By Jef Cozza / CIO Today. Updated September 05, 2014.
Epson, Jawbone, Meta, Oculus and Vuzix are joining the Salesforce Wear platform. The initiative, announced Thursday, will bring 3D smart glasses, fitness trackers and virtual reality headsets to the company's device ecosystem, potentially expanding the number and types of enterprise apps developers can design for the platform.
Salesforce.com first announced the initiative to support the development of enterprise apps for wearable devices in June with the release of a developer’s pack. At that time, ARM, Fitbit, Google Glass, Pebble, Philips, and Samsung agreed to work together to accelerate the adoption of wearables in the enterprise market.
“All of these new devices have different application architectures, UX patterns and data flows,” said Adam Seligman, VP, developer relations, Salesforce.com. “The Wear Developer Pack handles the identity, secure API access and plumbing necessary to connect the device to the Salesforce1 Platform.”
Enterprise Apps for Wearable Devices
By expanding the number of devices and operating systems that work with Salesforce Wear, the company makes designing apps for the ecosystem much more attractive for developers, Ryan Martin, Internet of Things & Wearable Technologies analyst with The 451 Group, told us.
Salesforce.com's opinion is that wearables will represent a major productivity driver for enterprises in a variety of applications. The company already has a number of apps available for wearable devices through its Appexchange marketplace. One such application, ShiftExpert by ClickSoftware, works with Android smartphones to allow employees to automatically clock in and out of work, and then the app incorporates that data into a digital timesheet.
Salesforce.com, which is best known for its CRM, cloud computing and social networking solutions, is betting that wearables will represent a new phase in mobile productivity. Among the technology's potential applications is the ability for remote service technicians, such as oil rig workers or medical device reps, to access live data and review plans for equipment they are fixing while getting real-time coaching from their glasses as they work through an augmented reality (AR) interface, according to the company.
Another potential application for AR wearables is in the field of logistics. SAP is already developing an AR application for warehouse inventory, allowing employees to scan, identify or photograph inventory items through an interface on their eyeglasses similar to Google Glass.
Huge Market Potential
“The market for wearables is going to be huge,” said Martin. Although the execution of the sector’s potential has so far not yet been realized, the announcement by Salesforce.com represents a big step in the right direction. Devices such as smartwatches and heads-up displays represent “the logical next step for enterprise mobility in terms of what empowers workers and will give them the tools to make them more productive.”
The key value that wearables can bring to enterprise IT departments is task-on-time efficiency, a measure of how much time an employee spends focused on a task as opposed to time spent operating or managing the tools used for the task, Martin said.
According to research by IDC published earlier this year, the global market for wearable devices is expected to boom, with sales forecast to surpass 19 million units in 2014, more than triple the number of sales in 2013. Growth is expected to be even more impressive in the coming years.
"By 2017, wearable devices will drive 50 percent of total mobile app interactions," said Roxane Edjlali, research director, Gartner Inc. in a report published in May. "Mobile app data is often siloed, and IT leaders will find data from apps that use cloud-based information repositories even more diffuse."
“We definitely see potential for wearables in the enterprise [sector],” Nick Spencer, Senior Practice Director for Mobile Devices and Wearables with ABI Research, told us. The potential demand for smart glasses in the public sector for personnel such as police officers, is particularly interesting, he said.
"It's definitely important to point out that its still early days for the [wearable enterprise device] market," The 451 Group's Martin added. "But the fact that a company like Salesforce is working on it suggests that others will be entering the mix."