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Salesforce.com: Let's Build Apps For Wearables

Salesforce.com announces Salesforce Wear, a developer platform for wearable devices such as Google Glass and Samsung Gear.

In an effort to stay ahead of the mobile curve, Salesforce.com has unveiled Salesforce Wear.

"Wear" is an app development platform containing reference apps, demos, open-source code, and other documentation that can be used to develop apps for six wearable device types.

The two most well-known devices on the Salesforce Wear platform are the Samsung Gear 2 smartwatch and Google Glass. But it also includes the Pebble smartwatch, the MYO gesture control armband from Thalmic Labs, devices using Android Wear, and the Bionym Nymi wristband that ditches passwords and recognizes you based on your heart's cardiac rhythm. Semiconductor and software design company ARM is also a partner in the Salesforce Wear ecosystem.

[Enterprise wearable devices will offer more immediate value than BYOD programs. Read Enterprise Wearables Will Avoid BYOD Pitfalls.]

The heart of Salesforce Wear is a collection of open-source reference apps -- called the "Salesforce Wear Developer Pack" -- that helps developers build wearable apps that connect to the company's Salesforce1 mobile app platform. The "reference apps" provide examples of how Salesforce built apps for the aforementioned wearable device types. The company makes the code open source for developers to learn from and then use to build their own enterprise apps.

It's no secret at this point that wearable devices are popping up quickly and creating new ways for businesses to connect with customers and employees. Research firm IHS predicts that roughly 50 million wearable units will be sold in 2014, and more than 180 million are predicted to sell in 2018.

But developing for wearables remains difficult, admits Daniel Debow, Salesforce.com senior VP of emerging technologies, because "they all have different form factors, different screens, and different processing power. Some require a connection with a smartphone, some don't."

With the Salesforce Wear platform, added Debow, "we want to take care of some of the plumbing and make it easier for developers to design, build, and deploy secure business apps and connect wearable devices to the Salesforce.com platform. We give people starter code that they can modify and use for themselves."

One example of a Salesforce Wear reference app is "Today," a sales productivity app Salesforce built for the Samsung Gear 2 that schedules meetings and provides at-a-glance information about who's attending and what topics will be covered. For the Pebble smartwatch, Salesforce Wear provides a reference app for Web traffic and sales analytics. For Google Glass, Salesforce Wear provides a reference app for field service workers.

"By focusing on glasses and watches, Salesforce is going after the most likely business scenarios," said Forrester analyst and VP Ted Schadler. "The Wear initiative should help Salesforce in two areas where it needs to expand: getting more employees using Salesforce products and creating more mobile engagement during the workday."

Debow said Salesforce Wear's library of devices, demos, and reference apps will continue to grow as more wearable devices become available.

Forrester analyst J.P. Gownder said that Salesforce was wise to launch a platform that works with six device types because the wearables market is quickly becoming diverse, and it's important to spread out compatibility.

"It's a pretty mature platform for such a young space like wearables," said Gownder. "Ultimately, it should deepen Salesforce's relationship with its customers."

Developers do not have to be paying Salesforce customers to use Salesforce Wear. They can sign up for a free Developer Edition to test the reference apps and review the underlying code. However, if they wish to build and release an app for production use based on any of the reference apps, they'll need to be a paying Salesforce1 customer.

Salesforce Wear is now generally available and included with all user licenses of Salesforce CRM and the Salesforce Platform.

Too many companies treat digital and mobile strategies as pet projects. Here are four ideas to shake up your company. Also in the Digital Disruption issue of InformationWeek: Six enduring truths about selecting enterprise software. (Free registration required.)