By Dean Manzoori
Real-Time Communications is on track to become a useful tool for real-world business communications and collaboration. WebRTC empowers organizations to embed communications capabilities – including voice calls, videoconferences, instant messaging, file sharing and business application integration – in desktop and mobile Web browsers. With WebRTC, users literally click a link, the browser opens, and a voice or video call can be up and running in seconds — all without needing to know recipients’ phone numbers or email addresses.
WebRTC was launched in Google’s development labs in 2011 and has big-name supporters, including Amazon, AT&T and Facebook. It’s integrated into Chrome, Firefox and Opera browsers and is poised to enable millions of Internet users to launch voice and video calls with no additional infrastructure, plug-ins or applications. Some 720 companies use WebRTC in products, and there have been 28 recent acquisitions of companies developing the technology, pointing to a healthy ecosystem.
Partners need to pay close attention because WebRTC may eliminate the need for on-premises communications solutions that operate over the PSTN and require software upgrades and maintenance contracts. It’s gaining traction among businesses because it delivers three essential productivity gains:
Agility: WebRTC makes quick work of adding communications features; businesses, customers and partners can initiate any type of communications they want with the click of a mouse.
Cost savings: That comes from dropping communications solutions that require hardware and software upgrades and maintenance contracts.
Persistence: WebRTC interactions are associated with particular customers, meaning conversations can be stored for future use and integrated with various business applications.
The technology is ready. You should be looking at ways to help customers incorporate it into their operations now.
5 Real-World WebRTC Use Cases
1. Sales: When customers are ready to engage with sales reps, do you want them hassling to find the right number, dealing with computerized voice-response systems and waiting for callbacks? Of course not. With WebRTC, they don’t have to. Instead, customers can initiate calls from their browsers and be connected in real time with the appropriate sales or service reps, who will have full access to the customer’s history. And, individual sales people can more easily conduct videoconferences that let customers see not only the salesperson’s face, but also slides, on-screen demos, videos and other supporting materials.
2. Customer service and support: Contact centers were among the first to adopt WebRTC, and for good reason. Agents can share their screen views with customers, while customers gain more flexibility and information. Amazon’s Mayday service is a good example. Users of the company’s Fire tablet simply swipe down from the top of their screens, and then tap the Mayday icon. Over any Wi-Fi network, they’re connected to an Amazon support person, who uses WebRTC capabilities to see their display, convey instructions and make changes to the user’s setup.
3. Video conferencing and video streaming: Imagine empowering customer with the ability to end a tiresome and frustrating email thread by quickly and easily launching a video conference. That kind of power has many companies excited. “WebRTC will revolutionize video conferencing as we know it,” says Mark Strassman, senior VP of industry and product management at ed-tech vendor Blackboard, which last year acquired WebRTC supplier Requestec.
4. Expert consultations: There’s a world of experts out there, but not all of whom are conveniently located. WebRTC enables experts to offer their services with video and voice, anywhere in the world. For example, LiveNinja offers what it calls a “simple video chat tool,” powered in part by WebRTC that it says will “humanize your online experience” for e-commerce, real estate and more.
5. Telehealth: Got health-care clients with patients who can’t get to the doctor, physical therapist or other health-care professional? No problem. Use WebRTC to initiate a telehealth session. Physicians can launch video calls to check on a patient’s progress and monitor vital signs provided by wearable technology. Retirement homes can connect elderly residents with live health-care consultations. And all can record the sessions for follow-up reference.
This is just the beginning. We are starting to see real-world WebRTC applications in gaming, social networks, content streaming and delivery, job interviews, online retail, global education, emergency services and even real-time language translation. The possibilities are virtually without limits.
Where to start? Video conferencing has been little more than a vague promise for many years now. Right back to 1964 when Bell Labs first showed its Picturephone, companies have been promising that video conferencing would change our lives. Now, it can. In most cases, personal video-conferencing services that make use of WebRTC operate on a monthly, pay-for-use model, offering plenty of scalability and agility.
WebRTC is democratizing rich communications in a simple but profound way. And, with so many people using mobile technology, the universe of those who are comfortable using video is expanding rapidly. If you’re not incorporating WebRTC into your customers’ organizations, you need to!
Dean Manzoori is vice president of product management for UCaaS at Masergy Communications. He brings over 25 years of IT experience in a variety of roles including operational management, strategic planning and business development. Dean holds a BSEE from California State University, Long Beach with Great Distinction and an MBA from Pepperdine University.