Will WebRTC Enable the Collaboration Television?

WebRTC to WebComm

Will WebRTC Enable the Collaboration Television?

By Phil Edholm, President & Founder, PKE Consulting  |  September 16, 2015

Videoconferencing seems to be moving from the boardroom to the desktop, with a resulting significant reduction in size and, to some extent usability. We seem to be in a state where almost every modern PC is capable of a relatively comprehensive video communications and collaboration session. With virtually every PC now including a camera and those cameras getting ever more powerful and the processors more than capable of doing video, users are getting really comfortable using videoconferencing.

Companies like Acano on the premises and Blue Jeans in the cloud enable integration of the desktop video to existing conference room systems. Microsoft and Cisco (News - Alert) are providing integrated options for both desktop and their room systems. However, these room systems are still often priced and designed for relatively high-end environments, both in complexity and cost. Companies like Tely Labs and Aver have built low cost cameras that can be used in rooms as well.

But the cost of room systems is still relatively high. Not only do you have to buy a camera that typically costs around $700 to $100, you have to mount and install it with the television. However, that new television is very capable of being a complete system on its own. For example, the current generation of Samsung televisions have quad core processors and multiple gigs of memory; in fact, they are essentially a PC inside of something that looks like a television. They also have an optional camera to provide gesture control. And the industry seems to be adopting the RealSense technology from Intel (News - Alert) to enable an intuitive map of the room and users.

A few years ago cameras appeared on a few high-end televisions, but that seems to have disappeared. With that went the Skype (News - Alert) app that was available on Samsung TVs for a while.

The concept of the TV as more than an entertainment device seems to have fallen away recently, with more focus on 4K capabilities and user interfacing versus interaction. However, the TV and low cost room video seems poised to make a breakout. There continue to be rumors about an Apple (News - Alert) television; it would be reasonable to think it would integrate to FaceTime through video. Also, there seems to be a major appetitive for low cost room video systems in the enterprise, as demonstrated by the growth in market share of Tely Labs and Aver.

The key question is how the low cost systems will evolve. Today, video is only bought in conjunction with a defined system, not as an open capability. It would seem that WebRTC is a logical way to implement these capabilities so any TV can operate with any communications or collaboration application. By implementing WebRTC, either with a built-in camera or a low cost add-on camera (the Samsung camera is $99), any TV can be a collaboration platform. WebRTC would seem to be the ideal technology for this implementation. It is compatible with the Android software running on many TVs and is compatible with the specialized OSes like Tizen (on Samsung). If implemented properly it is open and can be used with any WebRTC-based communications application. The data channel enables the use of local devices for input (for example, white boarding) to any display. As WebRTC is natively a simple interface, managing and controlling the display from an app in a mobile device ala High Five can be implemented, reducing complexity and simplifying use. Applications in the entertainment world are leveraging mobile devices to avoid using the remote for entry; applications in the WebRTC world will do the same.

With one to two million conference and huddle rooms in North America alone and a penetration of less than 10 percent with some form of video display or conferencing capability, this is a huge market. WebRTC can both enable the market and make it easy to participate, regardless of the chosen communications system. In other words, a WebRTC-based video endpoint is an attribute of the room more than an extension of a fixed UC system. And that is just in the enterprise.

Would consumers want a communications capability in their television? Tellybean is focused in this area and believes that we would rather use the big TV versus a 13-inch laptop when communicating from home. Tellybean is focused on the Google (News - Alert) smart TV space and enabling TVs, but its concept would extend to the TVs with WebRTC. All of these point to a time when the TV evolves to have the same capabilities of your laptop for communications and more. Only time will tell, but it seems clear that smart TVs with WebRTC capability could create a new market, both in the enterprise and the consumer spaces.

Edited by Maurice Nagle