Look around and you’re seeing more people walking around with things like Fitbits, Samsung Gears, and other devices wrapped around their wrists. And if the adoption of iPhones and iPads are any indicator, you have to wonder how wearable technology adoption will accelerate when Apple’s hotly anticipated watch becomes available early next year.
We know by looking back that, while consumer applications are the first to build on these new devices, business applications eventually follow. Which is why Jeremy Roche, CEO of back-office application provider FinancialForce, decided the time is now to begin developing business applications that run on things like Samsung’s Gear watches and Google Glass. We ask him why now is the time to start looking at these devices from a business and customer engagement perspective. (This transcript has been edited for publication. To hear audio of the full interview, click on the audio player at the end of this article.)
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Small Business Trends: Can you tell us a little bit about your personal background?
Jeremy Roche: I’m from the UK, and I had the pleasure of getting the opportunity to create FinancialForce as a new company back in September 2009.
Small Business Trends: Tell us what you do at FinancialForce.
Jeremy Roche: We build back office applications in the cloud. We specialize in taking sales transactions and turning them into real business information. Whether that’s from billing through to accounting, managing the sale of goods or shipping products, through to managing professional services teams, and managing what we call human capital or employee success, which is what traditionally you’d know as HR.
So it’s managing the people in a business, and managing the business processes that go beyond the point of sale.
Small Business Trends: I saw an article around what you guys did at FinancialForce – starting to experiment with business apps for wearable devices. Why did you decide to start looking at things like smartwatches and Google Glass from a business app perspective?
Jeremy Roche: A few years ago, if somebody had told me that by August this year, over 55% of global Internet traffic would actually be generated by hand-held devices, mobile devices, then I probably would have questioned that. What we’ve seen is this enormous rise in the way transactions are created globally using mobile technology.
Now we’re starting to see the emergence of wearable technology. The way I look at it is, we don’t know exactly where that’s going to go yet. But we do know it’s being invested in by a lot of large organizations. And chances are that over time, more and more transactions of one sort or another will take place through wearable devices.
We set out to prove that using our cloud, and technology we use from our partner, Salesforce. Using Google APIs and technologies being shipped in things like Samsung watches, we set out to prove we could link our applications seamlessly to those wearable devices. And that we could create an environment where a meaningful transaction could be processed on a device with either a very small or extremely small screen.
Small Business Trends: What kind of use case is there for creating business apps for something like Google Glass?
Jeremy Roche: One of the early ones we produced for Google Glass was approvals of requisitions and orders. Because of the way Glass projects, you’ve actually got a bigger viewing area for the transactions. We’ve also experimented with areas like stock and inventory control. Now you can envisage people in a warehouse potentially wearing Glass to go looking for items.
One of the things we looked at was if you’re having a meeting, it’s relatively socially unacceptable to pull your laptop out in the middle of a meeting and start reacting to something. Or at the dinner table, it’s slightly less socially acceptable to pull out your smartphone. It’s actually relatively acceptable to glance at your watch, and if your watch is giving you a piece of information you need to take action on, that can actually be quite useful.
Now there’s a certain amount of evolvement needed before we’ll all sit around the dining table wearing Google Glass. But it’s a fascinating technology to play with. If it hits the mainstream, and becomes an affordable consumer technology, you will start to see it take off.
Small Business Trends: You mention Apple. They announced they’re coming out with their watch. We all know when Apple does something, it gets people’s attention and it typically accelerates the adoption and the interest level. How quickly do businesses like yours start developing apps for business people to use in their day-to-day routine when Apple’s watch hits?
Jeremy Roche: If you look at the case of using smartwatches, for example, we were using Salesforce and Google APIs to do that. So we were actually consuming code provided by the platform manufacturers.
Assuming Apple will do the same, which every indication is they will, we’ll be able to consume those APIs in just the same way. The key thing here is, if people are publishing those APIs, and the platform we use for our applications is completely open, at that point you’re just relying on platforms talking to each other – and that’s what makes these fast and exciting.
Small Business Trends: Where can people learn more about what you guys are doing in general, but also even around this wearable technology stuff?
Jeremy Roche: Visit us at FinancialForce.com. On the site, if you go to the media section, you’ll see some example videos of the wearable stuff in action.
(This transcript has been edited for publication. To hear audio of the full interview, click on the audio player below.)
This is part of the One-on-One Interview series with thought leaders. The transcript has been edited for publication. If it's an audio or video interview, click on the embedded player above, or subscribe via iTunes or via Stitcher.