Is Your Business Ready for Wearable Tech?

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Salesforce has announced Salesforce Wear, which it bills as an initiative for “wearable computing in the enterprise.” In theory, the platform will allow developers to build enterprise-centric applications for a variety of wearable devices, including the Samsung Gear (a smartwatch), Android Wear, and Google Glass. (A full list is available here.)

Salesforce’s motive here seems pretty obvious: By releasing an enterprise-centric development kit for wearable electronics—one that focuses on Salesforce software, no less—it can gain a head start on what could become a white-hot market. The Salesforce SDK in conjunction with Google Glass, for example, could give workers the ability to work through checklists and processes via commands that display on the headset’s built-in screen, all while sending point-of-view video back to colleagues or a company’s database.

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But will wearable electronics become an ultra-popular category on the scale of tablets and smartphones? Within the tech industry, there’s an expectation that smartwatches, smart bracelets, and Web-connected headgear will indeed evolve into the next big thing; in a recent survey by Dice, 30 percent of tech pros (including software engineers, network administrators, DBAs and tech support) thought that wearable electronics would eclipse the Internet of Things, drones and robots, and biomedical as the hottest innovation of the next few years.

In the real world, however, that expectation has yet to bear fruit: Some 30 percent of those customers who’d purchased the first generation of the Samsung Gear returned the device, according to an internal memo between Samsung and Best Buy obtained by Geek.com. In April, Nike reportedly dismissed many of the employees associated with its FuelBand, although it denied plans to shut down the initiative entirely; many in the tech press took that news as a sign that the device was underperforming on the market.

If wearable electronics don’t succeed as a consumer accessory, it seems unlikely they’ll find widespread use in an enterprise context: If nobody’s checking their email or schedule on a smartwatch or pair of Google Glass, IT departments will have precious little reason to support such hardware; if only a few thousand people purchase the latest iteration of a smart bracelet, developers will have zero incentive to build apps that aggregate or display data from that device. In that case, the only bastion of wearable-electronics use will be highly specialized industries—not nearly enough to support the hopes of all those hardware and software builders out there.

In any case, if Salesforce has released an SDK, can other enterprise-centric companies be far behind? For most developers, it might prove premature to shift resources to wearable electronics (especially if they don’t have resources to spare); but the segment is still worth keeping an eye on.

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