Startups flock to Web RTC for browser-based videoconferencing

Products based on Web RTC emerge at Enterprise Connect

Orlando -- A band of startups at Enterprise Connect is trying to cash in on Web RTC browser technology for peer-to-peer Internet audio and video calls.

Grouped together on the show floor, they are taking real time communications and blending it in with other applications to create richer services.

+ Also on Network World: What is WebRTC? +

The technology was talked about a great deal at last year’s Enterprise Connect, but there weren’t many products on display. The story is different this year.

For example, BC Social is a London-based startup that sells a social networking platform that businesses can use to enhance communication among workers and boost productivity. Embedded in the software is a button that kicks off a Web RTC video call.

But the applications can be more complex. BrowseTel sells a service for customers to drop a click-to-call button on their Web pages and complete the call to either an Internet-connected IP device or the public phone network. It supports PBX features such as call forwarding, voicemail and parallel ringing.

The service uses Web RTC to carry the voice as Web RTC traffic all the way back to the site that posted the button or can route it through BrowseTel’s gateway in Amsterdam to public phone networks.

Altia sells a videoconferencing service that can deliver connectivity between a group in a room and remote participants. The group room is fitted with Altia’s PanaCast camera, a flat disk on a stand with five lenses to gather a 200-degree panoramic shot of the room. Audio and video from the room goes to a cloud gateway that transcodes the signal and delivers it to individual remote machines via Web RTC if their browsers support it.

OpenClove is a service provider that sells support for voice, video and data communications from within Web or mobile applications. By inserting one line of Java Script code into the application, a button is inserted that connects to the company’s cloud gateway to set up sessions, with Web RTC carrying the audio and video.

One use of the service is to tie friends together to consult with each other as they shop at an online store. The shopper initiating the call has to provide a social account or email to which the gateway sends a join invitation containing a URL to connect to. For participants who don’t have support for Web RTC in their browsers – Internet Explorer and Safari – the gateway can complete the call via the public phone network.

Biba launched its conferencing service last year using its proprietary audio technology, but has since expanded the platform to support video with Web RTC. The service can accommodate up to eight video calls.

It’s not just startups that are interested in Web RTC. At its Innovation Lounge in the conference complex, Avaya demonstrated a set of what it calls snap-ins for Avaya Contact Center that enable new features, some based on Web RTC. For example a co-browsing snap-in lets a call center agent look at the same screen as a customer in a kiosk and even take control of the screen to help.

The major drawback for Web RTC is that Microsoft and Apple don’t support it in their browsers. If enough users of Firefox and Chrome browsers make use of Web RTC-based applications, however, that could force Microsoft and Apple to support it in Internet Explorer and Safari, says Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst at ZK Research.

The chronic problem with video in general is that vendors have been slow to make their products interoperable, he says, creating islands of connectivity. Some service providers such as Blue Jeans Network bridge disparate technologies, but ubiquitous interoperability remains elusive.

“There’s lots of video nodes, they’re just not connected,” says Kerravala. “Web RTC might be the technology that could bring them together.”

Tim Greene covers Microsoft and unified communications for Network World and writes the Mostly Microsoft blog. Reach him at and follow him on Twitter @Tim_Greene.

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Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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