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Salesforce commits to giving machines social profiles

CEO Marc Benioff and VP of Platform Research Peter Coffee both pledge to create a market for machine collaboration

Salesforce.com is looking to create a market that enables machines to have social networks that interact with employees and customers, where one senior executive told Computerworld UK that the company is in talks with industry to "do more in depth work in this area very soon".

During CEO Marc Benioff's keynote speech last week, he talked about Salesforce's work with General Electric (GE) and said that he believed that the future of GE is 'around man-machine interface'. GE manufactures machines for a number of industries including aviation and energy.

"GE makes machines, they make CAT scanners, they make locomotives, aircraft engines etc. Those machines are becoming more and more intelligent and we want to have more information, more collaboration and more communication between those machines," said Benioff.

Benioff explained that GE had told him that it believes the future of its revenue and profitability is about becoming a great customer service company around the machines it produces. Salesforce pitched an idea to GE called 'GE-Share', which essentially allows engineers to communicate and collaborate with GE products.

"The key is that next generation aircraft engines, for example, have APIs and engineers will not only be able to work with those engines but be able to collaborate with them," he said.

"If they brought that information into a feed and had status updates, they could focus on specific posts from engines, they could bring in other GE engineers into that network and they could even bring in end-users into that network."

He added: "They then have a whole social network around an aircraft engine. They could make their products more tightly integrated with their employees, with their partners and with their customers."

Computerworld UK also spoke to VP of platform research at Salesforce, Peter Coffee, who has also recently been appointed as CTO of automotive, who rebuked claims that the Salesforce platform couldn't cope with the amount of data machines would generate.

During Benioff's keynote Forrester analyst Stefan Reid tweeted: "Does Salesforce.com really have a #Bigdata Strategy to handle volumes of machine events??? The platform can't deliver today!"

Coffee said: "It's really important to understand the breadth of the Salesforce platform today. Five years ago we were talking exclusively about the multi-tenanted Force.com architecture. However, with the acquisition of Heroku, we now have more of a full spectrum of capability."

"If you take MILYONI for example, they air full length motion pictures, packaged as Facebook social community experiences, running entirely on that platform. So, yeah, we can deliver the cycles."

Coffee told Computerworld UK that he is having conversations with a number of companies in the automotive industry, where Salesforce is hoping to work with 'infotainment' providers for car companies to make cars more interactive.

He said: "This is something we can do now and is something we are strategically committed to being able to do in more depth very soon."

Coffee described that automobile makers are looking to create an 'advanced CRM', which brings all the different mechanisms of marketing, customer service and support into one central application. However, argued that the car should also have its own social profile, which would include its history, what work has been done, how many owners it has had etc.

The finally layer, he explained, is the additional raw data that car makers are 'drowning in'. This comes from the car's diagnostic electronics, satellite navigation systems and other pre-installed tools.

"We have had these manufacturers come to us and say 'we know there has to be a way to create business value and customer experience enrichment from these data streams'," said Coffee.

"Salesforce has been telling them that they can set up a Hadoop warehouse on the Heroku platform in about three minutes. You can take all that in and then ask how you can use it all to enrich the driver."

However, Coffee did admit that this isn't Salesforce's market for the taking just yet.

He said: "The challenge is what the challenge always is for people entering a new market, people looking you up and down and saying 'who are you?' They will say 'we have been buying our automotive industry specific CRM from this company for years, what have you got to offer?'"

"Well for one thing Salesforce isn't a calcified model of the last thirty years of how to do CRM in the auto industry, we are how to do it tomorrow."

In other Dreamforce news, it was revealed that the National Health Service in the UK is in talks with the US government about how best to open up its public data for re-use.

Computerworld UK spoke to the US' deputy chief technology officer for government innovation, Chris Vein, who said that the UK government is effectively aiming to 'blow up' the NHS as it is currently structured and rebuild it, and plans are set to include opening up datasets.


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