'Salesforce Wear:' A Wearable Tech Toolset for the Enterprise

Today, CRM and cloud giant Salesforce.com announced the Salesforce Wear Developer Kit, a set of resources designed to help the company's 1.5 million developers experiment with and build applications for a variety of popular wearable devices, including smartwatches, smartglasses, smart armbands and biometric authenticators.

The new wearable-focused developer kit represents "the first in a series of steps" in the company's broader Salesforce Wear initiative, according to Daniel Debow, senior vice president of emerging technologies, Salesforce.com. Eventually Salesforce plans to setup open wearable-focused developer zones at its events and hold related "hackathons" as part of the initiative, he says. Salesforce could also potentially release its own packaged wearable app or set of apps in the future.

"We are the first enterprise company, the only company, that is doing something like this," Debow says. A number of other companies have released SDKs (software development kits) for wearable devices, or added wearable components to their existing SDK, including Google and Samsung, but Salesforce's offering is unique in that it caters directly to enterprise developers. The Salesforce Wear Developer Kit is designed to help developers create apps that integrate with Salesforce services.

As part of the kit, the company released six sample apps that securely integrate with Salesforce's cloud for the following devices and platforms: Pebble smartwatch; Samsung Gear smartwatch; Google Glass; Android Wear platform; Thalmic Labs' MYO armband; and Bionym's Nymi biometric authentication band. (Additional early Salesforce Wear partners include Fitbit, ARM, Philips and OMsignal.)

The company's "reference apps" all serve slightly different purposes and demonstrate different wearable capabilities. For example, the Pebble app is "a lightweight data reporting tool...that lets you connect any report in Salesforce to Pebble," Debow says. The sample Google Glass app is designed for on-site service technicians. It connects to the Salesforce Service Cloud to provide augmented imagery of repair sites, full access to repair history data in Service Cloud and hands-free access to various support resources. The apps all utilize security and authentication technologies that are built into the Salesforce platform.

While the apps and related resources are all free for organizations with "user licenses of Salesforce CRM and the Salesforce Platform," Debow stressed that although the apps are functional, they're not meant for real-world customer use just yet. Instead, at this time, the apps "are for developers to tear apart and experiment with."

Garth Moulton, Chief Customer Officer, at CircleBack, a company that makes business card scanning apps for iOS and Android, says the Wear Kit will make it easier to get a scanned card and other CircleBack App information directly into Salesforce via SF1. CircleBack

CircleBack built a connector app for its ScanBizCards app for the Samsung Gear 2 watch that integrates with Salesforce.

"The user can take a picture of a business card with the watch, and the connected Android device running ScanBizCards and Salesforce1 digitizes the information and sends it to Salesforce.com as a lead or contact," according to CircleBack's Chief Customer Officer Garth Moulton.

"The Wear Kit will make it easier to get a scanned card and other CircleBack App information directly into Salesforce via Salesforce1," Moulton says. "It is a timely development platform for CircleBack, as we are constantly looking for easier ways for the user to get contact information into our contact management apps. Wearables are on our product road map and Salesforce1 and other development environments make it easier to market for us."

"There are tens of thousands of new developers building apps for wearables, and they want to build business apps," Debow says. "Salesforce is going to step in and help with the backend stuff. We're building a bridge to the future, with a literal bridge between wearable devices and the Salesforce cloud."

Debow says wearable devices and wearable-based apps are often better suited for enterprise purposes than modern smartphone- or tablet-based apps because they result in "much less friction in the interaction with CRM system."

"You probably take your smartphone out 150 times a day," Debow says. "Smartwatches can use contextual info, provide data on things that are really important, and change your engagement with technology, change the way you interact with the people around you."

Wearable-based apps are very distinct in what they can do and how they can do it, according to Debow. "We think this is a big business opportunity; [wearables are] not just about personal health."

The new Salesforce tools are well suited for organizations that are just starting to experiment with wearables and wearable apps, because they're free and don't require any significant investment beyond a developer's time, according to Debow.

"Wearables are the next wave of mobile revolution," Debow says. "They're coming at us faster than smartphones did. It's real, not science fiction, and [CIOs] can do something about it today. [Salesforce Wear] is a low cost, low risk way for CIOs...to be prepared and ahead of the game."

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