WebRTC: The Answer to Scalability for Remote Video and Voice Services
(This article originall appeared in the Q3 2018 issue of INTERNET TELEPHONY magazine.)
As the technology commanded by the average web user improves – and as easy access to video and voice channels is culturally preparing us for ubiquitous face-to-face interactions – we may be looking at a renaissance in interpersonal communications.
For all the talk of chatbots and automated services nowadays, services and assistance delivered by real human beings via video are also experiencing increasing enthusiasm and adoption.
The video communications platform-as-a-service industry is poised to expand from a mere $44 million last year to $1.7 billion in 2020, according to IDC. This growth will be driven by technology that makes it simple to implement video communication, and by an array of industries ready to optimize by delivering person-to-person services instantaneously and irrespective of physical distances.
WebRTC is the open source project and API definition that allows for the implementation of real-time video and voice communication in browsers and apps. And it is a critical technological component helping to usher in this more connected world.
With the previously commonplace technologies, a business attempting to introduce video and voice communication with a high number of clients would quickly encounter issues with bandwidth and server-side processing. That made such solutions challenging to scale and maintain, and prohibitively expensive. At the same time, such solutions could have issues with the level of quality received when used by customers with less robust connectivity.
In contrast, WebRTC-based communication offers advantages that solve these issues of infrastructure and scalability. Because of WebRTC’s strength in establishing efficient peer-to-peer communications, the technology is capable of greatly reducing server-side load, which in turn yields terrific advantages in speed and performance when engaging in communications that are heavy on bandwidth – as video and voice often are. WebRTC also yields a reduction in the cost of providing communication services for the same reason, as voice and video calls are able to rely on peer-to-peer connectivity. These advantages make WebRTC-based solutions not only highly dependable from an infrastructure standpoint, but much more capable of scaling as well. For businesses utilizing these solutions that catch a wave of popularity and ride it to viral success, reliance on peer-to-peer ensures that the impact on service due to increased server-side stresses on bandwidth is a non-issue.
In a way, the peer-to-peer connections established by WebRTC-based video and voice solutions are a fair microcosm of how applications will use this technology. That same IDC report foresees widespread adoption of video and voice technology by businesses for internal communication, from multi-party videoconferencing to collaboration to unified communication (a signature and seamless user experience that can be accessed on any device).
Businesses also will continue to embrace the opportunity to provide one-touch video-based responsiveness for customer service needs, allowing customers to click a button on a website or within an app and instantly be able to both see and speak with a representative. This easy face-to-face communication will be at work in the sales department as well, with customers able to see and work with agents visually as they discuss their needs.
Banks – which are quickly transitioning from branch-based service to digital – are expected to utilize the technology to serve customers with complex needs, much in the way a client would sit across a desk from a representative in a previous era, but now from the comfort of home or wherever is most convenient. Similarly, doctors will again make house calls as they once did, but now through telehealth applications that allow for secure and confidential video communication between patients and doctors. Telehealth communication is predicted to improve not only efficiency in the health care system but also healthcare quality and outcomes, especially for those in areas with poor access. Finally, experts in other fields beyond medicine will use the technology to offer on-location visual assessments, making it possible to perform assisted repairs, appraisals, and other field services without the need to schedule an appointment and travel to a home or site.
With WebRTC at work behind the scenes to optimize bandwidth usage and allow for these ever-more-powerful communication solutions to function capably and scale as needed, the stage is set for a new world when it comes to how all of us interact, work together, and receive the services we require.
Alexey Aylarov is CEO of VoxImplant (www.voximplant.com).
Edited by Erik Linask