What exactly is WebRTC, and will it impact my business?
As a software solution provider and integrator, we’re getting that question a lot lately.
Let’s discuss the impact of WebRTC technology on businesses in 2023 and beyond. Here’s what we’re going to cover:
- What Is WebRTC?
- How Does Web Real-Time Communications Work
- Who Is Using The Technology?
- What’s The Business Case For WebRTC?
- Where Can You Go For More Information?
So let’s get started with the basics.
What is WebRTC?
Developers use these APIs to create peer-to-peer (P2P) communications between internet web browsers and mobile applications without worrying about compatibility and support for audio-, video- or text-based content.
With WebRTC, data transfer occurs in real time without the need for custom interfaces, extra plugins or special software for browser integration. WebRTC enables real-time audio and video communication simply by opening a webpage.
That’s a great place to start. Now we’ll zoom in for a closer look at how the technology works in the real world.
How Does Web Real-Time Communications Work?
WebRTC is a standard for real-time communication over the internet that enables users and devices on different networks to establish direct connections and share data. It’s commonly used for video chat systems, video games, I(I)oT, and streaming.
The technology initially relies on a Signaling Server to forward messages back and forth and eventually establish a direct connection.
When a user wants to connect to a device, WebRTC uses Interactive Connectivity Establishment (ICE) messages through the signaling server to establish a connection.
Let’s look at an example.
When you initiate a connection, your phone sends the Signaling Server some information about what it’s requesting and its capabilities. It might say, “I’d like to stream audio and video, and I understand the following formats. What do you have for me?”
The Signaling Server relays that information to a camera, for example, which can reply with the technical details of the formats it can record in.
Both devices exchange Interactive Connectivity Establishment (ICE) messages through the Signaling Server. These messages might say, “Hey! My IP address is 192.168.1.123, and I’m listening on port 4202”. If both devices are on the same network, they can directly connect since they’re on the same private address space.
So typically, if two devices are on the same network, like your home or business network, they can connect directly since they’re in the same private address space behind a common router.
For devices trying to connect directly outside a private network space, it’s virtually impossible to connect without an intermediary server to establish and maintain a data connection.
So WebRTC uses a communications protocol called STUN, or Simple Traversal of User Datagram Protocol (UDP) through Network Address Translators (NATs). Using STUN, the device asks a server on the internet, “What’s my public IP address?” When the device sends that question, the router rewrites the messages with its public address. The STUN server sees that and replies with its public IP address.
The devices can then share that public IP address with each other and ideally make a connection.
The STUN server also has a useful side-effect of opening a “hole” in the router firewall, kind of like port forwarding. Since the device started the connection from inside the network, the firewall knows that any incoming network data must be sent back to the device so it can receive the message. WebRTC uses this to send traffic into the private network.
According to industry estimates, STUN server connections like this work about 80% of the time. If this fails, a TURN, or “Traversal Using Relays around NAT” relay server can be used to relay the network traffic. Here, WebRTC devices fall back to relaying their network traffic through the TURN relay. We should note, however, that these servers are expensive to operate since they need to move high-bandwidth data, like streaming video.
In the real world, WebRTC is used in numerous applications such as IoT devices, mobile apps, video streaming, audio, mobile device communications, and managing remote sensors.
So Who Is Using The Technology And For What?
As we pointed out earlier, some common applications for WebRTC are IoT and IIoT applications, mobile apps, video and chat applications, and streaming. In reality, though, any communication or data transfer that uses browser technology is ripe for WebRTC.
So devices in homes and businesses, from Ring doorbells and Nest thermostats to advanced industrial process controls and plant automation, are perfect use cases for Web RTC applications.
Wireless communication is also a future green field for web real-time communications. Business Wire weighed in with some thoughts in a recent global mobile market report:
WebRTC Global Market Report 2023: WebRTC Will Be the RTC Platform of Choice With the Introduction of 5G and the Expansion of OTT Offerings – ResearchAndMarkets.com…
Use cases range from advanced video calling apps (such as Skype, Duo, and WhatsApp) and screen sharing to the more basic web apps that can use your microphone or camera. Major drivers for the vendor, service provider, and developer adoption are ease of implementation, compatibility with browsers and OS, and free open-source with no need for third-party applications.
That’s a powerful endorsement. And we can personally attest to the commercial use cases and success stories derived from WebRTC application development and implementation. In the right hands, this technology can be transforming for companies of all scopes and sizes.
We should also point out that browser-based usage is not the only means of implementing this versatile technology, though it is currently the most prevalent platform for implementation.
What’s The Business Case For WebRTC?
The business applications for this technology are virtually unlimited, and growing every day. We live in a world where communication is dominated by the web, mobile apps, wireless protocols, and mobile networks.
In a nutshell, that describes the potential implementation zone for WebRTC.
For example, we recently helped a client integrate a software application for an IoT device that provided remote video, audio, and data from environmental sensors. When the IoT device was integrated with a mobile app, users could connect to the device and remotely check in on their family members and their home.
The integrated system uses the WebRTC standard to negotiate and establish a connection. Once connected, the device can exchange data with apps and additional devices, like cameras, sensors, robotic controllers, etc.
What’s the bottom line?
The potential for WebRTC as a transformative technology for small, medium, and large businesses is essentially unlimited.
Where Can You Go For More Information?
You’re in the right place.
WebRTC is a complex protocol that is outside the skill set of most web developers. In fact, most developers and engineers will go their entire careers without ever encountering it.
At Viagio, we recognize WebRTC as an important and useful tool in the growing I(I)oT space. Viagio engineers are experts at investigating and learning how to implement new technologies for the benefit of our clients.
And WebRTC is just one of those technologies.
What’s your WebRTC use case?
Let’s find out.
Call us at 888.840.0903 or get in touch with our team online today.