The COVID-19 pandemic has not so much led to rapid adoption of new technologies as much as it has accelerated adoption of emerging ones. Video conferencing services such as Zoom, after all, were being employed before the pandemic hit. It was only when most people started to work from home that usage of video conferencing platforms as part of everyday collaboration became widespread. The question now is how usage of those platforms will likely evolve from here.
Most end users today switch from whatever application they happen to be using to join a video conference that is accessed using the user interface provided by the video conferencing platform. However, as applications continue to evolve, it’s only a matter of time before more developers of applications take advantage of application programming interfaces (APIs), which these collaboration platforms use to embed a wide range of communications capabilities into their applications. That approach will eliminate the need to drop out of an application to join a video conference call.
RingCentral, for example, has made available a high-volume API for its short message service (SMS) that enables developers to embed that capability within their applications. That offering extends the APIs that RingCentral makes available across its platform, including a video conferencing service based on the platform developed by Zoom.
Accessing communications services via API will not completely supplant the current UI experience most end users experience today, but it will become a lot more common to invoke communications capabilities from within an application using extensions made possible by low-code tools, says William Moxley, chief product officer for RingCentral.
“You’ll see both,” says Moxley. “Low code tools will make it easier to embed these capabilities in applications.”
Ultimately, the goal is to make it easier for end users to maintain context when collaborating with colleagues. Much of what is being discussed online these days is the significance of the data most recently added to an application, so it doesn’t make a lot of sense to switch to another application to discuss the relevance of that data. End users should be able to simply send a message or invite their colleague to a video conference right from within their applications. Arguably, one of the things that has made Microsoft Teams attractive for many organizations is its tight integration with productivity applications such as Microsoft Excel or Microsoft PowerPoint.
Finding the Bandwidth
Of course, the network bandwidth required to drive these applications isn’t free. Comcast next year will be implementing a 1.2TB data cap on broadband usage across all 39 states where it offers its internet service. It will waive overage fees for the first two months but will eventually charge $10 for every additional 50GB of data.
That’s not likely to curtail usage of video conferencing. It does, however, signal that the costs for corporate networking services are likely to follow suit next year, especially if organizations decide to avail themselves of 5G wireless networking services to provide a richer end-user experience.
Whatever the path forward, video conferencing along with other forms of online collaboration are here to stay even after people return to their offices more regularly sometime next year. In fact, don’t be surprised to see, in 2021, people in the same office participating in the same video conference event though, in the name of social distancing, they may only be sitting a few yards apart.