Real Time Communications Featured Article

How IoT and WebRTC Can Change the World

March 26, 2015

The Internet of Things and WebRTC are coming together to change communications as we know it.

IoT, of course, is about bringing communications capabilities to just about anything – from a lamp post or garbage can, to a medical device, to oil well equipment, to a shipping container or warehouse pallet, to a consumer or business vehicle, to a watch.

WebRTC is about introducing real-time, two-way communications capabilities more easily into both new and existing applications.

“The number of deployed and in-service applications may be relatively low today, but the potential is enormous,” Ingate President Steven Johnson says. “I have now seen many exciting applications for the protocol from ad-hoc desktop chats to remote medical diagnostics, to call center applications and some other ideas that are too early to discuss. I believe that WebRTC will be rolled out more aggressively in 2015 and that the productivity enhancements will be substantial.”

A lot of the focus around WebRTC to date has been on its ability to enable real-time communications on the front end – by allowing end users to participate in two-way interactions via just a browser and without having to download special client software.

But WebRTC is also extremely useful in the creation of real-time applications. It takes the components of a typical VoIP media engine into a browser or any other peer endpoint with a simple API that a Web server can control. That means developers can build real-time communication into web pages, existing software applications, or even IoT environments – and do so more easily and affordably than they could have in the past.

via Shutterstock

The potential for WebRTC to be used in IoT application enablement is huge, says James Brehm of James Brehm & Associates. A lot of what WebRTC brings to the table, he says, is what IMS was supposed to deliver years ago – offering the ability to take shortcuts and reuse common parts of the network to expedite the creation of new applications and services.

Indeed. Dean Bubley of Disruptive Analysis talked about this in a December 2013 blog titled “The beginning of the end of IMS. WebRTC is the catalyst.” In it Bubley wrote that Portugal Telecom gave a presentation talking about a post-IMS world, and that Orange proffered the idea of IMS potentially being an add-on to a WebRTC-centric environment instead of the other way around.

Now, companies like GENBAND are offering up solutions like Kandy that can actually help realize the vision that IMS and other technologies like service-oriented networks promised. As discussed in the October issue of TMC’s CUSTOMER magazine, GENBAND’s Kandy platform as a service brings together WebRTC, cloud services, and programming tools that deliver Lego-style resources for quick application creation.

Today, IoT applications tend to focus on collecting data to find exceptions, notes Brehm. That could, for example, signal that a piece of gear in the field is not working as expected. But the combination of IoT and WebRTC could help trigger the arrival of the real promise of these technologies, indicates Brehm, which is enabling smarter two-way applications and interactions.

That could include applications such as connected lamp posts on a street communicating with one another and with other connected community infrastructure to make decisions that can save a city money, make citizens safer, or meet other goals.

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