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Sonus Networks: WebRTC Extends Unified Communications Beyond Boundaries

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October 24, 2013

Sonus Networks: WebRTC Extends Unified Communications Beyond Boundaries

By Rachel Ramsey
TMCnet Web Editor

Many people look at WebRTC in one of two ways: it’s hype, or it’s disruptive – the next game-changing technology in communications. Regardless of what you think, some things are definitely going to change, especially for end users, because of WebRTC developments. I caught up with Nancy Maluso, GM of communication applications business at Sonus Networks (News - Alert), to explore exactly what those things are.

Maluso noted she’s seeing WebRTC developments in four main areas:

  • Communication alternatives, building communication solutions based on WebRTC;
  • Tools to enable people to build WebRTC solutions;
  • Communication vendors (such as Sonus) providing connectivity between WebRTC and a backend system;
  • Building solutions into applications, such as interactive marketing tools.

There are also key areas in terms of industries and use cases to benefit from WebRTC, including the contact center, real-time social networking, healthcare, distance learning and gaming.

One of the key areas Maluso emphasized for WebRTC’s impact is healthcare. Think of the elderly, who can have an always-on camera that would be relatively inexpensive to install and maintain. That low cost, Maluso says, will change the paradigm for a lot of scenarios and use cases, because it doesn’t take a lot of horsepower to run a browser, and real-time, two-way communication adds a whole new level of interaction to many experiences. Another Sonus WebRTC advocate, Ingrid Temblay, wrote a blog post recently about an experience at the doctor’s office with her daughter, and how WebRTC would have contributed to a simplified experience.

Another area that Maluso thinks will be transformative that people tend to underplay is screen sharing, which is another big barrier for distance working. One of the biggest problems with relying on phone calls for some interactions is the need to actually look forms over, such as with banking and accounting. WebRTC will add a lot of value to these kinds of situations.

“I think the key theme here is all about context,” she said. “Whether it’s, ‘Can I get expert support’ or ‘Can I get someone from the manufacturer to support me,’ from the user’s perspective, what’s going to change is not that they’re communicating -- because they can do that today -- it’s that they’re going to do that in context, seamlessly.”

Context, and how the notion of context will change, is what Maluso is most excited to see with the development of WebRTC. She looks at it in terms of a productivity enhancer, by being able to take the capabilities on a UC platform, for example, and extend it to assisted apps. Putting communications in context with other applications, and allowing people to work more easily that way, extends UC beyond boundaries.

Maluso also brought up the sense of cultural anonymity that WebRTC will bring. For example, the idea that people can have phone conversations without providing a phone number, or communicate through a browser without having to download software that could scan or infect a computer.

“The belief by the users is that they’re going to have a lot of privacy. Even though they’re not sharing their phone numbers, mailing addresses and video numbers or downloading software, they are still sharing their IP address. So I think we’ll start to see people talking about clearing cookies, but from a user perspective, this idea that culturally they’re anonymous and yet can still get help is appealing, because we don’t want to be marketed to.”

One of the primary challenges we will see right away is companies figuring out how to integrate WebRTC with their backend systems, which is what Sonus is working on solving. The company is developing a WebRTC gateway that will translate Web to SIP, focus on security and allow for interworking and transcoding. It’s also looking at serviceability and usability for WebRTC – Maluso highlights some of TokBox’s (News - Alert) work in this area, but Sonus wants to be able to trace calls and figure out where problems are.

“The first things IT asks are, ‘How am I going to manage this?’ and ‘How do I troubleshoot?’ and those things haven’t been defined yet,” she said. But for environments where security and troubleshooting aren’t as critical, such as gaming, that’s where we can expect to see a lot of early adoption of WebRTC, because it’s people having fun and using the latest technology to start exploring use cases.

Maluso predicts we’ll continue to see this sort of dichotomy between the free, open world, and the “pay for it” world, similar to all the OTT apps that come in – there’s usually a free version, and then an option to pay for a more secure, professional version for companies.

Sonus also focuses a lot on policy and the relationship between policy and communications. It considers how routing, bandwidth and quality changes based on users and environments. One of the questions Sonus is working on answering is, “What is the role of policy in enabling those kinds of things to be set up in more effective ways?” There is a convergence of software-defined networking (SDN), virtualization and WebRTC in new ways, and Sonus aims to figure out how to enable policies to set these technologies up and use them effectively.

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Edited by Rory J. Thompson

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