How WebRTC Can Serve the Enterprise

WebRTC Feature Story

How WebRTC Can Serve the Enterprise

By Phil Edholm, President & Founder, PKE Consulting  |  November 05, 2014

The enterprise has numerous uses for WebRTC, including expanding the bring-your-own-device model, allowing for next generation customer interaction through web integration, extending videoconferencing and collaboration systems, and establishing direct communications between employees and the outside world. Because WebRTC creates an experience that comes from the host web server, the experience the enterprise provides can be unique and tailored to deliver advantage.  

BYOD

The combination of HTML5 and WebRTC opens the world of BYOD in a powerful new way.  With HTML5 and WebRTC, any compliant device can become a highly integrated endpoint without running an application and without local data storage. This is a solution to the huge issue of maintaining privacy and compliance for data. By only sending the data to the device that will actually be displayed and using the built in HTML5 and WebRTC technologies, a new generation of highly secure implementations are possible. With the emerging 4G networking technologies, the performance and feel of these applications will be equivalent or better than current local apps.

WebRTC also can be used to integrate open BYOD devices into a more traditional unified communications architecture. For vendors like Avaya, Cisco, Microsoft, ShoreTel (News - Alert), and Unify (the former Siemens Enterprise Communications), the use of WebRTC is a logical way to integrate another set of devices. If anyone can go to anyone else's system and get essentially the same level of capability as the direct participants, the need to federate between systems may go away. That’s because if I need to collaborate with Bob at XYZ Company, I just point my browser at the guest URL on his system and now we are collaborating with all of the tools his system can provide. 

However, unless the vendor chooses to enable its SIP operated devices to integrate with WebRTC devices directly, a gateway – probably implemented as a media server – may be required. In this architecture, the WebRTC client is talking to the media server using WebRTC signaling, protocols, and codecs. Similarly, the SIP client is using SIP signaling, protocols, and codecs based on the vendor choices. The media server is providing any required translation of the codec streams as well as providing a port-level interface that will connect to each client.

Customer Interaction

Between 70 and 80 percent of contact center interactions in Western business are proceeded by a website visit, yet many businesses treat the contact center interactions and website visits as if they are unrelated events. WebRTC enables the customer interaction to come directly from the web page and drive how that interaction is handled through the business logic of the website. As a result, the business can define the skills required to meet the customer need and get new information about the success or failure points of the web presence. With an average web interaction costing a small fraction of an agent interaction, this optimization can create huge returns. 

For organizations with agents, the use of WebRTC enables a new paradigm where a direct connection is started by clicking on an object on any web page. This can allow for agent selection, and enable the agent to be on any WebRTC device.  While this type of system could be integrated using SIP devices on the agent side, using WebRTC enables similar device independence. That makes incorporating home agents much easier as their device type is not important to how they interact with the control system. 

The integration between the web side and the contact center side can be accomplished by implementing a completely new system, with the website at the core, or by integrating WebRTC into existing environments.

Of course, adding in a media server into the mix enables functions like call recording, IVR, moderated interactions, speech recognition-based tools, etc. And there can be multiple media servers that can be mixed, both in type (premises or cloud) and in network/geographical location.  This can enable new capabilities. For example, when looking to buy something, the website visitor on the review site could trigger a conference with a knowledgeable agent. And when going to another page the agent could change. This concept of context and state related to a specific web page is an interesting capability that WebRTC enables.

This can all be done as an extension to existing contact centers, of course. But with WebRTC this capability will become ubiquitous and the choice for future integration will be based on whether to extend the legacy contact center into the web world or begin a new customer interaction methodology based on and integrated to the company website.

Extending Collaboration

Using WebRTC to extend UC videoconferencing and collaboration systems from inside the enterprise to external users is a capability that will have great value. For example, Vidyo (News - Alert) is working with WebRTC to enable a browser-based user to participate in a Vidyo hosted conference without a separate download. 

Many users are wary of downloads or find they are blocked by configuration or firewalls. This enables them to participate in the video meeting without a download. Other vendors like Zoom and Lifesize have indicated they will use WebRTC in their cloud video offerings. 

Similarly, collaboration applications like WebEx or GoToMeeting can use WebRTC in conjunction with HTML5 to create a browser-based experience that is as good as or better than a downloaded type experience. 

Both of these avoid the two major issues for many users, the plethora of downloaded real-time applets (many of us have 10 to 20 of these at any time, and they all try to be resident and take priority and can introduce stability issues in end devices), as well as the experience of joining a meeting only to find that you have to download the latest version of the app, often along with other components, resulting in being 5 minutes late for the meeting. Using WebRTC eliminates all of these issues.

The Enterprise Portal

One potential significant application of WebRTC in the enterprise is an enterprise portal that enables external access to individuals through WebRTC. The concept of an enterprise portal is a website that allows external access using WebRTC.

An example would work like this: On the Contact Us webpage there would be a link called Web Interaction or Browser Communications.  That link would connect to a URL/web server that is the enterprise portal. Upon arriving at the enterprise portal, the visitor would be asked to enter the name of the person with whom he or she wants to interact. Alternatively, the company may just decide to publish a directory. After selecting the employee, the visitor is taken to the employee’s access page, which could have presence and availability information, potentially tuned to who the visitor is based on cookies or other certificates such as LinkedIn (News - Alert) or Facebook. 

For most visitors, the page would offer an opportunity to interact by entering the visitor name and a short explanation on why an interaction is needed. This request can then be sent to the employee, enabling him or her to decide if it is important now. If the employee wants to interact, he or she can push the interact button and the visitor is connected through WebRTC. It also can become a form of instant chat. If the employee is in a meeting, he or she might type a response suggesting the visitor come back at a specified time later in the day. The key point of the enterprise portal is that each visit to the web page is a unique experience.

For the enterprise, understanding WebRTC is critical. So it’s important both to understand how your current vendors intend to use WebRTC and how WebRTC could change both the enterprise communications landscape and the vendors you use.

Phil Edholm (News - Alert) is the president and founder of PKE Consulting LLC (www.pkeconsulting.com).




Edited by Stefania Viscusi
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