In the conferencing space dominated by Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams, etc., are there opportunities for new video conferencing applications? Is it possible to meet the high standards set by these applications? How complex is it to build a complete solution? What technologies are involved in building such an application? How to find a team to build a reliable application end to end? How long will it take to build a complete solution?
These would be the questions that will come to your mind if you have an idea or a requirement to build a video-conferencing application. Well, we are going to answer all these questions and help you understand the process involved in building such an application.
What type of applications are we talking about here?
If your application has a component that requires users to communicate in real-time with video and it is the main component that your business case is built on, it falls into the type of applications we are talking about here.
This could be related to any industry and or any use case. To name a few TeleMedicine, Online Tutoring, Remote Consultation, TeleLaw, General Video Conferencing applications, Enterprise solutions, Applications similar to zoom, skype, teams, whereby, GoToMeeting, etc.
So let's start with the question,
Are there opportunities for new video conferencing solutions?
People question all the time, the reason for building new video conferencing applications when there is Zoom, Teams, Skype. There are two main types of opportunities here.
- Zoom is not perfect. Some find it difficult to use, too much friction before starting a meeting, privacy concerns, long URLs to join, need to install software, settings are too complicated, lack of team controls, etc. Hence we see other applications like Google Meet, Whereby that address some of these pain points becoming popular. There are plenty of gaps that zoom has not yet filled that new platforms can take advantage of. There is also the opportunity for new functionalities that improves user experience with the help of AI and AR.
- Solutions focused on certain use cases or industries. Different industries have unique requirements specific to them. For example, if you take the healthcare industry it needs integrations to EMR, HIPAA, and other compliances, patient queue system, payment collection, simple to join for the patient, in-call collaborative forms, and most importantly white-labeled solutions. Zoom or other conferencing solutions do not address these specific requirements hence there is always the opportunity to fill in the gaps.
To answer the rest of the questions let's see the high-level process of building a video conferencing solution end to end considering both the business and technical aspects of it.
Building a video conferencing solution end to end involves all the steps usually required of regular software plus some additional tasks and steps specific to video conferencing.
- Identifying and defining the value proposition
- Creating a business strategy
- Designing a digital vision and roadmap
- Developing the solution in phases
- Continuous improvements according to customer feedback
- Scaling the system and making the system robust
1. Identifying and defining the value proposition
It is said that for a product to succeed it has to be 10x better than its competitors. Identifying what makes your product unique and giving that edge case needs to be researched thoroughly before anything else. Our expertise allows you to build great products but technology is not all that makes a product great.
We need to identify the target market and brainstorm how technology can intervene. Our domain experts can help you explore the hidden digital opportunities within your target market.
2. Creating a business strategy
Doing development without a clear business strategy is like steering a ship with no sense of direction. Having a well-defined business strategy keeps everyone focused on the right vision and makes every micro development a step in the right direction.
The strategy should include,
- Target market segment
- Pricing model
- Value Propositions
- Problem addressed
- Identify Product features with the highest impact
3. Designing a digital vision and roadmap
Businesses must provide a frictionless experience to the end-users. To deliver this experience it is essential to choose the right platforms and technologies, design the user experience, design a solid architecture to grow on. A clear roadmap is needed to build the monopoly of your product in the market.
What technologies are involved in building a video conferencing solution?
While this topic needs its own blog post, let's look at the high-level technologies involved in building such an application.
The backbone of video-conferencing is WebRTC. It is an open-source web and mobile-based API supported by all modern browsers to communicate in real-time. This has allowed developers to add real-time communication functionality to applications saving a lot of time and cost.
Like any other application, the pure form of WebRTC does not meet the demands of most industries as it is a peer-to-peer-based technology. This gives rise to the requirement of a media server to process and distribute video and audio streams of users to each other. This makes the technology more scalable. It also allows us to interfere with the media streams before distributing them to the users.
There are two main types of media servers,
- CPAAS (Communication Platform as a service)
Open-Source Media Servers
There are few popular open-source media servers and selecting the best depends on the use case. To name a few, Jitsi, Janus, Kurento, MediaSoup. Out of these jitsi is the most commonly used because of the complete package it provides and the community support behind it.
These services manage the real-time component for us so that we do not need to think about managing and scaling the servers. The downside of choosing these would be limited customizations and the price model might not give you enough profit to grow your business. Some popular service providers are Vonage, Twilio, SignalWire, Agora, Voximplant. Choosing the right one depends on the pricing model, level of customizability, customer support, reliability, quality of audio and video, etc.
Deciding between Open-Source and CPAAS depends on several points.
- Pricing Model - Both have a cost to it but when scaling CPAAS solutions will be more expensive with most of them providing per minute charges. So if you are building a general video conferencing platform that you are going to charge the users per month it would be hard to keep your profit margins. But if you are building a platform where you are actually charging the users for some consultation like TeleMedicine, the pricing model actually depends on your expertise and not the usage of the platform. Compared to this open-source solutions would be better if you are using video conference as the main service you provide through your platform.
- Security and Privacy - Going for a CPAAS solution means your communication would be handled by a third-party service. This leads to a few concerns. First, your data would be going outside of your network. Even though these services have high-security standards, this will not be a favorable solution, especially for Enterprises. Second, you cannot deploy these solutions on-premise servers so you have no control over the services whereas with open-source solutions they could be deployed on-premise and you have total control of them.
- Scaling and Managing - CPAAS are easy to manage and scale compared to open-source platforms as they have to be handled by ourselves. This is one of the main advantages of going for a CPAAS.
- Customizability - With open-source platforms the limit of customizing the platform is unlimited since you have the total ownership and control whereas in CPAAS you need to rely on their APIs.
Well, this actually needs an article of its own but for now, these should give you some pointers.
If your product has a web component you can choose any technology. Our team mainly works with ReactJs/Redux for the frontend and NodeJs/Express for the backend but there are a ton of other available options.
The web application will communicate with the video conferencing service via APIs. This means video conferencing service can act as an independent service that can be integrated into your main application.
Again most of the video conferencing platforms support major mobile technologies and have SDKs to build on. We are expertise in both React Native and Flutter but there is no real limitation here.
Most of the time the video conferencing service will not require a database of its own so the database usually is associated with the main web or mobile application's backend.
Considering all aspects domain experts, designers, and solution architects should develop a digital mosaic choosing the right technologies, defining microservices, and solid architecture.
This is an important step as this lays the foundation for your application. Choosing the right technologies to include choosing the frontend technologies, backend technologies, database, video conferencing application, cloud provider, testing frameworks etc.
A video conferencing application includes developing multiple components and services. It is important that the system follows a stateless architecture and breaks down services into multiple manageable services to scale and maintain effectively.
Hence a good architecture is a key to the success of software. Our architects are experienced and skilled to provide the best architecture based on the requirement.
After evaluating and reviewing the proposed solution a roadmap needs to be designed which will act as the solution blueprint. This should also ensure stakeholder buy-in. This provides everyone the direction forward, the timelines, and what to expect.
4. Developing the solution in phases
It is obvious that the solution cannot be built out straight out but requires development in phases. The roadmap breaks down the high-level tasks into multiple phases following the agile sprint style.
Before the beginning of each sprint, the tasks of the sprint need to be discussed with the product manager from the client-side and the business analyst from the developer team. Testing engineers need to then define the test scope for each of the tasks. Tech-lead from the developer team analyzes the effort needed from his team to complete the sprint hence letting the project manager know the resources needed to complete the sprint.
Developers allocated to the sprint need to develop the tasks assigned to them in the sprint and discuss any potential barrier to completion in time with the tech lead. The tech lead provides the technical guidance to the team while the project manager ensures the developers meet the timeline. Testing engineers will work along with the developers to ensure the development is in alignment with the test scope
At the end of each sprint a demo will be presented to the necessary stakeholders of the progress of the sprint and also discuss on what should be completed in the next sprint. Stakeholders can give their feedback which will be taken into consideration in the next sprint.
This is an internal meeting taken between the internal team members from the dev team to discuss their thoughts on the past sprint, their performance, and what could be done to improve them. This results in better performance of the team with time and a good time to step back and look at things.
The release strategy is as important as development. A product is usually developed to fill a gap but competition is still unavoidable. The releases should be planned that you stay in the game ahead of your competitors. But it is also important to ensure a great customer experience. This is the main reason why most software has a beta release prior to production release. Find a user segment that you can test out your product before releasing a major version. Use their feedback to optimize the software. This needs to be continuous.
Moving forward and maintenance
Successful software is never a one-time development. The software needs to adapt to the user feedback, keep updating with the new technologies, servers, databases that need to be maintained and monitored, implement new features to keep it fresh for the users.
Hence it is important to have a dedicated team working on the software keeping it fresh and optimized. You have to think long-term here not just a few months but probably a lifetime if things succeed with the software.
Stressed? Don't be
It can be stressful thinking about all these aspects but that's where Telzee comes in. We are a software development company specialized in the development of Real-Time Communication platforms.
We consist of all the domain experts required to build enterprise-level software end to end. This includes WebRTC engineers, Software Architects, Senior Web Developers, DevOps, Project Managers, Mobile Developers, UI UX Engineers, Testing Engineers.
We handle all development work so that you focus on growing the business. We are not just a development team but we work together with all other teams of the product working for a single vision.
Interested in hiring us? Send us an email with your requirement to firstname.lastname@example.org and one of our experts will get in touch with you.