The Internet of Things (or, as Cisco likes to call it, the Internet of Everything) is apparently close to hitting that inflection point. Cloud giant Salesforce.com is not only talking about it (though they call it the Internet of Customers, based on the premise that every connected device is associated with a customer), they’ve released a software development kit to help their customers take advantage of it.
Specifically, Salesforce is targeting a subset of the Internet of Things: wearables, those devices such as smartwatches, fitness bands, and Google Glass that users wear rather than just carry.
Described by the company as the industry’s first initiative for wearables in the enterprise, Salesforce Wear will allow companies to use the Salesforce Platform on a variety of devices. They imagine customers in a casino wearing a wristband that, through its connection to Salesforce.com, lets staff know the person's credit limits, favourite games, and even their drink preferences. Hotel guests could be automatically checked in when they arrive, with the device serving as the room key. Sales people could glance at a smartwatch to check for approvals or alerts, rather than disturbing the flow of a meeting by referring to a laptop or smartphone. A remote support technician could view specs and schematics for the equipment he's working on, in real time, via Google Glass or equivalent.
The possibilities are endless. And the Salesforce Wear Developer Pack provides reference applications and tools to allow developers to tie their wearables apps to the Salesforce1 Platform. All of the reference apps are open source, and the Developer Pack is free to Salesforce CRM and Salesforce Platform licensees, a smart move, since it will induce non-customers to consider Salesforce when wearable devices appear on their radar.
The initial collection of supported devices and platforms gives developer lots to choose from. It includes support for:
- Android Wear, a version of the Android operating system designed for wearables such as smartwatches
- ARM processor family
- Fitbit fitness monitors
- Google Glass
- Myo from Thalmic, a gesture-controlled wearable to control devices with hand movement
- Nymi from Bionym, wearable identity authenticator to eliminate the need for passwords
- OMsignal, a biometric smartwear designed for fitness tracking
- Pebble smartwatch
- Philips, who offers sensor technologies and cloud-based services for wearable devices
- Samsung Gear 2, a Tizen-based smartwatch that delivers comprehensive notifications and call functionality directly to a user’s wrist
The Developer Pack contains six apps to begin with, one each for Google Glass, Android Wear, Samsung Gear 2, Bionym Nymi, Thalmic Myo, and Pebble smartwatch. Each reference app provides guidance so developers can generate their own secure, business-friendly software that takes advantage of the features of Salesforce.com.
This is not pie in the sky stuff. Disney is already proving wearables' worth with its RFID-equipped MagicBands. These personalized bracelets act as ride tickets, room keys, payment devices (if the customer chooses to associate a credit card), and can even give Goofy or Mickey a heads-up that the child he's interacting with is celebrating a birthday.
This means big bucks for Disney. Every moment saved by use of the bands is a moment in which the customer can be spending money at Disney parks and resorts. Every delighted child whose holiday is enhanced by a Happy Birthday from Mickey, or by being greeted by name by Donald Duck is a child who wants to come back and spend more time (and his or her parents' money) at Disney attractions. This system may have cost the company a lot to implement, but the returns will be huge.
We can, of course, count on what I call the Fonts Syndrome. When users first were able to choose the font for their documents, emails quickly began to resemble ransom notes as people mixed and matched with abandon. It's part of the adoption of any new technology. We will no doubt see all sorts of improbable apps as developers and vendors test the limits of the new technology, in terms of both what can be done, and what customers will adopt.
It should be fun.