May 132015

Thanks to Dean Bubley and Phil Edholm for asking me to participate in the Beyond Video Conferencing panel at WebRTC Expo. It was a great discussion and I have been enjoying the follow-up conversations. For those of you that didn’t make it down to sunny Miami, hope to see you at a future WebRTC Expo event, and here is my presentation summary.

Younified Communications, not Unified Communications


You use pogo sticks, skis and delivery trucks for specific reasons. Or maybe you use none of them, but use other transportation “apps” or “services”. Would you ever want to “unify” your transportation to a lowest common denominator solution? You won’t do it with communication either. Unified communications, as commonly defined, looks great on paper but will rarely be seen in the wild.

Communication is actually getting more disunified, disparate and heterogeneous, thanks to WebRTC, pervasive Internet and the supercomputers in our pockets (aka phones). The only commonality is that You are in the center, using the best app or service for the job at hand.

I have over 10 communications apps right now on my phone alone that I use consistently:

  • Lync / Skype For Business – because it is the best for IM with my colleagues
  • Tivia - because it is the best for group communication (messaging, calendar, file share)
  • Phone – because it is one of the apps on this supercomputer ; )
  • Whatsapp – because some of my connections use it, and it avoids international roaming charges.
  • Jamvee – because it is the best for video conferencing and collaboration
  • Text messaging – because it is ubiquitous and simple
  • Hangouts- because I use it with certain people
  • Chrome mobile browser – because I use it to communicate via many websites
  • Outlook - work email
  • Gmail – all other email
  • Apps from Hertz, Marriott and Uber that could easily have RTC built in

I will have even more communications apps going forwards as apps continue to add integrated, contextual RTC (use our Click2RTC APIs and SDKs to embed RTC into your apps in minutes!) . And you will also have more communications apps tomorrow than you do today.

It is easier for me to switch between communication apps, choosing the best one for the specific job at hand, than to use an app for the job at hand that is *not* the best app for that job.

Disunified. Use-case specific. Contextual. Integrated inside specific experiences. Younified Communications – many apps and services for many purposes, with you deciding which to use, how and when.

Business models for WebRTC and video

The second part of my presentation addressed the question of the business model for video and WebRTC.



Pick your favorite SaaS application. Or maybe your least favorite, but the one your are forced to use the most ; ).

Would the app be better with integrated chat, voice or video? Then it will get it. SaaS apps are getting a voice.

WebRTC and ORTC enables SaaS apps to add RTC. The surrounding ecosystem – integrators, service providers, API and SDK providers, PaaS platforms, service enablers, developers and telcos – has some work to do to make it happen. But it will happen.

And not always full-duplex, synchronous communications. Remember that whole thing about Younified, disunified communications? One-way video. Video “mail”. Quasi-real-time video streams. Whatever best fits the use case and the experience.

Combinations of SaaS, WebRTC, ORTC, mobile and IoT will result in improving our current experiences, and delivering new experiences that we haven’t even thought of yet. Video, when and how it makes sense. Crazy amounts of messaging. Some voice. IoT feeds. Machine-learning guided pushes of real-time content.

All delivered in the manner that you decide to consume it. All delivered to enhance or make your experience instead of taking you away from your experience. Younified Communications, not Unified Communications.

May 062015

It is already strange for an enterprise to develop its own CRM or analytics software. Why? Because most enterprises that need CRM or analytics, or just about any OSS/BSS, is going to go SaaS first.

Soon it will be equally strange for a company to install a PBX, ACD or call control element. Why? Because SaaS and real-time communications (messaging, voice, video, chat, collaboration, co-browsing, etc.) are merging.

SaaS, today

SaaS today

SaaS, tomorrow

SaaS tomorrow

Adding real-time communications (RTC) to existing SaaS applications is interesting. Even more interesting is this creates opportunities for new applications and new combinations of applications. Especially if we add in IoT and machine learning.

Service providers such as Tata Communications (my employer) are preparing our WebRTC platforms, APIs and SDKs to help enable SaaS providers to win in this new environment. Check out the evolution of Click2RTC and Jamvee for example.

On our WebRTC Conference & Expo Panel, we will discuss the merger of SaaS and RTC, the future of collaboration, and the evolution of video conferencing. Dean Bubley, an excellent moderator, will ensure our panel is lively and relevant. And of course other panels have similar interesting WebRTC topics, and the show floor and demos will feature the latest WebRTC offerings. Hope to see you there.

Tivia and WebRTC magic

 Posted by on March 27, 2015 at 22:14  applications, ORTC, WebRTC  No Responses »
Mar 272015

Tivia is a new WebRTC app for group communications. Yet Tivia doesn’t use WebRTC…

Let’s start with what Tivia currently does:

  • Tivia is Slack. Except for community groups and events. Tivia is purpose built for private group communication
  • Tivia group communication includes: instant group messaging; schedule events on shared group calendar; Dropbox integration; private media sharing; bulletin boards.
  • Tivia is strictly private. No public groups. Even within your group, your personal contact info is not shared.
  • Tivia prioritizes speed and reliability: mobile notifications; delivery reports; indicator of who is typing as they type (integration with the awesome PubNub services).
  • Tivia has a full app for iPhone and Android, yet is all inclusive. Group members with other phones automatically receive group messages via text message.

Ok, so Tivia is a nice app for private group communication. Well, almost. There is no voice. Or video. Or even WebRTC data channel features. Yet. So what gives?

Well, Tivia can use WebRTC to add video chat or group conference calls as features. One touch in a private group and you start your conference. PINs? DTMF? Email invites? Dial plans? Directories? No thanks. No legacy conferencing baggage because Tivia started with the group and messaging, and WebRTC then enables Tivia to add RTC as a feature. That’s WebRTC magic.

And WebRTC magic goes well beyond conferencing. How about when Tivia groups want feeds from the Internet of Things (IoT)? Alerts, video clips, photos, sensor data?  WebRTC. I actually think we will soon have more asynchronous voice, video and data streams from IoT than we will have full duplex human conversations.

And of course WebRTC extends to collaboration via data channel (ok, once there is a bit more work to tighten the security or give the user more knobs). Here too though it is best to start with messaging and start with groups. WebRTC magic makes this easy.

This is the under appreciated magic of WebRTC. You can build your experience, while knowing you can easily integrate RTC as a feature via WebRTC, whenever and however makes sense. Of course, you could start from the other side, meaning start your communications app with voice and video. But I think the world is going the other way (read Tsahi’s nice post here for example).

Groups and identity.  Messaging.  Asynchronous communication.  IoT streams.  RTC as an integrated, contextual feature in many apps. This is where the world is going, and this is why WebRTC is much more magical than if we view WebRTC as just another option for communications apps. As a developer, you can start with the experience, and should, and usually that means starting with messaging and groups (or whatever social graph your application is going to leverage). 

WebRTC is not just an option to build communications apps.  WebRTC is the best way to integrate RTC into your experiences. And the magic of WebRTC is it enables you to build your experience in the order that makes sense, and seamlessly include RTC within the context of that experience.

Mar 162015

Day one of Enterprise Connect 2015 is in the books. A few highlights (personal opinions):

  • Best use of WebRTC: customer contact center IF includes mobile channel engagement
  • Top theme: RTC everywhere
  • Hot: WebRTC SDKs
  • Key question: If/when Skype for Business goes to BFCP content share?

And some Enterprise Connect 2015 day one notes as a combination of themes, thoughts on the future of communications, our Tata WebRTC products (of course!), and other interesting show floor sightings:

WebRTC SDKs are the new SIP phones.
Lots of them. Click2RTC from Tata (more on Click2RTC below), Sonus, Genband, Vidyo, CafeX, Dialogic, Aspect, Twilio and many more. I am a bit biased in this area ; ), but I recommend you evaluate in aspects such as support across all mobile and OS platforms and browsers, security, QoE (including network), interoperability and support models.

RTC everywhere.
Real-time communication will be everywhere. Embedded. Integrated. Standalone. There when we don’t know it.

Fit for purpose.
Specialized use cases. Apps to enable very specific experiences. As such, most apps will do something unique (even if technically “standards-based”) with media, signaling, collaboration and/or session control. This has important interop ramifications…

I think we will end up with more one-way video communication streams then full duplex video conversations. Streams from IoT cameras and sensors. Video mail. Conversations composed of video clips exchanged asynchronously and with other bits (content, images, collaboration).

Where are we going?
Communications is a software feature. But it is still a fairly monolithic feature. Decomposition is next – the separation of communications into software layers such as identity, authentication and session control. And this will spur innovation – in the same way that innovation was ignited when Internet separated the communications transport layer from the communications application layers.

Mobile apps are a perfect starting point. Apps such as Kik already have your identity. What if other communications apps could interrogate via API (securely, with your permission)? Personal, API-enabled, self-administered DNS.

How about group communications? The pain of trying to setup a conference call, manage PINs, authenticate people. Mobile apps such as Tivia already have your groups defined. If Tivia groups were WebRTC or ORTC enabled, you could start a conference with one press. The DNS model works here too – Tivia groups as DNS objects, controlled by you and accessible by your communications app of choice.

Identity is another example. Identity is very hard but check out the services that Twitter (Fabric), Twilio (Authy acquisition) and others have recently rolled out. The era of (n) identities for (n) applications is in the sunset phase.

End-to-end session control is the most difficult layer to decompose, but SDN will help build on the Internet/DNS foundation that is already in place. We need some other developments there too, but we are getting closer.

What about the telcos?
Ok, stepping back from the future, and into the present. So we agree that loosely coupled, best-in-class layers is innovation fuel. We have seen it in the software world for years, and now we will see it in the communications world. However, we mainly just have building blocks now such as Internet, DNS, WebRTC, ORTC, APIs, SDN. Telcos have an opportunity to help stitch the ecosystem together, but need to evolve, instantly, from monolithic telephony providers to service enablers that work inside of an ecosystem to deliver communications experiences. Not minutes. Not sessions. Experiences that include communications.

Messaging as the core
Tsahi is the first one that I have heard really emphasize this point. And I couldn’t agree more. UC starts with messaging. I think of messaging as the product analogy of an OS or platform. UC products that are missing mobile messaging face an uphill battle.

We (Tata Communications) announced Click2RTC today. Quite simply, I challenge any of you to list another WebRTC SDK that does these five things:

1. SDK that enables developers to package RTC inside their customers’ experiences
2. SDKs/solutions for Android, iOS, IE, Safari, FF and Chrome
3. QoE across tier one backbones (Tata Communications and our partners)
4. Tier one support model for developers and operators
5. Interoperability with everything. 3-screen telepresence, Skype For Business, SIP VC, H.323 VC, voice.

Now, to be fair, we haven’t put all of the above into the product yet, however, we are showing all of it on the show floor at Enterprise Connect, and I don’t think anyone else can do the same. And I am not claiming you need those five attributes for every RTC product. However, if you do have one of those products, and you want to add RTC to it on your terms, with your brand, inside of your experience…then come visit our booth this week and see it in action.

What if WebRTC didn’t do telecom?

 Posted by on January 15, 2015 at 16:43  ORTC, WebRTC  No Responses »
Jan 152015

WebRTC and ORTC are not terribly exciting for improving telecom use cases. They are however game changing for enabling new contextual communications services.

ORTC and WebRTC help us add communications to an overall experience (rather than self-hijacking your activities in order to make a zero-context phone call…and asking the other end to self-hijack whatever they are doing to take the phone call).

In that sense, we are at the K-T boundary, communications mammals will take over, telco dinosaurs will depart.
k-t boundary

However, after giving a WebRTC & ORTC webinar for BrightTALK today (slides are here and the recorded webcast will be posted by BrightTALK), and reading the direction that was implied today in the new proposed W3C WebRTC working group charter, I asked myself:

What if WebRTC didn’t do telecom?

  • What if you couldn’t use WebRTC (or ORTC) to make a telecom call?
  • What if you had to start with a data session, and only then could add audio or video streams?
  • What if you had to find other ways to learn the capabilities of the far-end, and couldn’t do it as part of the WebRTC SDP offer answer negotiation?
  • What if media codecs weren’t in the standard at all – you are forced to use whatever codecs your browser or mobile OS provide, or bring your own to the table if they enable you to do so (as ORTC seems to be doing with H.264)?
  • What if it was really hard to interoperate with SIP endpoints?

It is an academic, Monday morning QB thought experiment, no doubt. And easier to do now, than to have done at the start of the WebRTC WG, especially for me personally after I have also gained heavy real world WebRTC experience from adding WebRTC to our Jamvee services. However, I think we would have been better off, and I say that even though I have done telco since the early days of VoIP. How would we be better off?

  • We would have more innovative, contextual communications apps, and less lipstick on pig demoes
  • I think we would be closer to a ratified spec. Much of the delay has been due to the SDP offer-answer model, integrated capabilities negotiation and media codec.
  • The first sets of WebRTC and ORTC apps wouldn’t have looked, felt and smelled like telecom apps.

ORTC is a huge and exciting step in the right direction, and I think ORTC will bleed into WebRTC (or the two will merge completely, and then spawn vendor/provider specific branches, e.g. like Android is branching).

And I still believe that WebRTC and ORTC enable a communications transformation. I said in the webinar today that WebRTC and ORTC enable this analogy:

Telecom (will be) to communications as trains are to transportation

Meaning, WebRTC and ORTC (combined with Internet, mobile and the API economy) enable us to develop new communications services – to make it such that telecom is just one form of communications.

I believe that is true. And exciting. But I still wonder what WebRTC would look like today if it didn’t initially enable telecom use cases, and I wonder if we would have been closer to the future of WebRTC and ORTC enabled contextual communications experiences?