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How WebRTC Will Mean a Paradigm Shift in Real Time Communications on Mobile

Our smartphones are increasingly used for "traditional" Internet services such as browsing the Web, emailing, or using social networks. The growing revenue lines generated by data will soon cross the declining voice revenue lines. According to a study released earlier this year by the GSMA this has already happened in Japan in 2012, and will happen in the US and UK in early 2014 (other studies predict Q4 2013 for the US).

What's interesting is that while voice data for the "phone call" is increasingly transported through the same technical means as "other data" (e.g. through VoLTE) on the back-end, talking into your device to communicate with others is still associated with a disruptive process on the front-end: stopping what you are currently doing, leaving the app you were currently in, switching to the "phone app" of your device and dialing a number. And if you think about surfing the Web on your laptop or desktop PC, you will most likely even leave your computer and go pick up your phone if you need to "make a call". This is going to change, and WebRTC is the enabling technology.

WebRTC brings RealTime Communications right into the browser. And browsers will come pre-equipped with this functionality, without the need to download a special plug-in first. Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox already offer this today. But WebRTC is just a bunch of protocols and APIs; without applications WebRTC is nothing.

Applications will emerge in customer care, among other areas. Websites of retailers, utilities, travel agencies, airlines, financial institutions, healthcare providers, and many more businesses will offer a direct connection from a Web-surfing session into the contact center. As a customer, I will be able to talk to a service to sales representative right from within the website I am looking at, simply by clicking a button, and thereby without the disruption described above. The representative will be able to "see what I'm seeing" and also see what I have been doing on the website up to that point. It will improve service, remove friction, increase sales and grow the business.

This is a paradigm shift. Talking and/or video conferencing while you are surfing the Web for pleasure or while working will be made so easy that it will become ubiquitous. And this shift will not only happen on the "big Web", but even more so on mobile. While looking at a prescription in my healthcare app, I can talk to a nurse or pharmacist to ask questions. While using the mobile app of my favorite electronics retailer, I can ask questions about the product I'm looking up right now, without having to leave the app. In addition to easier and more direct connections into the contact center, the promise of WebRTC is also to spur new forms of user communities, where existing customers turn into brand advocates and help others.

Amazon demonstrates this new era of frictionless customer service through the introduction of "Mayday", a "help button" on their new Kindle Fire HDX tablet that connects me to an agent with a promised wait time of less than 15 seconds - I can see the agent while he's talking to me, to add an extra level of trust and personal relationship, and they can write and mark on my device, to give me on-device assistance (watch http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PFYHF1w8w3g to see it in action).

Welcome to communication ubiquity. Welcome WebRTC.