

"There is tremendous value in working with a brand like BlackBerry QNX that is becoming synonymous with autonomous vehicle innovation globally. Being part of the accelerator gives us access to senior leaders in BlackBerry and access to their development team and technology, so that we can work with them to develop and test our solution for autonomous vehicles."

Martello, which employees about 100 people and went public this year, is looking to develop new ways to optimize multiple cellular providers simultaneously while a vehicle is in motion, said Proctor.

L-SPARK's Leo Lax, centre, Bluink's Stephen Borza, left, and Martello's John Proctor were guests on CBC Radio's All In A Day to discuss the Blackberry/L-SPARK accelerator program. (Mario Carlucci/CBC)

Stephen Borza, CEO of cyber security firm Bluink Limited, leads a company that turns your smartphone into an identification authentication device, allowing users to unlock their cars with their phones as well as operate car sharing vehicles, among other uses.

"We've just completed a 'proof of concept' with the Ontario government to allow you to carry your driver's licence, your health card, all of your IDs on your phone instead of in your wallet, and use that ID to log into government websites or personal websites that you want to log into…. So, simply put, your phone will be your digital identity everywhere," said Borza.

For him, the project opens doors Bluink's 16 employees just couldn't open on their own.

"It means our vision of doors to desktop security … being able to open the front door and then being able to log into a computer. We can achieve that with BlackBerry," said Borza, who added that at the heart of 120-million cars around the world is the Blackberry QNX operating system.

"Going through the QNX operating system allows us to get global coverage."

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