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Janus, the two faced Roman god of gates and transitions, is a fitting icon for Meetecho’s WebRTC server. In fact, this open source technology does more than bridge the gap between one person and another, making real time communication over the web more secure and reliable. The Janus gateway implementation is also designed to provide WebRTC access to a greater array of technologies. It can integrate traditional telecommunications with the browser, enable web developers to create better multimedia experiences, and even connect users with IoT for real world impact.
There is no question that Web Real Time Communication has come a long way in a short time. Simply the fact that real-time multimedia can be accomplished without plugins is a significant accomplishment. Lorenzo Miniero, cofounder of Meetecho and main author of Janus, offered his perspective on the current state and potential future of the technology. “WebRTC is important because it allows you to do everything you want with real-time media in a browser or mobile app. There’s nothing you can’t do with it, which is exciting. It’s a huge milestone in communications in general and everybody has to adapt not to be cut out.”
With benefits like greater ease of implementation and a higher level of security, there are many reasons that keeping up with this technology is a wise choice. But there are difficulties that come along with working on a standard that has not been set in stone. “The main challenge is that if you don’t keep updated you can wake up one morning and find out that whatever you had doesn’t work anymore.” Having a distributed developer community that helps with feedback and bug fixes is certainly an advantage in staying ahead of the curve. That’s one reason Janus is open source.
Although the Janus gateway is modular, well supported, and freely available, there’s still no shortage of situations where implementation can be tricky. Organizations tend to have developers who are savvy in terms of web and mobile but not with backend development. Or, they may have a solid background in Telco but little familiarity with browser-based communication. Full integration requires a knowledge base that encompasses both fields. Lorenzo’s team is often called upon to design the architecture and backend interfaces that allow Janus to be deployed in an IT environment that features a mix of technologies.
The Janus Gateway is being pressed into service in both the academic and business worlds. For example, the technology is being used for e-learning and co-working in addition to traditional videoconferencing. For commercial WebRTC solution providers like Veeting, Janus has been instrumental in adding additional scalability, connectivity, and privacy features. From one-to-many presentations to call center solutions and peer-to-peer communication, virtual meetings are now available in more configurations to serve a broader market. Some of the most interesting work being done around WebRTC is with embedded technology. For example, two IoT developers crafted an application to control a Parrot Jumping Sumo drone over the web. “They adapted the Janus backend by adding calls to the ARDrone SDK. It can capture video and send it back to the user via WebRTC.” The user can control the drone with simple keyboard commands based on this real time visual feedback.
As WebRTC continues the journey to maturity, questions remain about the standards involved. With both VP8 and H.264 being accepted as mandatory codecs by IETF, there is no single path forward. However, most of the technical challenges are well in hand. Lorenzo pointed out that Telcos favoring older unified communications platforms are in for a rude awakening. “Some are still resisting and betting against WebRTC succeeding. But it will succeed. There is no getting around it.”
In fact, WebRTC has already revolutionized the telecommunications industry. And television could be next. Meetecho is currently working on stress testing the technology’s ability to provide simulcasting over the web to hundreds or thousands of viewers at once. Tomorrows users could enjoy interactive TV from their mobile devices—complete with the ability to call in to their favorite talk show and participate in a live discussion. On the cutting edge of WebRTC, multimedia delivery is being taken to new heights. The Janus server is even being leveraged to support real time streaming of virtual reality, providing a 3D experience for users. The options for entertainment, gaming, and training are just starting to be explored. Where will WebRTC be in two years? According to Miniero, the answer is simple. “Everywhere.”