By Cassandra Balentine
Communications Platform as a Service (CPaaS) is a cloud-based enterprise tool that enables businesses to integrate communications capabilities like voice, video, and messaging into their own applications (apps) without the need to build backend support for capabilities like chatbots, service agents, and contact centers.
According to a recent whitepaper by Juniper Research, Communications Platforms—Transforming Enterprises into Digital Innovators, commissioned by CLX Communications, enterprise spend on CPaaS is projected to increase from $2.4 billion in 2018 to $6.7 billion by 2022.
Primary Solutions and Benefits
As customer experience demands evolve, organizations must keep up.
According to the Juniper Research whitepaper, a cloud-based infrastructure provides a range of benefits around efficiency and productivity gains for enterprises. “For example, CPaaS does not require the continual upgrade of computing equipment to meet processing needs. This results in a reduction of capital expenditure and in turn allows more focus on using operational budgets to increase business productivity,” according to the report. However, traditional Software as a Service (SaaS) deployments have limitations. “Platform as a Service (PaaS) opens up the restrictive nature of SaaS somewhat, in that a layer of abstraction in the service delivery is removed,” states the whitepaper.
Omar Javaid, chief product officer, Vonage, describes CPaaS as an enabler of personalized and contextual customer communications through the channels customers commonly use. It allows businesses to embed communications features such as voice, video, and messaging into their own customer apps through APIs. He adds that with CPaaS, businesses improve the way they engage with customers to develop more meaningful relationships on virtually any platform and on any device. “For example, a business might use a chat app API to integrate messaging platforms that customers already use, including Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp, into its proprietary mobile offering. CPaaS is an agile, scalable service that developers use to build a wide selection of real time, cloud-based communications channels into their company’s own apps, with the intention of offering customers the best, most compelling experience available,” says Javaid.
CPaaS Solutions lead to better communication for specialized use cases. Ben Pinkerton, director of marketing, Vidyo, says embedded communications technology makes it possible to have a seamless, workflow-integrated experience that is easy to use and carries the organization’s brand. “This is especially true with video-based communication. Video communication provides a much deeper personal connection than voice or SMS. People can share a smile, a laugh, or a knowing wink that makes their interaction much more engaging.”
In terms of implementation, Pinkerton says that unlike out-of-the-box unified communications apps, embedded communications technology is part of the web or mobile apps used to interface with the organization. It can be tailored to the needs of a specific workflow, which makes it much easier to use. “This capability is delivered in a fully customizable package with all the necessary infrastructure available from the cloud, alleviating the need for organizations to build a communications infrastructure.”
However, managing real-time communications infrastructure is difficult. “It requires a different level of experience than traditional web hosting. Communication apps are more susceptible to bad network or server performance that can result in very apparent, poor-quality audio and video. Organizations considering real-time communications for their apps are finding that the learning curve is quite steep and the costs to build and maintain communications infrastructure are quite high. By leveraging a CPaaS, the application developers focus efforts on building the application rather than becoming experts in real-time communications,” shares Pinkerton.
Drivers and Early Adopters
The adoption of major technology is slow for many. The first companies to benefit from CPaaS include healthcare and financial services.
Driving the need for CPaaS are line-of-business owners that require a way to connect and communicate with constitutions. Pinkerton says the largest adoption of CPaaS is found in healthcare and financial services. Many healthcare providers are turning to telehealth as a way to increase access and reduce costs of delivering care. Telehealth is being used across the care continuum from at-home care to emergent care. In financial services, CPaaS is being used to power video banking. Banks see CPaaS as a way to deliver video-based interactions with their customers, which leads to improved customer satisfaction and retention.
In healthcare, the leaders of telemedicine programs and in the financial services the heads of retail banking are driving the demand for CPaaS. “IT plays a role in the process and often helps with selecting a CPaaS vendor,” says Pinkerton.
Enterprises are always looking for ways to reduce costs and increase efficiency. Pinkerton says building real-time communications internally is an investment in communications infrastructure as well as in the IT staff and training necessary for maintaining the infrastructure. By leveraging a CPaaS, enterprises can realize a faster ROI for communication-enabled applications.
Enterprises—particularly communications powerbrokers, realize a number of benefits from CPaaS. Javaid points out that powerbrokers—as defined by IDC—are companies that have reached the highest level of communications technology maturity and exhibit specific attitudes and behaviors toward communication technology. “Powerbrokers are organizations that are more than just voice, email, and call centers, and are not necessarily digital native companies but are unlocking the power of modern technology, such as the cloud and context awareness to power their solutions. These companies see improvement in speed-to-market for products and services, improvement in customer satisfaction and loyalty, and a reduction in costs leading to increased productivity.”
Javaid points out that customer expectations drivie the demand for better communications, and enterprises must meet those expectations. “Customers demand personalized experiences with more options for how to interact with companies, and they often prefer constant contact—the ability to reach out and voice complaints or changes service offerings at a moment’s notice. While enterprises of all sizes across any sector are adopting CPaaS solutions, early adopters tend to be those enterprises that are digital, agile organizations attempting to disrupt their markets.”
CPaaS platforms are self-service programming offerings that must provide exceptional developer experiences around their APIs. “As such, developers are often early adopters who will leverage CPaaS for experimentation and prototyping in small-scale communications applications, even before implementing the technology in production. Startups such as Airbnb and Uber use CPaaS for their disruptive customer experiences, which has spurred enterprises to adopt the technology as part of their digital transformation strategies,” says Javaid.
The technologies in CPaaS are constantly changing. “We’ve seen WebRTC explode in popularity, which has increased the overall awareness of using APIs to create embedded communications,” comments Pinkerton.
The evolution of programming languages, frameworks, CPU power, and the cloud have made it easier for developers to build communication-enabled apps. It is now possible for developers to have a working communication-enabled app in a matter of minutes. Just a few years ago, it could have required months of effort, adds Pinkerton.
Javaid says in many ways, CPaaS is the natural evolution of unified communications as a service in an increasingly cloud centric, mobile, and collaborative world. “CPaaS has evolved along with the advent of PaaS, which allows the enterprise to build and roll out new services without having to build backend infrastructure and interfaces. CPaaS has followed suit, enabling users to pull from other communications applications and services and orchestrate their communications.”
A variety of vendors support CPaaS, here we highlight several companies in the space.
CallFire Inc.’s family of brands provide easy-to-use, self-service text and voice marketing solutions for thousands of businesses across the U.S. and Canada. Its flagship brand, EZ Texting, is an online mass texting service. CallFire specializes in helping local businesses grow and retain revenue through proactive outreach and engagement. Its solutions also support customer service, collections, and logistics communications.
CLX Communications is a global provider of cloud-based communication services and solutions to enterprises and mobile operators. The company’s mobile communication services enable companies to quickly, securely, and cost-effectively communicate globally with customers and connected devices. CLX’s solutions enable business-critical communications worldwide via mobile messaging services, voice services, and mobile connectivity services for the IoT. In December 2016, CLX acquired the CPaaS Voice and Video supplier Sinch AB. CLX and Sinch will be fully merged within the next 12 months.
Ribbon Communications’ Kandy helps companies embed communications into software and web apps that are part of their workflow with the same options and convenience that mobile devices provide for customers and employees in personal lives. With Kandy, communication becomes more immediate and contextual resulting in better business outcomes. Kandy CPaaS is a real-time software development platform built from the company’s core communications, presence, security, and real-time technologies. Kandy enables service providers, enterprises, software vendors, systems integrators, partners, and developers to enrich their apps and services with real-time contextual communications, providing a more engaging user experience.
Plivo is a communications platform that enables businesses to connect, engage, and interact with customers. The company simplifies the complexity of telecom by offering simple and enterprise grade building blocks. Plivo’s infrastructure handles billions of voice calls and messages every year from businesses around the world.
Sinch is a cloud-based, mobile communications platform that simplifies adding voice, verification, video, SMS, and IM into apps easier than ever. Originally spun out of Rebtel in May 2014, the team has over 100 years of development experience in the voice industry, and brings this skill and expertise to its powerful range of SDKs and APIs for developers’s use.
TokBox, a Telefónica company, develops and operates the OpenTok Platform, making it fast and easy to add live video, voice and messaging communications into online and mobile websites, apps, and services. The scalable, customizable platform gives users the creative freedom to develop any video and voice interaction, from one-to-one chats to large-scale broadcasts.
More than two million developers around the world have used Twilio to unlock the magic of communications to improve any human experience. Twilio has democratized communications channels like voice, text, chat, and video by virtualizing the world’s telecommunications infrastructure through APIs that are simple enough for any developer to use, yet robust enough to power the world’s most demanding applications. By making communications a part of every software developer’s toolkit, Twilio is enabling innovators across every industry —from emerging leaders to the world’s largest organizations—to reinvent how companies engage with customers.
Vidyo is a CPaaS offering that empowers developers to rapidly embed group video communications into mobile, web, and desktop apps. vidyo.io delivers shorter time to market and reduced software bugs with consistent APIs and SDKs available on all major platforms. It dramatically reduces the complexity of building enterprise-grade interactive video into any application that reduces the cost associated with deploying and maintaining the supporting infrastructure.
vidyo.io is not limited to any particular in market and is designed to work across industries. However, the healthcare market has been leading to adoption. For healthcare, security and compliance are essential. It is designed with strong security and encryption that allow healthcare providers to securely communicate with patients and maintain HIPAA compliance. For telehealth apps that deliver services directly to patients, it is important to provide access to the patient via any device. vidyo.io provides support to mobile and desktop devices as well as web browsers. It also features support for clinical applications for mobile peripherals such as exam cameras and digital stethoscopes.
Vonage’s CPaaS solutions are intended to reinvent how enterprises of all sizes and industries communicate. Today’s consumers expect personalized, immediate communication. Javaid says APIs help organizations quickly develop a wide-reaching platform to gain consumer’s attention, win their loyalty, and leverage the customer conversation in new and exciting ways. “We allow enterprises to connect to customers in real time to accomplish a number of tasks, such as create more effective marketing communications, enhance the product experience, provide better customer support, and collect and utilize meaningful data.
Differentiating features of the Vonage CPaaS solution include the fact that there is no cost to get started with the CPaaS platform, it offers multichannel capabilities, and a global reach on a carrier-grade network.
Enterprises have evolved in the way they utilize hardware and software. With a cloud focus, CPaaS enables flexibility in network infrastructure to allow for the latest communications tools. SW
Jun2018, Software Magazine