WebRTC Expert Feature

December 05, 2014

WebRTC in the Contact Center - Voice4Net Follows Unique Path

I spent some time this week with the Voice4Net team and had an opportunity to see how they are using WebRTC.  Rich McFarlane, Vocie4Net CEO talked to where the company is coming from and where they are going with WebRTC and Web-based technologies. Voice4Net has been building a set of custom interaction components for a number of years. They specialize in more component and custom developments, for certain verticals and through channels for vendors like Mitel.

It is generally agreed that there are two major applications of WebRTC in the contact center, first as a customer’s client enabling clientless interactions form the customer, and second as a an agent enablement tool to allow agents to operate without a download or client app. Vocie4Net has stepped even farther back, focusing on using Web technologies and mash-ups to create a potentially transformational agent and supervisor experience first, and worrying about WebRTC voice and video second. 

While the announcements they are making are positioned around WebRTC, it is really just a component in a larger strategy to change the way a comprehensive contact center is deployed. The new solution starts with a gateway software platform called the “RTC gateway Server”. This can provide SIP to WebRTC translations, but it also functions as both the CTI interface as well as the back-end interaction engine for things like database SQL reads. The new client that Rich refers to as a “Zero Client” is merely a browser running Chrome. The key to this new architecture is a screen designer called the “RTC Desktop designer” that allows a very quick mash-up to create the desktop experience for both users and supervisors. Using a simple drag and drop with a library of widgets, it is easy to create the right set of desktop tools for each type of user. The key to this is that all of the experience widgets are actually Web objects and are pushed to the client browser as JavaScript. 

The first key use of WebRTC is that all of these desktop widgets use a common WebRTC data channel to send and receive data back to the RTC Gateway Server. One of the widgets is the ability to see all of the other agents and their presence. After this widget is dragged and dropped onto the template in the designer, an agent or supervisor receives that browser page image, each agent is shown including presence information. Presence status information is sent form the server to the client though the WebRTC data channel. Similarly, when a screen pop with Salesforce data is dropped into the screen, the data to populate that widget on an agent desktop is sent through the data channel. While WebRTC is not used for actual media traffic from customers in this early implementation, it can be used between agents.

Today, Voice4Net is focused on delivering this capability to enable contact centers to rapidly integrate the functions of the widgets, with the primary interface from the RTC gateway to a PBX for CTI.  In this case, the PBX is providing ACD functions and real time voice is still realized through the PBX connected phones. The next step is the enable the RTC Gateway to run the Voice4Net ACD software. The client will then get WebRTC real-time audio and video.  At this point, the actual media can run from the PBX to the RTC Gateway, be serviced by the Voice4Net ACD and distributed to the agent over WebRTC. Now the entire contact Center functions has been moved out from the PBX (or key system) to the Voice4Net solution. Additional modules can be added for other functions as well.

The key advantage of running traffic through the PBX is that a single trunk can be used for both DID traffic and contact center traffic. For environments where DID traffic is not important or even required, SIP trunks can be routed directly to the RTC Gateway.  This solution can be used for new verticals applications, such as healthcare.

It is of note that while all of the focus of Voice4Net at this point is on using the Web and WebRTC to reduce the complexity of providing advanced tools, it also is the foundation for the integration of WebRTC into the client experience. Using tools already in the portfolio, the integration of the solution to a click from a Web page is anticipated as relatively easy.

Voice4Net is also focused on the tools necessary for Work Force Optimization in the new environment where customers are coming into the contact center from the Web site with rich contextual information.  IN fact, one of the widgets that the team showed was a tracking of interactions causes, a greater intimal tool for tracking why users are leaving the web site and going to the contact center.

The key to this development is using the full array of Web paradigms and programming abstractions to reduce the complexity and cost of providing advanced tools to smaller contact centers. The typical Voice4Net contact center is somewhere in the 50-300 set range.  In this size environment, the cost of customizing tools and process flow can be prohibitive. Voice4Net believes their new architecture, with HTML, WebRTC, JavaScript, and pre-designed widgets, can reduce the cost of implementation of advanced contact center functionality by an order of magnitude or more. If the cost can be reduced from $410K to 100K for a 50 seat contact center, the ability to implement goes up dramatically. This trend is definitely one to watch as how contact centers, the Web, and WebRTC change the market. 

Edited by Maurice Nagle


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