Salesforce.com is moving aggressively to carve out its own place in a hot emerging technology niche: wearable computing. With its new initiative, Salesforce Wear, it appears to be following its usual MO of co-opting technology in the consumer world and repositioning it for the enterprise.
However, unlike social networking, which Salesforce.com adapted for its own user base with marvelous effect — wearable technology is still an iffy proposition among consumers. Still, the Wear initiative fits well with Salesforce.com’s Internet of the Customer concept.
Salesforce Wear is accompanied by the Salesforce Wear Developer Pack, which provides tools to build apps for wearables across a wide range of devices offered by ARM, Fitbit, Pebble, Philips, Samsung and others.
The Wear Developer Pack addresses the various application architectures, UX patterns and data flows of these devices, connecting them to the Salesforce1 platform. All the developer has to do, according to Salesforce.com, is build a use case.
The Use Case
Salesforce.com is happy to provide a starting point to achieve that goal. One possible use case might be a casino that gives its most valued guests wristbands so they can be treated like royalty no matter where they are in the complex or hotel.
Wristbands could be used to provide sales people with “contextually aware” apps, providing them with the information they need on the go — without the interruption that opening a mobile phone or laptap usually entails.
Remote service technicians, such as oil rig workers or medical device reps, could access live data and review plans for the equipment they’re tasked with fixing.
“Consider this a Fitbit for the enterprise,” Denis Pombriant, principal of Beagle Research, told CRM Buyer.
Another use could be in the realm of security. “There is an increasingly greater need for security in all kinds of venues,” Pombriant said.
Other areas ripe to benefit from wearables include construction, transportation, industrial machinery and mining, N. Venkat Venkatraman, a business professor at Boston University, told CRM Buyer.
“The key trigger could be worker safety, but quickly one can make the business case for operational efficiency,” he noted.
Although “wearables” currently describes a wide variety of different technologies, that could be a plus.
“One of the great things about this announcement is that it acknowledges we don’t yet know what the killer apps are or how they can best work in the enterprise,” said Pombriant, “so it makes it easy and cheap to throw a lot of spaghetti against the wall and see what sticks.”
The cost of failing is so low that a developer can feel encouraged to try again and again.
Cheap and easy is good, of course, but businesses need to take other considerations into account as they venture into the wearables space, Mark O’Neill, Axway’s VP of innovation, told CRM Buyer.
It’s time for enterprises to begin experimenting and innovating with wearables now, rather than waiting for consumer markets to settle and conventions to be established, he said.
However, “businesses contemplating a future with wearables must keep issues including privacy, identity and security top of mind and part of IT organizations’ short- and long-term strategy,” he said.
Mainstream consumer acceptance of wearable technologies, for its part, will be contingent on integration between such user platforms as Apple, Google, Microsoft and Facebook, Josh Crick, director of digital at David&Goliath, told CRM Buyer.
“Salesforce.com’s solution will be a good way to pull developers into the wearable space, but it’s highly unlikely it will be the de facto platform,” he said. “I would look to Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook and other owners of cross-platform experiences to take the lead.”