The WebRTC Conference and Expo is taking place later this month in San Francisco. To highlight this technology, we recently spoke with Sajeel Hussain, vice president of product management and marketing at Thrupoint. David Jodoin, Thrupoint’s chief innovation officer, will be among the speakers at WebRTC Nov. 27-29.
Thrupoint is doing early development with enterprises around RTC. Please tell us more.
Hussain: Over the last year we have been focused on developing a SIP-WebRTC gateway (SWIS), RTP proxy, and have developed innovative WebRTC-based application mash ups of Web-based applications. The SWIS extends WebRTC to SIP environments across UC vendors. The RTP proxy converts between WebRTC RTP streams and RTP flows of SIP entities. When coupled with our Thrupoint Service Broker (session management) technology, we are able to address a number of use cases around SIP and WebRTC interoperability. Here are some examples from some of our recent enterprise engagements, including several Fortune 100 firms primarily in the financial services vertical.
- Private banking: [This gives] high net worth clients a unified UC experience on tablet devices with rich communication capabilities. Clients can see presence status of financial advisors and initiate IM chat, voice call, full screen H.264 video call or n-way conference. File sharing, non-persistent data streaming and visual voicemail are also rendered through this single interface. Voice and video are provided by Thrupoint’s SWIS and RTP proxy, and the tablet application leverages existing enterprise services for IM, presence, conferencing, etc. This is also relevant for the healthcare sector to do with physician-patient interactions.
- Virtual Support Portal (e.g. Apple Genius Bar): A user navigates to a company’s support portal and initiates a browser-based voice or video call with an agent. The agent then activates co-browsing so that the agent can highlight specific information and links on the user’s browser display, share control with the user for navigation through links on the user’s browser pages, and push helpful content to the user’s browser display for immediate download.
- Retail branch of the future: [This involves] federation of WebRTC with existing video and contact center infrastructure to provide a collaborative B2C experience. Consumers can engage in browser-based real-time communication with remote enterprise experts. Capabilities include voice, video, ad-hoc Web collaboration for information presentation, plus co-browsing with shared control and a content drop/push mechanism for live assistance. Scenarios include video kiosks, mobile banking, and virtual tellers.
There are several other use cases including: Real-time integration with social apps, Salesforce integration, enhanced customer service, UC on VDI, ubiquitous voice and video, etc.
How will WebRTC impact UC and vendors in that space like Avaya, ShoreTel, etc.?
Hussain: In terms of WebRTC adoption, it appears traditional UC and PBX vendors are showing interest in WebRTC but are slow to react, relegating it to a roadmap innovation lab project. Their strategy appears to be able to support WebRTC to SIP integration in a future UC platform release, so general availability is still months away; customers will need to upgrade, and only platform specific SIP endpoints are likely to be supported for browser to device interactions.
In contrast to this slow and closed approach, vendors such as ourselves that don’t have a UC client, handset or PBX infrastructure business to protect can respond more quickly with open solutions that work across existing UC vendor platforms and devices. Companies can therefore adopt WebRTC rapidly without upgrading the underlying UC infrastructure. So, UC vendors may not be able to pull through upgrades as easily. Handset sales may be eroded as well, since WebRTC helps accelerate flex working on BYOD endpoints, even for VDI implementations. From a UC client perspective, vendors that offer static interfaces today (e.g. Lync) may be threatened by WebRTC’s power to serve up UC functions as easily customizable components within Web 2.0 applications, what we call UC mashups. Why buy a standalone UC client when what you really need are click-to-call and presence icons within your Saleforce app, right? Which brings up a bigger point, that WebRTC could help create the business benefits that UC vendors have been touting (but not delivering) for years. We are seeing UC vendors increasingly being viewed by IT as tactical providers of SIP plumbing, while early WebRTC adopters are considered more strategic and consultative, delivering solutions that drive tangible business value and process innovation.
How might WebRTC impact VoIP providers?
Hussain: VoIP providers that offer OTT services will be threatened by WebRTC. OTT services typically require a client download, user sign-in credentials, and don’t tend to support calls between different OTT services (e.g. Skype user can’t call a Tango user). WebRTC can eliminate all of these barriers with ubiquitous, clientless UC access within the browser. Furthermore, developers will be able to integrate real-time communication into Web pages far more rapidly and simply than with OTT services. Also, the business model that OTT providers have been following (reach as many users with compelling free services, lock them in and try to monetize with advertising, value-added services and PSTN connectivity) may be challenged by a similar but potentially more competitive offers from WebRTC providers, especially with the mass ecosystem of seb developers building all kinds of UC apps to address specific use cases. VoIP providers will be challenged to keep up from an innovation and new service delivery perspective.
Interestingly, we feel that WebRTC will also help level the playing field between service providers and VoIP OTT providers. True, slow moving traditional service providers may be no better off, but innovative providers may be able to create new value-added UC services far more rapidly than before, plus offer differentiated customer service (e.g. rich UC experience on company websites). We predict new revenue streams and an innovative UC application ecosystem for service providers that will help them compete more aggressively with OTT providers.
Any other comment on what is noteworthy about WebRTC, and what makes it meaningful?
Hussain: Cisco has talking about video as the new voice for years, but WebRTC could finally make video calling ubiquitous across devices and endpoints. WebRTC could also dramatically enhance Web advertising, since a user could simply click on an ad on a Web page to launch a voice or video session with the enterprise. WebRTC also helps drive a user-centric paradigm of communication, where users can consume the UC features they need customized for the apps they use, instead of being forced into an independent, static UC experience. With such a large developer community behind it the innovation potential is huge, solving use cases that can revolutionize the way business is done. WebRTC could also help bridge the gap between consumer and enterprise UC systems, giving everyone level access to a rich set of capabilities, so called democratization of communications.
Edited by Brooke Neuman