VoIP and the Internet of Things. Convergence is the Next Big Thing

Image: NASA / MTA - Flickr
Richard N. Block

Three days in June. WebRTC Summit, New York City heaps pressure on enterprise CPaaS vendors

Traditional (read: expensive and not-great) real-time communications solutions and services are continuing to face a disruptive challenge from the upstart WebRTC. This open-source effort to bring high-quality communications across browsers and platforms was made public in 2011, and since then, development has matured into a robust suite of protocols, codecs and APIs that have proven themselves in the enterprise.

A quick recap

Real-time communications (RTC) has traditionally required immense resources to build infrastructure and keep running. For this reason, RTC solutions have typically been confined to proprietary, stand-alone applications — think Skype, iMessage and Facetime, WhatsApp, etc.

Now, with the spread of RTC APIs, browsers are getting more and more capable of bridging users who want to communicate in real-time. Increasingly, users aren’t locked down by plugins, proprietary apps, or other software restrictions any more. As the 2017 WebRTC Summit website explains:

WebRTC (Web Real-Time Communication) is an open source project supported by Google, Mozilla and Opera that aims to enable browser-to-browser applications for voice calling, video chat, and P2P file sharing without plugins. Its mission is “To enable rich, high quality, RTC applications to be developed in the browser via simple Javascript APIs and HTML5.”

How this applies to the Internet of Things

It isn’t just text, voice, and video — users can send all manner of data this way.

New hardware APIs, including WebBluetooth, which enables web apps to communicate with certain Bluetooth devices, and WebUSB (allowing users to use USB devices with browser-based interfaces) which both take advantage of this. Users can use web interfaces to control their connected devices. And with Progressive Web Apps, this functionality lives on device home screens, and apps work regardless of network connection quality.

Want to send geolocation data, for example, peer-to-peer? It’s simple with WebRTC. So is text to speech. It simply enables cross-platform, web-based communications for any and all types of data, for all apps and from any type of connected device.

The summit

Major players in the WebRTC world will be gathering in New York City from June 6–8 to discuss issues surrounding WebRTC. Per the summit’s homepage, attendees will learn:

  • how WebRTC enables straightforward service provision. the pros and cons of WebRTC development in a business environment.
  • how to take WebRTC from “promising” to “reliable.”
  • how the data channel will change browsers in the future.
  • the ins and outs of WebRTC security, reliability, and compatibility within browsers and networks.
  • “what works, what doesn’t, and what’s next.”

Let’s hope too, that a key take-out is that businesses which are flexible with that standard, and use it fully are those which will really flourish.

The breakout rooms are also bound to be buzzin’ as keen, young entrants and old-hands get to grips with the fact that basically WebRTC is just one of many protocols that allows for endpoints to use voice. The “server” can weave these together into a multi-party call, if it is nimble enough.

1. PSTN (Dialed in)
2. WebRTC Browser on Desktop
3. SIP App on Android
4. PSTN (dialed-out)
5. Desktop App with Video

And, when we drill harder in to strict IoT convergence, it is time to really harness the opportunity being brought to the table by the emerging generation of lightweight skinned-browsers. Just throw one onto a Wifi enabled device (let’s say, Pooch’s dog-bowl, for example) and you can link to that WebRTC endpoint (if it has speakers and a receiver), and tell him how much you wuvs him.

Of course, your four-legged friend will temporarily throw a fit, but it’s high-time he learned some new tricks, too.

Yes, the walls have been breached; convergence between open-source, browser-based communication and the Internet of Things is on the march. “WebRTC is the future of browser-to-browser communications, and continues to make inroads into the traditional, difficult, plug-in web communications world,” booms the summit’s (1990s-vintage) homepage with no small measure of confidence.

As the Internet becomes integrated into more and more devices, and as cross-platform and cross-device communication becomes more and more of a necessity, WebRTC is set to gain more and more ground, and keep the pressure on enterprise CPaaS vendors.

Competitor pressure? Bring it on, guys!

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