Chinese mobile phone giant Huawei could be planning a blockchain-enabled smartphone in partnership with Switzerland-based Sirin Labs. Despite catching onto new technology, Huawei – the third-largest global retailer of mobile handsets – recently received scrutiny in the U.S leading to Best Buy in the U.S and Canada stopping sales of Huawei products.
According to Bloomberg reports, Huawei is in talks with Sirin Labs to license the SIRIN Operating System (OS) which is capable of running blockchain applications. SIRIN OS would run alongside Alphabet, Inc.’s Android System on Huawei phones. The sources apparently confirmed only that the talks are in the early stages and neither Huawei or Sirin have confirmed an official partnership.
Moshe Hogeg, CEO of Sirin Labs, retweeted Bloomberg’s story on March 21st, 2018, saying “In the works,” appearing to confirm the rumours.
The first blockchain-enabled smartphone
Established in 2014, Sirin Labs raised $157 million USD (approximately $202 million CAD) with its ICO and SIRIN LABS Token (SRN) in December, 2017.
— Moshe Hogeg (@moshehogeg) March 21, 2018
Sirin Labs is developing its FINNEY™ range of devices which includes a secure blockchain-ready smartphone that it says is “the only smartphone fully secure and safe enough to hold cryptographic coins.” The Swiss firm is at concept development stage with SIRIN OS and its roadmap indicates a beta release in 2018.
Sirin Labs appears to be the only blockchain startup in the advanced stages of development of a completely blockchain and digital currency oriented mobile device. Smartphone giants Apple and Samsung are currently quiet on any equivalent developments or partnerships.
Huawei could find U.S challenges
In February, the U.S government raised security concerns over Huawei devices and encouraged leading wireless carrier AT&T to cut ties. AT&T subsequently pulled of a deal that would have been Huawei’s first partnership with a major US mobile provider. Days later, the U.S Congress proposed a bill that bans government agencies from working with Huawei, stating the Chinese telecommunications company was “subject to state influence”.
The situation in Canada
In Canada, Huawei has partnerships with telecom providers SaskTel, Bell, Telus, and Freedom Mobile.
In the past week, though, Best Buy announced it will no longer sell Huawei devices in either the U.S or Canada. Three former directors of Canada’s security agencies are urging Canada’s federal government to follow the U.S lead and stop dealing with Huawei.
“I have a pretty good idea of how signal-intelligence agencies work and the rules under which they work and their various operations and … I would not want to see Huawei equipment being incorporated into a 5G network in Canada,” said Ward Elcock, former CSIS director, in an interview with The Globe and Mail.
Ralph Goodale, Canada’s public safety minister, said also in a statement to The Globe and Mail that Huawei is being monitored but does not pose a risk to Canada’s cybersecurity.
The news of Huawei and Sirin’s potential partnership seems to be the first of its kind.
Backing from Huawei could, in theory, accelerate SIRIN OS development and see blockchain-enabled smartphones hit the consumer market in 2018, or at the latest 2019. Considering the security concerns raised, the North American market may pose a challenge for Huawei, even with such an innovative product.