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Digium Launches Respoke Platform for Developers

Recent discussions around WebRTC's potential lead me to view the technology as the direction that communications is ultimately heading. Rather than having standalone devices and applications for specific functionalities, the trend of late signals convergence and integration.

Increasingly, we hear about how more businesses are leveraging WebRTC, most commonly for applications in the contact center. But if you read some of the industry insight we publish on No Jitter, you know that WebRTC has a bit to go before it becomes truly impactful in the enterprise.

Well, last week Digium took WebRTC a step forward with the launch of Respoke, a cloud platform for adding communications to Web and mobile applications that leverages WebRTC for voice and video calling capabilities.

Beyond Asterisk
Many will be familiar with Digium as the company responsible for Asterisk, the open-source telephony software. With Respoke, Digium continues providing developer tools for the communications space.

I spoke with Digium's Billy Chia, marketing lead for Respoke, and Charlie Wilson, general manager for Respoke, about the launch. Respoke is, more specifically, a Web communications platform as a service offering that provides a communications API. By providing a JavaScript library and RESTful APIs, Respoke allows developers to add features like individual and group chat messaging, screen sharing, WebRTC-based voice and video calling, and file sharing to browsers and mobile apps. The platform has built-in features including peer-to-peer data delivery, media relay (TURN), presence management, and access control with permission filters.

"We started with WebRTC as a new communications technology about two and a half years ago in Asterisk," Wilson said. "And shortly thereafter we said what can Digium do to really take advantage of this new technology and help grow that particular market? And so we started Respoke as a virtual startup."

Next quarter, Digium will release Respoke software development kits (SDKs) for Android and iOS mobile operating systems, which will extend the developer capabilities from the browser to the smart device. Further, Digium is working to extend WebRTC functionality to other browsers -- since WebRTC is only natively supported on Chrome and Firefox browsers currently, Digium will be releasing plug-ins that let Respoke interoperate with Internet Explorer and Safari browsers.

Apps, Apps, Apps
Digium is targeting Respoke at Web and mobile application developers in general -- people who are using computing languages like HTML5, CSS and JavaScript to develop products -- rather than at communications specialists in particular, Wilson told me.

"Our vision is that communications in the future is not necessarily part of a standalone application," Wilson said. "So you don't have a PBX or you don't have an app that is just suited for communications. Instead you take whatever app you're developing, whether it's a Web app or a mobile app, and you use Respoke to add communications features to that application. So think of your favorite app that you use today, and what if you could add messaging to other people who use that app? Or add voice features to the provider of that application? That's kind of the vision of where we think the world is going."

Digium put out a call for early adopters in September 2014, and since then, it says, hundreds of developers have been building communications into applications with Respoke.

As one example, Wilson pointed to an educational software company that wanted to provide remote proctoring services for tests. The company wanted the ability to remotely monitor test-takers via a video feed and screen sharing so it could ensure students were not cheating or looking up answers on Google. In order to accomplish this, the customer used Respoke to add video and screen sharing capabilities to its application, as well as an audio channel so proctors could talk with students, too.

With Respoke, this education software company could also implement a messaging channel to provide instructions and even include a data channel so that a digital copy of a paper could be transported to the students' desk, Wilson explained.

"They had this application and, within days, they were able to use Respoke to add these other features to that app instead of either jumping out to some external application like Google Hangouts or instead of creating something from scratch, which would have taken months to develop."

Digium's Billy Chia will be speaking at Enterprise Connect Orlando, March 16-19, in the session, “EC Summit: Life in a Cloud-Based, Software-Intensive Future.” Register with code NJSPEAKER to save $300 on an Entire Event or Tue-Thur conference pass.

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