storm damage from Hurricane Sandy (By MISHELLA/

BlackBerry expands crisis communications services

To help federal managers communicate with their teams during an emergency, BlackBerry announced additional capabilities for its AtHoc crisis communication solution, which automates safety and availability status updates of people before, during and after an event.

The new AtHoc Account combines input from managers regarding their teams, information from call center operators, data feeds from human resource departments and travel systems as well as self-reporting from individuals, making it easier for managers to account for and communicate with their teams.

“Accountability today is a manual process that is quite inefficient,” AtHoc General Manager Sanjay Saini said.  “We are introducing AtHoc Account to provide real-time capability for organizations to be able to inform all of the necessary people so real-time decisions can be made.”

The BlackBerry AtHoc cloud service was authorized by the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program at the moderate impact level in March.  Besides AtHoc Account, the service includes AtHoc Alert, which allows for multichannel, bi-directional mass notifications via secure mobile apps and other mass notification channels, and AtHoc Connect, which allows agencies to more easily communicate with each other during crises.

The Department of Energy, Department of Transportation and Federal Aviation Administration are currently using the AtHoc Alert service for notifications via BlackBerry’s private cloud platform.  They are using a hybrid implementation model where the AtHoc SaaS platform runs behind their firewalls on premise.

More than 70 percent of federal government personnel are currently using AtHoc services in some capacity, including Department of the Treasury, Department of Veterans Affairs and U.S. Coast Guard.

“While other agencies can also take advantage of our products in the FedRAMP cloud, a lot of our customers are behind the firewall in on-premise locations, and these solutions would also be available to them,” Saini said.

BlackBerry is in discussions with a number of agencies to use AtHoc in the company’s private cloud environment as well, he added.

BlackBerry’s AtHoc services are part of the company’s evolution from a government mobile phone provider to become a software-focused enterprise company.

“We are focused on using the internet of things products to secure and transfer information between devices and make sure people and information are safe,” Saini said.  “Customers use our AtHoc service to collaborate in terms of crisis whether they are in the government, healthcare or transportation sectors.”

About the Author

Sara Friedman is a reporter/producer for GCN, covering cloud, cybersecurity and a wide range of other public-sector IT topics.

Before joining GCN, Friedman was a reporter for Gambling Compliance, where she covered state issues related to casinos, lotteries and fantasy sports. She has also written for Communications Daily and Washington Internet Daily on state telecom and cloud computing. Friedman is a graduate of Ithaca College, where she studied journalism, politics and international communications.

Friedman can be contacted at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @SaraEFriedman.

Click here for previous articles by Friedman.

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