WebRTC World Feature Article

April 17, 2014

Exploring the Impact of WebRTC on Communications and Collaboration


Current Analysis recently held the second of its three webinars, “The Impact of WebRTC on Communications and Collaboration: Is There a Disturbance in the Force?” Tim Banting, principal analyst of collaboration and communications at Current Analysis, walked the audience through the “what is,” the “so what?” and the “what now?” of WebRTC. Check out some highlights below.

There are many reasons why the WebRTC hype is growing, but one thing is for sure; it’s hard to go anywhere, read any report or talk to anyone about the communications landscape without WebRTC popping up somewhere. Banting believes WebRTC will change the dynamics in the marketplace, creating both opportunities and threats.

What is WebRTC?

For those who are just catching up, we need to answer a vital question: What is WebRTC? WebRTC is an open-source API that was first introduced by Google in 2011. Its original goal was to deliver a standards-based media engine that was free and could reside in all available browsers. It was taken up by the W3C and IETF to develop standards. There are three main APIs within WebRTC: MediaStream, which gives access to webcams and microphones; RTCPeerConnection, which enables audio and video calls; and RTCDataChannel, which enables the peer-to-peer data transfers.

One of the biggest examples to display the potential of WebRTC is Amazon Mayday, and Banting was no exception. Amazon Mayday integrates video support to the customer service feature on the Kindle. Customer service agents can’t see end users, but they can see their screen and annotate different parts of it to help with tech support and answer any questions.

Banting also covered the ongoing video codec war between VP8 and H.264, and in turn, the next-generation codecs VP9 and H.265. He says until a mandate is reached, we’re likely to see vendors using plugins to fill the gap.

So what?

Banting explains that WebRTC delivers benefits to users, integrators and developers that have been less available in previous communications technologies. It’s open-source, for starters, so it’s free for all users and voice and video codecs are license-free. It also supports negotiation of media pipes and endpoints, offering efficient use of bandwidth and the best possible use of voice and video communication. WebRTC is a tool – not a UC solution, he emphasized.

Using WebRTC, vendors have less development time and easy cross-platform support. There are definitely some hurdles and challenges as the technology continues to develop, but the most important thing right now in the WebRTC community is getting people to understand and discuss the opportunities and potential of WebRTC. Banting also touched on some threats to WebRTC, such as Facebook developing its own VoIP capability after the acquisition of WhatsApp, and imagining that with a solution like Salesforce. There are also Apple and Microsoft to consider, as they have so far been mostly silent on WebRTC development so far.

What now?

Banting encourages developers and companies to show what can be done in the browser today. Why would a customer be interested in WebRTC? The more potential people can understand, the more discussion it will create and encourage. Banting gives more advice from a project management, marketing and developer perspective, so if you missed out on the first two renditions of the webinar, be sure to check in for round three on Friday, April 18 at 9 a.m. EST.

This is my second event this week hearing about the fundamentals, the potential and the hype of WebRTC. One thing that seems to be consistent is that while there is definitely a foundation of existing players (Banting cited forerunners like TokBox, Vidyo, GENBAND, Weemo, Eyeball Networks, Dialogic, AudioCodes, BlueJeans, UberConference and CafeX Communciations) leading the growth of WebRTC, there is still a lot of awareness left to be generated. There are also questions about why WebRTC is even necessary – what is so bad about plugins, anyway?

As Lisa Larson-Kelley explained in her WebRTC Meetup presentation this week, the ‘killer’ WebRTC app will be something so integrated into our daily lives that will make something easier, more productive and more seamless. One interesting potential use case that was brought up in the Current Analysis webinar was about emergency and e911 regulations. Surprisingly, that is an area that has not generated discussion or buzz yet, but it’s one of the most interesting questions I’ve heard about WebRTC so far in terms of use cases and regulations. Most other industries that are expected to see disruption from WebRTC include the contact center (Amazon Mayday example), education (distance learning), healthcare (remote patient monitoring, communication) and social networking (online dating, meeting, communicating).

If you want to learn more about WebRTC, we’ll be covering all of these opportunities, questions, challenges and potential in June at the Cobbs Galleria in Atlanta, Ga. June 17-19. Speakers represent companies such as Google, Mozilla, TokBox, Avaya, Bistri, Cisco, Dialogic, OnSIP, Temasys, Weemo, Vidyo and more. Visit the conference website to learn more. 




Edited by Alisen Downey




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