The venture capital arm of Motorola Solutions Inc. has invested in Toronto-based mobile device management firm Fixmo Inc. in yet one more sign that security remains a concern as corporations and governments increasingly consider Apple Inc. and Google Inc. devices in addition to, or instead of, Research In Motion Ltd.’s BlackBerrys.
Fixmo, which creates software designed to help companies securely manage a variety of mobile devices, announced the investment on Thursday. The company, which has an agreement to commercialize technology developed in partnership with the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA), previously raised $23-million in November from a group of investors that included Paladin Capital Group and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.
Motorola Solutions is independent of the handset division sold to Google for $12.5-billion last year, and sells two-way radios and other enterprise hardware and services to U.S. government agencies and law enforcement, in addition to retail, logistics and energy companies. The investment in Fixmo, the company said, is in the range of between $1-million and $5-million.
On Thursday, the managing director of Motorola Solutions Venture Capital, Tony Palcheck, framed the investment as playing into the growing need for police departments, federal agencies, hospitals and businesses to safely and securely handle sensitive and confidential data over a variety of mobile devices. As businesses increasingly opt for devices other than BlackBerrys, Mr. Palcheck noted it’s important to have a security platform for security-minded clients that can handle a variety of devices.
"Certainly, it’s shifting, and you want something that’s flexible and taking advantage of trends – and one of those trends is the growth of Android," Mr. Palcheck said in an interview. "How do you secure those devices? How do you make sure they’re compliant? The markets we serve are usually transmitting sensitive information, so you need to make sure they’re safe."
RIM, which rose to prominence by selling ultra-secure BlackBerrys to big banks and government departments in the U.S., has responded to the growing use of Apple’s iPhone and devices running Google’s Android software by offering a new mobile device management product called BlackBerry Mobile Fusion that can handle iPhones and Android devices in addition to BlackBerrys. At the same time, companies such as Fixmo – who have focused on Android and iOS devices, given RIM’s previous sole focus on the BlackBerry – have raced into the burgeoning sector, seeing huge interest as big government departments and agencies implement so-called BYOD (bring your own device) policies.
Fixmo’s chief marketing officer Tyler Lessard, a former RIM executive, said the firm has seen increasing interest from its clients in providing extra security for Apple’s iOS software and devices running Android software.
"It’s no surprise to anyone… that enterprises are embracing iOS and Android," Mr. Lessard said. "Government agencies and enterprise customers are now actively deploying corporately issued iOS and Android devices, and enabling employees to do more than just basic e-mail on those devices."
Motorola Solutions’ Mr. Palcheck, meanwhile, admitted the mobile device management space is crowded with a variety of companies – including RIM – but that Fixmo's defense grade technology, capable of being deployed by the NSA and other highly-secure government departments, helps the company stand out from the crush of other firms offering similar services. Mr. Palcheck also said there is the potential for its investment to yield commercial returns for Fixmo in the U.S., given Motorola’s existing business relationships. He stressed, however, that he could not speak for the entirely separate Motorola Mobility handset unit that was sold to Google.
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