How Salesforce plans to bring the wearable tech craze to the enterprise

“This is as much a platform for business as the smartphone was”

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Woman wearing Google Glass

(Google)

Wearables are the tech world’s current darlings, with feverish speculation around the timing of Apple’s iWatch drop and several new devices being debuted earlier this year at the Consumer Electronics Show.

Most of the hype around wearables has been about consumer electronics, however. Now CRM and cloud computing giant Salesforce is the latest to jump on the bandwagon, with the release of Salesforce Wear, an open-source development kit designed to encourage developers and clients to build business apps for wearables in enterprise settings.

Daniel Debow, SVP of emerging technology at Salesforce

Daniel Debow (via LinkedIn)

According to Daniel Debow, Senior Vice-President of Emerging Technologies, wearables are the next wave of the mobile revolution but the market is still in its early stages, “This is as much a platform for business applications, for new uses, for productivity as the smartphone was,” he said. Debow discussed the company’s move into this nascent tech space and the challenges and opportunities he sees.


Canadian Business: Salesforce clearly believes the market for wearables is going to continue to grow, but do you think backlash to devices like Google Glass are going to pose a problem?

Daniel Debow: There’s always going to be social adaptation when new products come into place. We forget that when cellphones first came out, there was a huge hubbub. In fact people also said, “what am I going to use these for?” The same question [as wearables]. It was only real estate agents and drug dealers who used big, bulky cellphones. They got cheaper, they got better, they became more unobtrusive, and then they became part of the fabric of our social acceptance, we built social norms around them.

We’re talking about business use cases here. I don’t think anyone will look twice when you have a warehouse or manufacturing worker using Google Glass.

One of your case examples is a casino setup where a wristband would allow the casino to send over your favourite drink, or send you customized advertising. Some people would find the kind of environment you describe deeply disturbing.

The wonderful thing about the world is that reality tends to have good proof points. The theoretical example that you’re describing, it could be true. But you could go to Disney World and there are hundreds of thousands of people who are putting on these devices every day. That is mainstream America that’s going to Disney World. They’re experiencing that experience, and they think it’s worth it.

You’re right, there’s always going to be luddites and cantankerous people who don’t want new things to happen. There’s also going to be people who are rationally and reasonably concerned about those things, and that’s good.

That’s why we think connecting these devices to the Salesforce platform makes sense. The Salesforce platform is the most trusted cloud platform in the world. Our business it to get people to trust that we will take their data, manage it, and give it back to them in a more useful and meaningful way than they gave it to us; and we’ll keep it secure, and we’ll keep it transparently secure.

Your giving this developer kit away for free. How do you monetize it?

The Salesforce1 platform is an enormously powerful platform for building business applications. There are all sorts of consumer products and consumer experiences that are powered by Salesforce on the back end.

What we did was we gave the toolkit to build our products—our sales cloud, our services cloud, and our marketing cloud—years ago we opened it up so other people could use it. That platform business is a big business—a very big business.

To answer your question, how do we make money? If people build awesome business apps, and they want to scale them up and take advantage of our service cloud for example, then we generate recurring revenue, we generate service fees for the use of our platform.

Right now this is about catalyzing growth, it’s not as though we have a big number attached to this. It is early. I think our interest here is to learn.

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