SAN FRANCISCO: Salesforce has launched IoT Cloud in a bid to help its customers get a handle on all the data generated by the Internet of Things and put it into the hands of business users.
Salesforce IoT Cloud was unveiled at the start of the firm's annual Dreamforce user conference in San Francisco. It is designed to collect billions of events from smartphones, wearables and sensors, websites and applications, games consoles, thermostats and connected fleets of vehicles and connect this data to the Salesforce platform.
Salesforce gave the example of a smart thermostat company that might use the IoT Cloud to pull in data from the millions of homes around the world it is managing, including from mobile apps, weather forecasts, power grids and the thermostat itself.
Similarly, a retail firm might use a beacon to monitor when customers walk into shops. This could then alert the Salesforce IoT Cloud to trigger the sending of a money-off voucher to the customer's smartphone.
These streams of data would be combined to analyse whether there are any problems that need to be flagged, so in the example of the smart thermostat, whether that is a low battery or a WiFi problem, or even a storm coming in via the local weather forecast that could then send an update via the mobile app.
IoT Cloud runs on Salesforce's Thunder platform, which enables it to scale up to the processing required to manage these billions of events and the level of interaction required.
Tod Nielsen, executive vice president for App Cloud at Salesforce, explained that IoT Cloud has been released in response to the growing amounts of data and event information being generated but not acted on.
"It's possible now to generate a 1GB log file in one second, with all of the data and information. For companies, to find what they're looking for is the challenge. To find the proverbial needle in the haystack," he said.
Nielsen cited the example of an oil refinery, which recently found it was using only one percent of the data it collects.
"The Salesforce IoT Cloud is the system that will enable and transform the way companies access and engage with their customers and process all this data," he added.
Once the IoT Cloud has connected to all the different available data sources, whether a beacon or sensor, a clickstream or log file, it then applies logic and business rules to the data to "let firms define that needle in a haystack".
Firms can then match that information with other Salesforce applications and take action in response, for example triggering a Service Cloud request or pulling some information from the Marketing Cloud.
Nielsen was also keen to point out that IoT Cloud will be put firmly in the hands of business users, rather than specialist data scientists.
"Instead of constraining the ability to access this data to a limited set of resources and elite people, we said it's really important that we democratise the IoT and enable the masses to be able to process and get this information," he said.
"So the IoT Cloud is actually usable by mere mortals, by those closest to the business and customers."
However, before these mere mortals can get their hands on actionable data from the IoT Cloud, some integration work is required to get the IoT elements talking to the Salesforce platform.
"The real challenge with all these IoT devices is how you connect to all the different devices that are out there," Nielsen said.
"I expect there'll be an ecosystem of providers that will provide data connections to the IoT Cloud. So a customer will be able to say: ‘I want to be able to connect to this and this' and then get the integration they're looking for."
Out of the box, there is no link between the IoT element and the Salesforce platform. "It will take some coding to make that connection," Nielsen acknowledged, adding that the base product provides the ability to have data connections to all the Salesforce Clouds along with some standard connections to very popular devices that Salesforce discovers during the pilot.
ARM, Informatica and Xively LogMeln have all signed up as launch partners for the Salesforce IoT Cloud, aiming to offer the integration link for interested customers.
Paddy Srinivasan, Xively vice president & head of products, said the partnership will help customers speed up the rollout of IoT data projects.
"We will be a platform between Salesforce's IoT Cloud and connected devices, making it easy to integrate devices into Salesforce. Our team brings the expertise on what it takes for a company to create a connected product and will help Salesforce's partners fast-track IoT projects," he explained.
IoT Cloud will be available as a pilot programme in the first half of 2016, with general availability and pricing details due in the second half of next year.
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