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Cloud-based customer relationship management vendor Salesforce is counting on the emerging wearable technology market to blossom and put its productivity applications in the hands—or rather, on the wrists—of field staff everywhere.

Lindsey Irvine, global director of strategic partnerships and business development, who heads up the wearables program at Salesforce, said that 79 per cent of executives from companies using or piloting wearable technology described it as “a priority” for their future business strategy. She compared the burgeoning wearables market to the early days of the smart—smart phones didn’t get smart until there was software to run on them.

“It’s not about the device, it’s about the applications,” Irvine said.

To kickstart the wearables application market, Salesforce last week announced a bundle of 20 new applications that run on the Apple Watch. Salesforce was a wearables keynote partner at Apple’s March conference, where Apple’s vice-president of technology, Tim Lynch, offered a sneak peek at Salesforce analytics technology running on a smart watch.

Salesforce’s survey also reveled that 76 per cent of early adopters were claiming an increase in productivity, and 86 per cent plan to invest more in wearable technology.

Much like the smart phone market, the wearable technology market is undergoing a splintering of platforms. Though according to survey results companies expected smart watches to lead the way in enterprise impact, smart lanyards, optical products like Google Glass, fitness bands, smart cameras and more are also entering the marketplace. Irvine again made the smart phone analogy in an interview, comparing to the variety of smart phone platforms and the need to develop for all of them.

“That’s a lot of heavy lift for the ecosystem,” she said. It also plays to Salesforce’s hand, she said, claiming the platform is faster and simpler to bring apps to market for its snetwork of four million developers.

It’s important to note that interaction with wearables is unlike interaction with smart phones or laptops; it’s a matter of seconds, not minutes, and the interface is more dependent of Siri-style voice technology, Irvine said.

Irvine highlighted three of the apps from the bundle of 20 announced last week.

* ClickSoftware’s FieldExpert app is a scheduling application designed for mobile workforces that allows them to view and optimize daily schedules, not just in the context of their geographic location, ut those of their colleagues. It also allows field reps to let customers know when their estimated time of arrival is, so they needn’t block off a noon-to-five window for a technician’s visit.

* TaskRay by Bracket Labs offers up-to-date project management functionality, letting users keep track of the status of tasks at a glance and allowing them to speak updates into the watch to keep other team members apprised of changes in status. The voice memo is converted to text and synced with the Salesforce backend.

* The Vlocity Wear app keeps sales reps up-to-date on their clients’ status. For example, if an issue for a client comes up after the rep has left the office, the app will notify him or her of the change. Likewise, the rep can perform customer maintenance tasks from the device; for example, Irvine says, if a customer complains he or she hasn’t received an invoice, the rep can order the invoice, create new orders and update case files from the device.

Other partners developing apps for Salesforce on the Apple Watch include Alpine Metrics, Apttus, BetterWorks, BrainHearts, Fairsail, FinancialForce.com, Footprints Mobile Data, HeyWire, InsideSales, NewVoiceMedia, Point of Reference, Proximity Insight, Remedyforce, Sage, ServiceMax, Skedulo, and TeamSpirit.

While more sophisticated apps are under development, Salesforce Research notes, the main use cases now are fairly simple work process supplications. Among users surveyed, the most common application was workplace security access (23 per cent), followed by employee time management (20 per cent) and employee communication (20 per cent).



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