The WebRTC standard isn't finalized yet, but that's not stopping vendors and service providers from offering the technology within new and existing products and services. The unfinished standard, which embeds real-time voice, text and video communications into a Web browser -- no plug-ins required -- is trickling into Web conferencing services, proving WebRTC-based UC is already a reality. As businesses start to build their own WebRTC applications, vendors are working on ways to focus on the all-important end-user experience.
"We've been talking enough about WebRTC for two years, and we're finally at the deployment stage. We are seeing an accelerating market, and it's time to get products out the door and start to use them," said Irwin Lazar, vice president and service director at Mokena, Ill.-based Nemertes Research Group Inc.
WebRTC applications and services
Enterprises are still in the early stages of figuring out how they will use WebRTC offerings , but Lazar is certain WebRTC adoption will begin in the contact center. "Enterprises will be looking to their contact center vendors to figure out what they need to enable customers to come in, and then what they'll need for security or gateways," he said.
New York City-based WebRTC startup CafeX Communications is helping businesses embed voice or video calling into their websites. "This ability to build call center applications that can screen share or push out content to customers is incredibly powerful, and this is going to be a huge push around that," Lazar said.
Other providers -- such as Twilio Inc. and Tropo -- offer technology that allows enterprise developers to write WebRTC-enabled Voice over IP (VoIP) and video applications for Web, desktop and mobile.
For businesses that don't want to write their own WebRTC applications, there are vendors and providers touting their own WebRTC-enabled products and services. Many video conferencing vendors and service providers -- such as Pexip and TenHands -- are now offering audio and Web conferencing without requiring users to download or install any plug-ins -- making cross-company collaboration infinitely easier for enterprises, Lazar said. "In fact, if you're a video conferencing vendor, and you don't have a WebRTC product out the door, you're behind," he said.
Ensuring a quality WebRTC experience
WebRTC isn't magic. The lightweight nature of the technology doesn't guarantee good user experience and quality of service (QoS). Ingate Systems, a Swedish network security and telecommunication equipment provider recently released Q-Turn, a feature on its session border controllers that ensures WebRTC video and audio QoS.
"WebRTC has the potential to make communications flatter -- and without a service provider in the middle -- but certain things have to be done to ensure that experience. There needs to be some quality of service implementation to avoid congestion," said Steven Johnson, president of Ingate.
Q-Turn allows enterprises to control the quality within their own local area network, and enables packet tracking for WebRTC communications.
The HelloSoft WebRTC engine from Imagination Technologies, a British IT provider, ensures a high-quality mobile WebRTC experience for enterprises who are building native or browser-based voice and video conferencing services, said Saraj Mudigonda, senior business development manager for Imagination. The software will work with enterprise session border controllers on the infrastructure side, but HelloSoft is actually a client-side offering that improves speaker phone functionality and voice and video experiences, even in difficult Wi-Fi environments, Mudigonda said.
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WebRTC and its impact on the enterprise
Even though WebRTC traffic is natively encrypted, many organizations are also trying to improve the security of the technology. Belgian VoIP provider Voxbone released a beta version of a WebRTC service that will allow enterprises and service providers to use Voxbone's global VoIP network instead of the Internet for WebRTC audio calling, said Hugh Goldstein, head of strategic partnerships and alliances at Voxbone.
"We have some value-add that we can contribute to WebRTC -- in quality of experience and security -- because we are very experienced already in delivering international VoIP calls," he said. "These improvements will help with adoption of the standard, which is still in flux because it's still evolving."
Enterprises -- especially customer-facing businesses -- want to take advantage of a wider range of communication channels, but also must keep costs and user experience in mind. "Some businesses want to wait until a new technology is more mature before they jump in," Goldstein said. "In the near term, delivering click-to-talk capabilities over a private network is a great way for customers to get their feet wet while managing their other concerns."