Salesforce.com sees wearables catching on with customers, partners

Wearable apps aimed at business use will be a big part of Salesforce.com's upcoming Dreamforce conference

A few months after launching a developer toolkit for writing apps that run on wearable devices, Salesforce.com says the concept is gaining traction with customers and partners.

The initiative, which is called Wear, launched with a number of hardware partners, including Google, Philips, Samsung and Fitbit. Now Epson, Jawbone, Meta, Oculus and Vuzix have joined the party, Salesforce.com said in an announcement Thursday.

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While much of the interest in wearables to date has centered on consumer applications, there's a wealth of potential for the enterprise as well, said Daniel Debow, senior vice president of emerging technologies at Salesforce.com.

To that end, a number of Salesforce.com partners are building wearable apps aimed at business uses, such as the one APX-Labs has created for field-service workers. It runs on Google Glass and similar devices, giving technicians the ability to create trouble tickets with voice commands, gain access to a machine's repair history and receive real-time multimedia training on how to make a fix, among other things.

Another new app by ClickSoftware gives workers a way to track and manage their shifts on their smartwatches.

Meanwhile, Proximity Insight has developed an application for the hospitality industry that uses Android Wear to alert staffers that an important customer is nearby, giving them the ability to provide special attention.

These applications and a number of others will be generally available within roughly a month, according to Debow. Salesforce.com is also planning to make wearables a big part of its annual Dreamforce conference in San Francisco next month.

While Salesforce.com so far has left wearable app development largely to its partners, that's by design, Debow said.

"The first thing we're doing is learning, first from our ISV partners," he said. "We're watching what they're doing, we're co-building with them, we're supporting them."

Salesforce.com field representatives have also been demonstrating partner applications to customers, helping the company figure out what types of scenarios are in demand.

The vendor is also putting additional platform enhancements for wearables on its internal road map, Debow said. While it's not announcing any native wearable applications of its own just yet, "stay tuned," he added.

Salesforce.com may be wise to jump on the wearables bandwagon. While it had already adopted a "mobile-first" approach to software development, those efforts have centered on tablet and smartphone screens. Earlier this year, Gartner predicted that wearables will be responsible for "50 percent of total mobile app interactions" by 2017.

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris' email address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com

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