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Inside WebRTC Use Cases

One of the more interesting drafts to come out of the recent work of the IETF's RTCWEB working group is the "Web Real-Time Communication Use-cases and Reguirements" document, which was authored by several working group members, and released on February 12. This Internet-Draft (ID) is a bit different from most in that it doesn't define methods or approaches for WebRTC sessions, but instead, it captures the likely use cases that WebRTC standards developers must support.

The ID covers several basic services, such as video conferencing (1-to-1 and many-to-many) and telephony, but what's most interesting, and perhaps most game-changing about WebRTC, are the scenarios that combine multiple streams--voice, video, and data--into a single unified application.

One such example is the "hockey game viewer," in which a talent scout can remotely activate a camera to watch in-game action, all the while conducting a voice and video chat with the club manager in a separate stream. The key requirement described in this scenario is the ability for WebRTC to support multiple concurrent video streams with appropriate prioritization between streams.

Another potential layer into this scenario is data sharing; what if the local club manager or the remote talent scout wanted to share statistical information about players during this call? It is exactly this kind of scenario that enables WebRTC to transform customer service, collaboration, and communication.

Let's extend the above to a customer service session:

--A customer has just bought a new gaming system and is having trouble getting it to work with their TV.
--The customer, on his laptop, goes to the gaming system's website and after a few minutes of poking around a support forum, is unable to find an answer to the problem.
--The customer clicks on the "call customer support" button, and a pop-up appears asking if he wishes to make the call through his computer.
--He clicks "OK" and his browser, using WebRTC's voice channel, dials into the contact center.
--The agent answers the call and sees that the customer has been searching the website for an answer to his problem. Using the WebRTC video channel, the customer can see the agent (but the agent can't see the customer, due to the customer's personal preferences).
--The agent, using WebRTC's data channel, pushes a wiring guide to the customer and walks him through proper cable hook-up procedures. The customer walks over to the TV, keeping the agent on the call.
--The customer is unable to fix the problem.
--The agent asks if the customer has a tablet or a mobile phone with a camera, and the customer replies that he does.
--The agent texts the customer a link, the customer clicks on it and starts a new WebRTC voice session using the mobile device.
--The agent asks the customer to activate video and show them the back of the TV and the game console. The customer, using a second WebRTC video channel, launches a video session.
--The agent uses the video stream to recognize the problem and provides instructions to fix it.
--The customer implements the fix (plugging the game system into the power strip and turning it on, of course), and off they go.

The end result: A happy customer and a problem fixed in far less time than it would take if the call could only leverage a voice channel. Here, the power of WebRTC to provide unification across channels, through a simple browser, across desktop and mobile devices, was the key to success.

WebRTC's ability to merge all three sessions, providing sufficient performance for all, enables customer service capabilities that previously were not possible without a custom-built application (with a corresponding high cost of development) that the customer needed to first download to multiple devices.

While the aforementioned ID largely focuses on the infrastructure and protocol needs to support WebRTC sessions (e.g. STUN/TURN/ICE servers, QoS, firewall traversal, and so on), it's worth reviewing it to look at some use case examples for WebRTC, and use your imagination to think about how you can extend them to your own environment.

Interested in learning more about WebRTC use cases and real-world applications? Join Irwin Lazar at the WebRTC Conference-within-a-Conference at Enterprise Connect on Monday March 17 in Orlando.

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