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40 Years of Innovation at Blackberry Qnx

The Trusted Software Foundation for Safe,
Secure and Reliable Systems

Founded as Quantum Software Systems by Dan Dodge and Gord Bell in 1980, BlackBerry QNX has been providing a safe, secure, and reliable software foundation for the world’s most critical systems for the last 40 years.

Like many tech companies, the story of BlackBerry QNX started in a basement, in this case the basement of Gord Bell’s parents’ home. Early on, Dan and Gord designed and developed their own hardware and all of the software required to make things work. When the IBM® PC was released in 1981, they saw the potential of computer technology and made a conscious decision not to pursue ‘trivial’ desktop computer software, opting instead to take on the much bigger challenge of building safe, secure, and reliable software for embedded systems.

They enjoyed the challenge that restricted computing power and size brought to the table as it pushed them to build a lean and reliable operating system (OS). They started to grow the company, moved into some office space in Ottawa’s west end and success followed soon thereafter. Ottawa (Kanata) has been home to the company ever since.


The QNX® operating system, along with the rest of the QNX software product portfolio is now the foundation of many of the world’s mission-critical embedded systems including ones found in nuclear power plants, wind turbines, the International Space Station, surgical robots, life-critical medical devices, autonomous and connected vehicles, trains, traffic lights, and many more. These systems have to operate safely, securely, and reliably, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and with a long list of design wins under its belt, BlackBerry QNX has no shortage of clients who rely on them to keep their systems running.

With cutting-edge technology and a drive to solve the really hard problems, BlackBerry QNX has steadily grown and cemented its legacy in the Ottawa technology landscape. Acquired by Harman International in 2004, Harman opened more doors in the auto industry, helping QNX to become the premiere operating system (OS) and foundational software platform for today’s cars, not to mention the connected and autonomous vehicles of the future. As of mid-2019, BlackBerry QNX’s software can be found in well over 150 million cars on the road.

BlackBerry (then Research In Motion) also saw the potential in QNX’s technology and acquired the company from Harman in 2010. Since then, BlackBerry has been helping expand the dominance of the QNX RTOS in the automotive sector, as well as in industries like medical devices, transportation, robotics and industrial controls. In turn, BlackBerry QNX has helped power the growth of BlackBerry and its transition from a hardware to a software and services company focused on securing the Internet of Things.

BlackBerry QNX is deeply invested and active in the Ottawa technology community:

  • Founding member of the Invest Ottawa-led Ottawa L5, one of the nation’s largest and most technologically advanced connected and autonomous vehicle proving grounds.
  • Provides the core operating system software for the City of Ottawa’s traffic light systems.
  • Helped found the Canadian Autonomous Vehicle Technology and Innovator Directory to foster collaboration and partnerships among the AV industry.
  • Launched accelerator programs with Canada’s largest SaaS accelerator, L-SPARK, with the goal of bringing new products to market using BlackBerry QNX technology.
  • Has committed to investing $310.5 million (with $40 million provided by the Government of Canada) with plans to hire more than 1,800 of the brightest engineers and scientists over the next 5 years, the bulk of whom will be based in Kanata, to help further the advancement of safe and secure software systems for connected and autonomous vehicles.
  • Ongoing investment and collaboration with Ottawa area colleges and universities to help encourage and grow STEM programs.
  • Have attracted companies such as Ford Motor Company and others to establish high technology facilities here in Ottawa.


BlackBerry QNX has the technology, the talent and is trusted the world over as a leading supplier of safe, secure, and trusted operating systems, middleware, development tools, and engineering services for mission-critical embedded systems. And while the impact of its innovations has been significant over the last 40 years, its best and most important work still lies ahead—to secure a connected future you can trust.


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