Thursday 23 October 2014

Wearables at work? New app platform for manufacturers is betting big on gigabyte glasses

Published 04/09/2014 | 02:30

ShiftExpert
AlpineMetrics
ShiftExpert3

While the world waits to see whether Apple launches its expected smartwatch next Tuesday, hype around 'wearables' is hitting fever pitch. But so far, most attention has focused on consumer applications such as watches, glasses and fitness straps.

One of the business software world's most successful companies is trying another tack: wearables for enterprise. Salesforce.com has developed an application platform designed to allow manufacturers and other developers create bespoke apps for specific purposes.

But will it work? Absolutely, says the company's senior executive on platform development, Adam Spearing.

"As we look at the wearables space, we can see phenomenal growth," says Spearing. "In terms of growth, it's already outstripping growth in smartphones. Allied to this is that there will soon be trillions of things connected to the internet. Add the together and you get so many new ways for clients to connect to customers."

The company has a few specific examples of what it's talking about. Its platform now supports a reporting app for the Pebble Smartwatch to allow data junkies track information by glancing at the watch and connecting it to any report inside Salesforce.com.

It also supports a sales productivity app for the Samsung Gear which allows users check who is attending a meeting and gives some information about attendees. There are also service apps for Google Glass, notification apps for Android Wear (that alert managers to authorise or approve specific requests) and even an app for Canadian-created gesture control armband Myo, aimed at surgeons who need to manipulate images or patient records while in the operating room.

"We're actually seeing great uptake among manufacturers and developers in this," says Spearing.

"And that's because we are absolutely entering a wearables era. You have to see them adding value and making your life easier.

For example, when I get a large package delivered by courier or special delivery to my door or place of work, maybe it would speed things up if the delivery person could simply look at me and log my identity as a signature instead of me having to physically sign a number of forms in receipt of the package."

Such utility will surely need to come if wearables are to take off, say some experts. Wearables - and mobile devices in general -- suffer from one Achilles Heel: fashion. Even with all of their cool functionality, there are very few mobile devices that are considered 'cool'. Doesn't that impact an iPhone-touting corporate user as much as a consumer?

"If you look at a device given to an enterprise customer that is designed to do a specific job, the influence of fashion is probably lower than in consumer technology," says Spearing.

"That said,I I do think there'll be an influence in fashion. For example, if you look at the heart rate monitor market, they used to be clunky old bricks you wouldn't want to be seen in public with. Now they're attractive devices. I think we'll also see the same happen with likes of Google Glass."

Wearables are set to become as familiar as mobile devices for most people, Spearing thinks.

"With wearables, you have to think one step further," he says. "Your real estate is significantly reduced with wearables. It's going to become a natural extension for many people."

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