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Twilio Expands API Line to Meet Upsurge in Digitization


Illustration of a digitized cloud, to show digital transformation
Image: Shutter2U -
Spurred by the shift to working from home and social distancing, complements of COVID-19, businesses around the world have accelerated their digital transformation plans. Consider these takeaways from a recently released survey from McKinsey Global Institute: Of 800 executives across industries in eight countries, 85% said they have “somewhat or greatly accelerated” deployment of employee interaction and collaboration technologies — videoconferencing included, of course. To a lesser but not insignificant degree at 48%, these executives also reported increasing digitization of customer channels, McKinsey reported.
Twilio, which kicked off its Signal customer and developer conference today, has also seen a rapid acceleration of digital transformation projects within its customer base, shared Quinton Wall, senior director of platform and developer experience at Twilio, during a No Jitter briefing. Among the 2,500 or so customers Twilio surveyed, nearly all have reported hastening their digital transformation plans — some “in the order of about six years” — in response to the pandemic, he said.
Given the nature of Twilio’s business as a cloud platform provider that can facilitate employee interactions/collaboration and customer engagement via API, such a resounding response from its customer base isn’t too surprising. It is telling, however, about the growing importance of an API-led approach to communications, collaboration, and engagement. By Twilio’s count, around one trillion human interactions hit its platform across all channels — including SMS, voice, email, and video — annually, Wall said. Some of the biggest gains during the pandemic have come in video, with daily usage of Twilio Video having increased some 500% since the pandemic began, he added.
Needless to say, its customers’ need to fast-track digital transformation has informed Twilio’s own product development strategy, Wall said. That strategy is manifest in four primary announcements shared today at Signal. These announcements track to three general areas: the shift from physical to digital experiences, contact center modernization, and the agile workforce.
Digital Experiences
In one move meant to better accommodate the shift from physical to digital experiences, Twilio has expanded its portfolio with a perpetually free tier of video called Twilio Video WebRTC Go. The goal is to enable developers to build unique, primarily one-to-one, video experiences that move beyond what would typically be available in a meeting platform like Zoom or Cisco Webex, Wall said.
Like Twilio’s earlier programmable video offering, Video WebRTC Go is built on top of the WebRTC framework but removes the complexity so developers can “focusing on developing those one-to-one interactions,” Wall said. As use case examples, he pointed to Air Tutors’ virtual tutoring service and the Together, a video chat app designed to support virtual interactions between grandparents and grandchildren.
With Video WebRTC Go, which is generally available, developers receive 25 gigs of TURN server relay, for message transfer and service quality, as well as limited diagnostics, logging, and information, Wall said.
In a second move to accommodate the physical-to-digital shift, Twilio has introduced a data aggregation API called Event Streams. This API brings together data from all Twilio services — voice, SMS, email, Super SIM, and so on — to enable real-time monitoring and reporting across all communication channels. Event Streams effectively represents a rearchitecting of the Twilio platform, Wall said.
Previously, when an event came through a digital channel, a developer would need to connect that individual channel format via an integration or a webhook in order to consume the information. To combine and make sense of information, they would have to use some sort of data sync, Wall said. With Event Streams, Twilio has removed that complexity by creating one single event stream that aggregates all channels in a consistent, open source-based format, he said.
For Event Streams, Twilio is initially supporting voice, SMS, Super SIM connectivity, and TaskRouter events, with additional channels to follow. For data sync, it initially is supporting Amazon Kinesis, an AWS service for real-time collection, processing, and analysis of data streams. A private beta for Event Streams is now open, Wall said.
Contact Center Integration
Twilio’s announcement here, around Flex, isn’t product-related. Rather, the company is focusing on the partner ecosystem that has built up around its programmable contact center, Wall said. Via the newly announced Twilio Flex Ecosystem, developers will have access to more than 30 validated partner solutions. Twilio integration partners include companies such as Calabrio, Google, Salesforce, Zendesk, and many more.
Connected Employees
Citing as an example customer Nike, which overnight had to shut down a bunch of retail outlets, the final of Twilio’s product announcements is a mobile app intended to allow frontline workers to engage with customers from their personal devices in a seamless and secure manner, Wall said. This app, called Twilio Frontline, is built on top of the Conversations API Twilio introduced last year, Wall said.
Frontline, in private beta, will be available for iOS and Android, support single sign-on, and able to integrate with CRM apps, he added.
“Frontline employees can now stay connected not only with their customers but also have a seamless and agile communication inside their organization — let’s say if they needed to reach out to [ a person in ] procurement or fulfillment,” Wall said.
While Twilio has seen validation in its CPaaS approach during the pandemic-fueled push on digital transformation, Wall noted that customers rarely talk in such techie terms. Rather, he said, they think in terms of digital engagement and connectivity, and, as seen during with this push on digital transformation, their focus is on building relationships rather than one-off messaging.