BlackBerry QNX: In Health Care, We Do What iOS, Android Can't

QNX is a real-time operating system, making it superior to Android and iOS for applications without room for error, says BlackBerry.

The difference between Android, iOS and QNX, the BlackBerry-owned software on which the BlackBerry 10 operating system is built, could be a matter of life and death.

That was a key message at a health care panel at the BlackBerry Live conference in Orlando, Fla., May 15 that, in explaining how the OSes differ, made an argument for QNX's superiority in critical applications.

"The purpose of a general-purpose operating system [GPOS] is to do many things and do them very well," Chris Ault, product manager at QNX Software Systems, said during his presentation. "It's designed to get the most amount of work done. Algorithms are designed for the most amount of throughput. They're not designed to offer strict guarantees of reliability or availability."

Android and iOS, both Linux-based, are GPOSes.

"Fairness algorithms used by GPOS can alter priorities. ... There's too much variability in what's a priority," Ault continued. "They're designed for general, not real-time, computing."

By contrast, a real-time OS (RTOS), which QNX is, is engineered to guarantee availability and reliability, meaning there's never an instance where priority and processing power is shifted from one activity to another.

For this reason, businesses including Honeywell, GE Energy and Cisco have QNX at the cores of their software solutions, and it's used in everything from wind turbines to home dialysis machines.

By contrast, Ault pointed out examples of iPhone-based patient medical-monitoring solutions, like AirStrip and AliveCor.

"Imagine a case in which a patient's mobile device ... receives a phone call. If the signal-processing app gets swapped out and loses some data, it has to restart and begin populating data all over again, and that takes a fair amount of time [during which a patient isn't getting correct information]," said Ault. "BlackBerry 10 is uniquely positioned to offset iOS and Android as these sensor apps gain adoption."

An app can also take advantage of BlackBerry Balance, putting medical information on the more secure enterprise side of the device.