IIT RTC Conference 2014 Summary

IIT RTC ConferenceThe IIT RTC Conference and Expo is a globally recognized collaborative event, where industry and academia connect. Leveraging its unique academic setting, this annual conference brings together technical professionals and business executives from the data and telecommunications industry, standards bodies, policy and regulatory institutions, and academic educators and researchers to promote an open exchange of ideas to lead future development in the rapidly changing field of real-time communications.

Any profit made from the event goes to funding IIT RTC Labs student research projects. This event is unique as it brings a diverse range of telecom, IT and web people together in an atmosphere of critical thinking, it forces people to step up their game and not accept the usual industry crap-trap. Henning Schulzrinne, CTO of the FCC, had some great quotes at the event, for example, “3GPP ‘self-inflicted problem’ of too much signaling.” I felt so vindicated when I’ve been pointing out this issue for years, and the CTO of the FCC states it quite bluntly. If only we could have more frank and open discussions like this in the industry.

The conference is unique in the telecoms industry, a solid research foundation is critical for injecting new ideas, understanding emerging technology, and critically analyzing the status of the marketing without the usual marketing BS. I must send props to US Cellular for their strong support with 5 people 3 of whom gave great presentations at the event.

I was there to promote the work of TADSummit and TADHack, you can see the slides I presented at the bottom of this weblog, you’ll have seen most of them before if you’re a regular reader. IIT RTC Labs is very supportive in running TADHack Chicago and we have great plans for 2015 in expanding the scope across the student body as well as the broader vibrant Chicago developer scene. Collaboration like this is key to creating a vibrant and sustainable telecom application developer ecosystem.

On the summary slides from the conference shown below, I highlight with commentary some of the many excellent presentations given. All the slides are downloadable from the IIT RTC Conference website. Henning’s keynote focused on IoT, I show some of the highlights of this presentation below.  It was inspiring and insightful, setting IoT in context, showing the problems in privacy, security and interop.  And with the SECE (Sense Everything, Control Everything) demonstrator it was nice to see the Mobicents app sever pop up. But the most insight came in the discussion after his presentation on the “3GPP ‘self-inflicted problem’ of too much signaling” and on software having to be responsible for its impact of others (e.g. poorly written software hijacked in denial of service attacks) which he thinks will change with a few class action law suits. His presentation focused on IoT, he was frank that beyond M2M the cases are weak at the moment. He often used the towel dispenser example, which is not a great example. He also raise the social angle that many of the IoT use cases result in jobs lost for low income earners, which he questioned as a society can we afford. He was also unsure if IoT interop standards can be achieved to deliver on the big IoT vision, quoting X.10 as an example. My view is just like in the lack of interop beyond basic video across home entertainment equipment the value of keeping customers in silos (no matter how small) outweighs the benefit of interop. Apple being the archetype. Overall an inspiring multi-domain discussion with a good dose of social awareness thrown in.

Picking on a few of the presentations I was able to see as 3 tracks ran in parallel “Lessons Learned by a WebRTC developer, for a WebRTC developer” by Peter Thatcher of Google gave a great review of WebRTC from a developer’s perspective and the path we still have to follow to make WebRTC addressable to many more developers. As well as highlighting important things to do when developing applications with WebRTC. Ben Klang from MojoLingo gave a great taxonomy of RTC services, which highlighted the short-coming of many existing RTC applications, it will be interesting to see how services like switch.co map into that taxonomy. Todd Carothers gave a presentation on “Real-Time Communications (RTC) Clients—Present and Future Roadmap”. CounterPath have a business that is endorsed in telco by the likes of Rogers One Number (who use their client) and Orange Libon (which shows telcos can adopt a hybrid OSP/RCS model). OSP is Online Service Provider, its what they call themselves, its more polite than using OTT that is a bit like using the term Redskins.

US Cellular game a number of excellent presentation at the event, its great to see such active and insightful telco contributions to the event. Scott Scheuber from US Cellular gave a presentation on “The Things of Business,” which reviewed their M2M business. With the current focus on business efficiencies (which Henning backed up in his presentation). In the discussion the challenges in moving to IoT are significant and history shows IoT has a significant hill to climb where customer demand for interop is a critical requirement. Which Apple sort of proves is weak. Alan Johnston gave an important presentation on WebRTC Security and Privacy which will become critical barriers to WebRTC being used in many mainstream applications. That got me thinking about where are are in WebRTC’s evolution. In my opinion we’re entering the wild west after the early explorers have mapped some of the landscape, with the privacy and security issues better managed, we’ll see the big guys war it out, and with the market deciding we’ll enter a progressive era where the dominant innovations from the war are consolidated into standards. All ending in the modern era where WebRTC is ubiquitous and no longer really mentioned, its just there.

Ed Elkin from ALU gave a nice presentation on the network benefits of VoLTE. No one can argue with the analysis. The problem is this is not what the customer sees as their overall experience. Quan Choi from US Cellular put it quite eloquently that VoLTE benefits the network more than the customer. On a customer benefits slide, when we consider the customers total communications experience. Customers have HD voice today with quick set up time through a number of applications. They’ve had enriched comms services for years and no change to billing. VoLTE is more important to telcos than to customers, which means it must work like CS voice – else customers will migrate even faster to OSPs. And in a separate discussion (not with Quan) when I raised the VoLTE interop issues and lack of action I was told the GSMA has a 3 day meeting last month on the topic, and the emergency action plan… yet more meetings arghhh!

Robin Raymond from HookFlash gave many great presentations at the conference I pick on the Future of the Cloud with P2P (Peer-to-Peer) RTC (Real-Time Communication) were he sets out a Cloud RTC vision:

  • PSTN will be virtualized into the cloud
  • RTC will accelerate PSTN’s demise
  • Social and corporate identities will replace phone numbers
  • Websites are RTC applications
  • IMS / 3GPP are going to be out innovated by cloud services
  • WebRTC will disrupt every industry, some more than others
  • Specialized RTC + RTC data will outstrip traditional communications
  • Expect efficiencies, innovation, scalability, to come from cloud RTC
  • Cloud will become increasingly for “meta” data, or pre-secured data
  • Emergency services needs to move from PSTN subscriber models

He also presented on “Delivering Real-Time Communications with Mobile” where he demonstrated how Mobile RTC is different, and as we saw in the CounterPath presentation the client is a critical element is solving these issues and delivering a consistent UX. And finally an “ORTC API Update”, which extends WebRTC to a broader community of developers by moving it along the path to “easy”.

This event is unique as it brings a diverse range of telecom, IT and web people together in an atmosphere of critical thinking across both academia, regulation and industry.  It forces people to step up their game and not accept the usual industry crap-trap.  The IIT RTC Conference needs broader industry support, this should be the meeting place for all North American telcos to come together and see the future of the industry and discuss the strategy with a good dose of critical thinking. Industry bodies like the GSMA and CTIA should be support this event given its leadership in bringing academia and industry together.  Come on guys show your support to Carol and her team!

4 thoughts on “IIT RTC Conference 2014 Summary

  1. Warren Bent

    Alan, thanks for this great summary of the event!

    The missing slides from Henning’s keynote are now uploaded to the conference website


    For those who might be interested in other presentation slides, all the presentation decks that have been shared with us can be viewed by visiting the Program page of the conference site at http://www.rtc-conference.com/conference-schedule-listings/ then clicking the down arrow in the box for any given session, and scrolling to the bottom of the drop-down. A few decks are still missing, but we’re hoping to track those down this week, and will post as they become available. Lastly, all of the keynote presentations, including Henning’s, were recorded. We expect to post a link to each on the homepage of the conference site later this month.

    Thanks again for all your help making the event a success!


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  3. Ivelin Ivanov


    Thank you for the informative summary. Good to know who are the companies and people that highlight the state of the RTC space.


    Thank you for sharing the slides. Is there a video recording of Henning’s keynote. I would love to hear what he had to say. Wish I could watch in person. The slides are great, but some are a bit abstract and I can’t fill in all the blanks.


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