Salesforce Launches Internet of Things Cloud

The company is diving head-first into the smart city market.

by / September 15, 2015
Salesforce Internet of Things Cloud CIO Adam Bosworth says the new cloud will solve big data problems for big and small companies alike. Jason Shueh

SAN FRANCISCO -- Salesforce has made two major announcements for civic innovators.

The cloud CRM provider unveiled plans to launch an Internet of Things (IoT) Cloud for smart devices and has officially added its Wave Analytics platform, released last year, to its government cloud offerings.

News came Sept. 15 at Dreamforce, the tech giant’s annual industry conference. Built on its “Thunder” platform, the IoT cloud is expected to court both large and small companies, and boasts analytics that are said to be powerful enough to interpret billions of data points from all types of devices and data streams in real time. With this move into IoT, the company is poised to become a possible smart city solutions provider, placing it in direct competition with such companies as IBM and Cisco.

In an afternoon session, Salesforce IoT Cloud CIO Adam Bosworth said the genesis of the platform came from a new kind of expectation from consumers, one that asks for responsive services in exchange for personal data. Bosworth cited Amazon as an example of one such intelligent offering; the company's ability to instantly detect damaged goods and notify customers that a new shipment is already on its way is part of this new shift. Other examples include the Google app that makes suggestions based on location and search history and Nest, the remote thermostat that automates home heating and cooling based on usage and environmental factors.

"Now the world is changing very dramatically, for we've become not only a world of proactive engagement, but a world that, as much as possible, is about automated proactive engagement,” Bosworth said.

With the Internet of Things, Salesforce sees the need for a cloud capable of not only chronicling vast surges of diverse data, but simultaneously analyzing big data and reacting to it in real time. The task is a huge feat of engineering that hopes to take on the burden of heavy research and development and — as Salesforce has been known to do in CRM — create a scalable and user-friendly solution for customers. The cloud software tool is driven by Heroku, a company acquired in in 2010 that helps to filter, search and format large data sets.

In a live demo, Dylan Steele, the senior director of product marketing for the Salesforce App Cloud, showed how users could easily create rules and triggers for data trends from different devices. If a smart thermostat went offline for a prolonged time, users might set a rule triggering the device to be reset. If a car showed signs of potential mechanical issues, notifications could be added for a motorist and his local mechanic.

“There are essentially no limits,” Bosworth said, speaking of potential devices, data streams and apps that could be used.

Presenting at the session, Emerson CIO Todd Finders identified the company as one of the first that will pilot the software this year. Finders said it sought out the service to be more competitive against Silicon Valley powerhouses in the connected home market, and the big data IoT solution would dually help to scale Emerson's product lines while possibly opening up new business models — such as in the utility and energy sector.

“This really is a push into the end customer space,” Finders said.

And when it comes to startups, Bosworth said in a follow up interview with Government Technology that while large enterprises would likely represent a majority of first customers, the IoT cloud would be accessible at the startup level as early as the second half of 2016.

Jason Shueh former staff writer

Jason Shueh is a former staff writer for Government Technology magazine.