Video and Voice Applications for Tomorrow’s Mobile World
New standards provide a low-latency dedicated pipe for real-time voice and video applications that may lead to the development of a V.VoIP super-app.
Today we know them as a feature phones but ten years ago a vast majority of mobile phones were used just for voice calling and messaging. The gradual roll-out of Internet services, the development of more powerful hardware and the evolution of software platforms coupled with increased network coverage and improved communication standards started a new mobile revolution. This has now grown to include content sharing, social networking or video calling—concepts that were not thought possible for handheld devices a decade ago.
The Evolution of Mobile Computing Platforms
Smartphones and tablets now have the hardware resources and required specifications (scalable, fast processors, video encoder/decoders and advanced camera sensors, large screens, flexible APIs) to make them suitable for video and voice over IP (V.VoIP) applications. But are these video and voice clients just like any other application that you find in most mobile stores? To address this question, we need to understand the initial purpose of mobile phones: enabling real-time communication for people on the go which relies on both the device itself and the network operator to maintain the call link.
Consumers have the same expectations with video calling, but as most operating systems enable multitasking, can they browse the Internet, run a HD game in the background and still deliver real-time quality for voice and video calls?
Before iOS and Android became leading mobile operating systems, developers had few resources and tools for designing compelling applications. Most V.VoIP features were embedded into the proprietary firmware with third-party software relying on Java ME or BREW. Because the hardware system was designed to deliver a limited set of functionality, any optimization was done at the target platform level and the number of devices that supported voice and video calling over the Internet Protocol was very limited.
Soon enough, smartphones became computing powerhouses with multicore processors and extra RAM and operating systems were able to run multiple applications at the same time including real-time software for V.VoIP.
Development Options for Mobile Apps
When looking at mobile stores across various platforms, applications can be split into two major families: native (this includes any embedded, pre-loaded and downloadable software) and Web-based. There are a number of advantages of relying on native apps, as more and more companies realize that HTML5 may not be suitable to their needs (see http://techcrunch.com/2012/09/11/mark-zuckerberg-our-biggest-mistake-with-mobile-was-betting-too-much-on-html5/). Embedded applications can be more deeply integrated in the overall experience, which provides users with a familiar set of characteristics (for example a unified phone dialer for voice and video). Pre-loaded applications are bundled software packages used by most manufacturers as a way to differentiate and get consumers a quick head start into the whole OS experience when they turn on their device for the first time. Downloadable apps offer a much wider choice as price points, popularity and user feedback determine different options and features.
Real-time V.VoIP applications have specific requirements such as low audio and video latency and a guaranteed quality of service (QoS) that set them apart from the rest of the crop. Network delays and packet losses were a common thing in the wireless environment but with HelloSoft’s smart concealment algorithm (see http://www.imgtec.com/hellosoft/hellosoft_ims_stack.asp), these issues can now be successfully mitigated.
Applications designed for V.VoIP solutions can be optimized for specific platforms and benefit from the various processing resources available which will save precious battery life. The rapid development of APIs and operating systems enables these solutions to run across multiple platforms and devices such as smartphones, tablets, and ultrabooks while offering the same consistent experience across all of them.
The Main Requirements for V.VoIP Apps
An integrated native application should not drain battery quickly and provide low latency HD voice and video experience even in a lossy wireless environment. This can only be achieved by tightly integrating with the handset platform and operators network, as is the case with embedded applications.
The developer community has now started to work more closely with operators and handset manufacturers to deliver performance optimized apps while operators have begun deploying GSMA standards like 4G LTE (see http://www.gsmarena.com/ee_uk_lte_network_launchin_on_oct_30th_pricing_revealed-news-4986.php) which enable voice/video over LTE and rich communication services, including social presence, group chat, messaging, video/image and file sharing.
These standards provide a low-latency dedicated pipe for real-time voice and video applications to meet the QoS requirements. This means the handset manufacturers are opening up platform APIs for tighter integration, enabling a single integrated experience which would hopefully lead to the development of a V.VoIP super-app.
Alexandru Voica is technical marketing executive and Saraj Mudigonda is business development manager for Imagination Technologies Group plc (LSE:IMG; www.imgtec.com). Contact Mr. Voica at Alexandru.Voica@imgtec.com and Mr. Mudigonda at Saraj.Mudigonda@imgtec.com