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Five Ways of Connecting People, Devices, and Systems with WebRTC

by Lasse Lumiaho,
05 June 2015

Do you remember the good old Push-to-Talk walkie-talkies? Those hand held devices that opened up an audio connection to other walkie-talkies simply by pressing a button. The communication often consisted of special voice procedures like “Roger”, “10-4” and “Over and out”. WebRTC will make calling between browsers as simple and intuitive as using a walkie-talkie, because starting a WebRTC call takes only one click from the user.

As WebRTC is intended to work without browser plugins and will be supported by all major browsers it is estimated that the number of WebRTC users will grow to 1 billion and then to 2 billion by the year 2017 and 2019, respectively.

Potential WebRTC users from Disruptive Analysis 2014 WebRTC Report

Potential WebRTC users from Disruptive Analysis 2014 WebRTC Report.

If the number of WebRTC users is to grow to billions in just a few years, WebRTC needs to be widely used for various use cases, riding the long tail effect. To give you an idea of what the future might look like, we present a few use cases worth mentioning that use WebRTC (or could use WebRTC in the forthcoming years).

Personal Communications

Facebook Messenger, appear.in, Jitsi Meet, talky.io, and Google Hangouts are the type of video calling and conferencing services that first come to mind when thinking about what WebRTC was designed for. Simple audio and video calling with your friends and colleagues, often coupled with file sharing and a text chat.

Screenshot of a video conference on Jitsi Meet (WebRTC)

Screenshot of a video conference on Jitsi Meet.

Additionally these conferencing solutions are really handy for doing sales calls remotely, as often the services let users share their screen in addition to using the web camera.

Team collaboration

Telepresence and team presence solutions give employees an easy way to see what their colleagues are up to at any given time. Presence can be a simple status showing if a person is available for discussion for example, the way Lync does it.

Sqwiggle has taken presence a step further by making presence extremely visual by showing everyone’s web camera picture. People that are away from their computer are shown in black and white. With WebRTC, a team could also collaborate on an online whiteboard

Sqwiggle - an online presence and collaboration tool

Sqwiggle - an online presence and collaboration tool.

Service using video as a feature

A major contributor to the WebRTC long tail will be services that use audio and video calls in a specific context.

For example, MeeDoc offers a mobile app to connect patients (looking for a doctor’s appointment) face-to-face with a doctor over a video call. MeeDoc offers the flexibility in time and place both to the doctors and patients, for example, enabling people to connect with a doctor in their homeland from abroad.

Another great use case for WebRTC is Yoogaia, which is world’s first online yoga studio. They offer live online classes for yoga, pilates and similar activities that people can sign up to and take part from anywhere in the world. As the yoga class can be joined from any place with an Internet connection Yoogaia offers private and easy access to yoga classes for people to join as no travel is required and only the instructor can see all participants.

Yoogaia - an online yoga studio
> Yoogaia - an online yoga studio.

A big impact from WebRTC will likely happen in online customer service as one-click plugin-free audio and video calls will lower the barrier to introduce calling features to help desk solutions and company web pages. Many e-commerce pages already offer help and sales chats to help people find and buy products. A jump from text chat to video calling should not be too big of a leap. SightCall and Fountain are examples of services using WebRTC to provide remote help services to consumers.

Language Learning

Learning a new a language is always an arduous task. To speed up the learning, it is best to talk with a person who can already speak the language. Ok!panda and CoffeeStrap offer mobile apps that connect language teachers and native speakers with students learning a language. Both apps make use of WebRTC to connect participants and the teacher.

Entertainment

As WebRTC is built for video and audio transport, it offers an awesome platform for music creation. Sofasession and Soundtrap are services that connect musicians online to make new friends, create music and host an online jam session. Finding band members has never been this easy!

For gaming, WebRTC provides a lot possibilities to create neat screen sharing or camera sharing features for multiplayer sessions. One of the first WebRTC demos was Cubeslam - a 3D version of Pong where you can see the opponent’s face. Steven Gunneweg has created a multiplayer version of the legendary mobile game Snake with WebRTC.

Bonus: Internet of Things

Internet of things - advanced connectivity of devices, systems, and services
> Internet of things - advanced connectivity of devices, systems, and services.

Internet of Things is a concept of advanced connectivity of different devices that produces greater value than simple machine-to-machine connections. WebRTC’s audio/video and data channels can simplify creating an advanced and secure two-way connection between devices lowering considerably the development time required to create network of connected devices. We’ll be covering this topic in more detail in a future article.

If you use WebRTC in any of the above mentioned ways or in any other unconventional way, we would like to hear about you. Email me at lasse-at-callstats.io or simply leave a comment below.