Real Time Communications Featured Article

How the Consumerization of IT, Evolution of Real-Time Communications and the Rise of IoT Are Changing Business

February 03, 2015

Real-time communications is expanding to touch virtually every aspect of our lives. Applications on our smartphones, tablets, and laptops – and new technologies like browser-based WebRTC – now allow us to interface with one another (via voice and/or video) pretty much anywhere we are, physically or virtually. Meanwhile, the things around us are getting in on the conversation as well. All of the above can allow for more seamless, intelligent, and intelligible interactions and decision-making.




As GENBAND’s Brad Bush recently blogged, as we start out the New Year, we are just beyond the starting line of what’s shaping up to be a new real-time communications era in which we can expect to see even more consumerization of IT, a continuing push toward software and outcome-based business models, and an ongoing expansion of the role of IT in the enterprise.

Let’s look at a few of the above-mentioned trends and what’s happening on these fronts to move things forward in 2015 and beyond.

WebRTC

Many believe that WebRTC has the potential to change the face of real-time communications. While today a voice call or a video conference tends to be a unique and singular form of communication, WebRTC creates the potential to bring real-time communications like voice and video to the environments in which we already live and work – like to a website, an existing business application, your e-reader, or even a connected home appliance like a dishwasher.

Amazon’s Mayday button is probably the most well-known application of WebRTC. The technology enables the online retailer to let users of select Kindle e-readers to trigger video interactions with live agents with a click of a button on their devices. This kind of scenario, however, could play out on any WebRTC-enabled devices to allow users to receive training on or troubleshoot problems with those devices.

WebRTC also makes it easier to bring click-to-call capabilities to websites. That can allow website visitors quickly and painlessly (meaning without having to download special software) launch phone calls or video interactions with customer service personnel or sales people at the organization. For example, retailer Toy Genius leveraged WebRTC in its website design to enable its salespeople to guide visitors in their search for the perfect toys. And some universities are looking at implementing WebRTC to allow them to more easily recruit college candidates and interact with students and their parents.

“Browser-based [technology] makes video a lot easier and more intuitive, and the applications themselves more human with more non-verbal communications and data mashups – making better interactions possible,” notes GENBAND’s Bush.

Not only does WebRTC offer great potential to expand what’s possible with real-time communications, it also has the backing of a broad coalition of high tech companies including Google, which supports WebRTC in its Chrome browser. WebRTC is also supported in the Mozilla Firefox and Opera browsers. And late last year Microsoft provided WebRTC with even more momentum when it announced plans to join the effort through its support of a new specification called Object Real-Time Communications. Apple is the only major holdout at this point.

IoT

The theme of real-time communications also dovetails with what’s happening relative to the Internet of Things.

Drones, fitness bands, and smartwatches grabbed headlines at the recent CES show, and these devices all certainly fall under the IoT umbrella and leverage real-time communications capabilities. But IoT also applies to a wide variety of business office, municipal, and industrial applications as well – many of which also have, or could have, real-time communications capabilities.

Even smartwatches, which most of us tend to think of as consumer devices, have business applications. For example, a smartwatch application could enable field workers to get dispatches, connect in real time with coworkers and clients when needed, and tie in with a business’s CRM system to manage the whole process.

As Bush writes in his blog, IoT will drive new ways to communicate between machines and humans – with the potential for more speech recognition, deep cognitive systems, and real-time decision making and alerting.

IT Expansion

All of the above illustrates why IT staff members at many organizations are now playing a starring role in the success of their businesses.

Hollis “Terry” Bradwell III, executive vice president and CIO at AARP, talked about that and the need for IT staff to be proactive in participating in larger business outcomes in his ITEXPO event keynote in August. And Tim Hahn of IBM in a recent address at a different event discussed how the rise of the Internet of Things will require businesses to fundamentally rethink how they design, engineer, manage, and operate their products and organizations.

As I wrote in my editor’s letter in the January issue of INTERNET TELEPHONY magazine, changing expectations, imperatives, technologies, and timelines are altering how we should be thinking about and managing our businesses. And one of those changes is the growing importance of technology in businesses of all stripes.

Technology is no longer used to power desktop computers and factory floors for internal uses alone. Now it touches virtually ever aspect of our organizations – from how we deliver customer service; to how we enable employee collaboration and deliver corporate communications; to how we collect, analyze, and use business intelligence.




Edited by Maurice Nagle

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