Salesforce Bets the Business World Is Ready For Wearables

The Quantified Workplace Comes Closer to Reality

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Would the guy servicing your air conditioning system be comfortable wearing Google Glass? Salesforce is betting on it.

The company unveiled its Salesforce Wear Developer Pack earlier this week. It hopes developers will use the open source software to build systems for CRM, customer service, and a variety of other business purposes. The technology works with wearable devices such as web-connected watches and eyeglasses, and integrate with company databases that already sit on the Salesforce platform.

Clothing and accessories that collect data and feed it into the cloud have primarily been devised for consumer use at this point. While it's unclear whether the business-to-business world is ready for wearables, Salesforce decided to invest in wearable tech for enterprises to attain first mover advantage in a market it expects to take off over the next few years.

"We saw this opportunity," said Daniel Debow, SVP of emerging technologies at Salesforce. "How can you link these to marketing operations? How can you link these to business operations?"

New apps
The company works with around 2,300 software developers that offer apps in its app store. Now it wants them to build the business applications that will plant the Salesforce platform on the wrists of hotel concierges or clothing store assistants.

Over the past year, Salesforce built six "starter apps" for wearable tech that has already gained some adoption among consumers: Google Glass, and watch platforms Android Wear, Samsung Gear 2 and Pebble Watch, along with gesture control technology Myo and Nymi, which identifies people using cardiac signals. The goal, said Mr. Debow, is to entice developers to build software applications for use in three key areas for Salesforce: CRM, service and marketing.

Apps built on the system speak directly to the Salesforce platform that countless corporations already base their CRM and sales operations on, which could offer some incentive to experiment with Salesforce-fueled wearable tech.

Quantified workplace?
Of course, convincing managers and staff to incorporate wearable devices into their work gear may not be easy. Couldn't they simply use their mobile phones or tablets? Mr. Debow suggested there are some work functions better suited to a wrist watch or web-enabled eyeglasses. Not only are a few taps on a wristwatch more discreet than pulling out a phone to communicate, he said, some clothing doesn't have pockets to store devices. And that engineer on an oil rig simply doesn't have enough hands to work with precious equipment while holding a project schematic.

"There are many challenges unique to a wearable context and the 'plumbing' required to connect one of these devices to a cloud platform like Salesforce is not trivial," wrote Sandeep Bhanot, principal developer evangelist at Salesforce in a June 11 company blog post. "That was in fact the primary intent of the Wear Pack -- give developers the underlying plumbing (via the open-source reference apps) so that they can focus on building innovative enterprise solutions for these wearable devices."

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