BlackBerry stepped up its efforts around cybersecurity, launching a new R&D unit focused on using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to fend off emerging threats.

The company’s new Advanced Technology Development Labs will include a team of 120 software developers, architects, researchers and security experts led by BlackBerry CTO Charles Eagan (pictured).

Eagan told Mobile World Live the new unit will initially investigate how AI and machine learning can be used to protect mobile devices and connected cars, but will expand to cover other IoT endpoints as new threats emerge.

“The next generation of connected products are going to come online sooner than we think and we’re going to use machine learning to better understand and manage the policies and identities of these connected devices, ultimately working to create a safe environment.”

BlackBerry is currently in the process of setting up two hardware labs in Canada where the new R&D team will be able to conduct focused testing. Eagan said the company is also looking to bolster the unit’s work by partnering with six universities on R&D initiatives.

The lab’s creation follows Blackberry’s $1.4 billion acquisition of cybersecurity firm Cylance in 2018, and comes as it works to incorporate the latter’s machine learning tools into its product set.

Eagan noted securing mobile devices is a key priority because such endpoints hold “critical data, such as personal information, business data, financial numbers, etcetera, most of which isn’t secured and requires an entirely different level of security”.

He added BlackBerry is working to release new connected car solutions in the coming months, and will demonstrate how machine learning can be applied to automotive security at CES in January.