WebRTC World Feature Article

November 28, 2012

Making WebRTC Part of a Unified Communications World


Unlike many new technologies, WebRTC isn’t about new features and functions. Rather, it’s about making communications between people and groups easier and simpler. The idea is that by integrating communications capabilities directly into the browser experience, parties can be connected simply by providing and clicking on a URL that immediately adds them to the communications experience. 

There’s no question video is becoming a major part of the global communications environment. From personal to business communications, in fixed and mobile environments, video calling and conferencing are becoming an increasingly important means of communicating and collaborating in an always on, always connected world.  But, what good is any communications technology if you can’t use it to communicate easily with everyone else?  

The challenge, not only in video, but voice as well, has been interoperability between systems. How do you get your system to work seamlessly with those with whom you need to communicate?

Certainly, the evolution of SIP has made it easier to ensure interoperability, though it doesn’t come without its unique challenges. But, particularly in the video world, the lack of interop and prevalence of proprietary standards has led to lower use of video infrastructure with businesses getting less than optimal use of their investments, as well as increased use of peer-to-peer OTT applications, like Skype and Google Talk, which many businesses discourage for fear of security threats.

Of late, one of the key conversations in communications circles has been around WebRTC, a new technology that brings communication into the Web browser, effectively eliminating the challenges of system and endpoint interoperability.  Unlike many new technologies, WebRTC isn’t about new features and functions. Rather, it’s about making communications between people and groups easier and simpler. The idea is that by integrating communications capabilities directly into the browser experience, parties can be connected simply by providing and clicking on a URL that immediately adds them to the communications experience. 

But the challenge remains existing infrastructure. Businesses have made significant technology investments in unified communications solutions, including video MCUs and conferencing bridges, and there’s little chance they will be willing to forego a return on that investment.

“Businesses want to use their existing infrastructure, and they want to be able to bring people who aren’t on the same systems into their existing environments,” says Vidtel CEO Scott Wharton. “The real challenge in the video space is everyone is creating proprietary islands.”

But, he believes WebRTC can play a major role in driving video adoption across the corporate environment, while warning that, for all its promise, WebRTC can easily suffer the same fate, creating new islands of users that aren’t able to communicate with other technologies.

Back in June, Vidtel announced a universal video gateway designed to allow communication between users of different video systems, whether Skype, Google Talk, or proprietary video platforms from Cisco, Polycom, Vidtel’s MeetMe service, and others. The idea is to bridge the disparate islands of video communication and increasing the value users get from their video investments.

Today, it has taken the next step, announcing at WebRTC Expo in San Francisco that it has added WebRTC integration, allowing WebRTC users to connect natively with any other standards-based video communication service.


WebRTC Expo kicked off with a standing room only audience.

“Using the capability built into the browser, we now have a native clientless WebRTC gateway that works with existing enterprise video conferencing infrastructures,” says Wharton. “There is a tremendous existing unified communications install base, with hundreds of millions of users that who are not going to change anytime in the near future. We have brought them together with the new world of WebRTC users.”

The idea behind WebRTC is simplicity and ease of use for the user community by eliminating the hassle barrier that often can mean the difference between participation and not. Users don’t need to download a client or plugin, or log into a conference service; rather, they click on a link and are instantly connected. That simplicity has the potential to increase use significantly not only in the desktop environment, but also in the mobile world, where users demand ease of use more than anything. With a single click on a link, delivered via email, IM, or text message, users are instantly added to calls.

So, while it eliminates the necessity of being connected to corporate communications systems, it also allows businesses to more effectively leverage their existing infrastructure. The ease of use of WebRTC will allow them to include anyone in their sessions allowing more users to participate in collaborative exercises, increasing the business value of the experience, and also driving greater workplace efficiencies.  It also means the ability to add users without additional CAPEX.

The inevitable security and encryption question is answered by the use of HTTPS, which is already accepted by users in their personal lives for banking and online shopping. Security is always a question with Web-based communications, but by using an accepted and recognized security protocol, WebRTC provides a proven level of security that needs little explanation, as opposed to other proprietary alternatives. This also means its benefits can be quickly realized by security-conscious vertical markets, including healthcare, finance, government, and education.

What it all means is any organization – small or large, in any vertical, with any existing communications system – will be able to securely and easily extend its communications capabilities to an unlimited user base, enhancing their ability to connect with colleagues, customers, partners, suppliers, and anyone else who has access to a Web browser, which becomes the endpoint.

That means users can easily move between endpoints as the move between environments. It also means users have their choice of endpoints with which to participate. And it means businesses can extend their technology investments well into the future, while leveraging the latest communications technology to build their businesses and grow their brands.

In a world where users demand a positive experience, yet vendors often struggle to deliver it, WebRTC can be just another in the long list of communications endpoints that users can use to connect with some people in a WebRTC-to-WebRTC environment. Or, properly integrated into existing environments, it can become a very relevant part of the global communications infrastructure. Vidtel is pushing for the latter. In addition to supporting connections to H.323, SIP, Skype and Google Talk endpoints, its gateway now supports the latest version of Chrome, with Firefox support expected very shortly.

“The world is not harmonizing, which is OK in that you want to encourage people to innovate, but it’s not OK if you make communications too hard so that you can only work within your own little island,” concludes Wharton. “We are doing the opposite of that, taking those islands and allowing them work together better.”




Edited by Brooke Neuman




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