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Twilio Extends the Boundaries of UC by Embedding Communications in Nearly Any Application

Posted by Paul Desmond

Nov 11, 2015

When you can get 750,000 people to agree on anything, you’re doing something right. And when you can get 750,000 people to invest their time and perhaps money in the same thing, then you’re really on to something.

That 750,000 number made me stand up (figuratively, at least) and take notice of what Twilio is up to. Twilio has a cloud-based platform for embedding communications into various applications, and counts 750,000 developers worldwide as part of its community, as explained in this recent podcast with Manav Khurana, VP product marketing at Twilio.

Outlining Use Cases for Embedded Communications

Embedded communications involves the seamless integration of a communications function – typically voice, video or messaging –  within another application. It’s at the very foundation of unified communications; the ability to launch a phone call from within your contacts app, for example.

Twilio extends the concept way beyond the handful of applications typically associated with UC. “We say every app can be a communications app,” Khurana says. “I’ve yet to see an application come up where we can’t find a good use case for communications to be embedded.”  

The apps for which customers most often use Trilio fall into four categories, he says.

  1. Customer relationship management. CRM is “becoming the new call center,” Khurana says. Instead of customers calling into a call center from an 800 number, they click on a link in a browser-based or mobile app and the CRM winds up becoming the new 800 number.
  2. Software analytics. Analytics apps are used for all sorts of customer-related functions, such as finding potential fraud in credit card accounts. Twilio takes that a step further, by automating the process of sending notifications and alerts – no human required.
  3. Marketing. Just as marketers have been able to track visitors to web sites by using specialized URLs, with Twilio marketers can do the same with phone numbers in advertisements. “They’re able to determine how useful one ad is vs. another,” Khurana says.  
  4. New economy marketplaces. Services such as Uber, Lyft and Airbnb use Twilio to connect service providers and customers directly, without revealing the phone number on either side – what Twilio calls anonymous communications.

Pulling it Off: How Embedded Communications Works

Twilio is a cloud-based platform. Any web or mobile app can use it by simply making a secure API call to initiate or respond to a voice, video or messaging application.

Behind the scenes, Twilio’s infrastructure has established worldwide Internet connectivity as well as connections to various carriers. By connecting to Twilio, customers “get access to every mobile and fixed line carrier that exists in the world,” Khurana says. “We call that the super network, a network of networks.”   Access to this supernetwork is based on usage, not a licensing or set fee, enabling customers to get up and running quickly and without long-term commitments.

If customers want to connect their own existing communications infrastructure to Twilio, they use a standard session initiation protocol (SIP) interface, he notes.

Supporting the Cevelopment Community for Embedded Communications

Twilio also offers lots of help for all those developers who are working on to communications-enable various apps. The general approach is to make Twilio available in programming languages that developers most often use.

Toward that end, the company has software libraries and software development kits (SDKs) for some 25 different programming languages and frameworks. “We maintain helper libraries and SDKs like it was our own interface,” Khurana says. If a developer is using, say, Python for a Web app, he can import the Twilio Python library and starting using Twilio in the syntax and language that’s familiar to him. The same goes for Java, IOS, Android and several others.

Learn more about what Twilio is up to by checking out our podcast with Manav Khurana. You’ll hear his take on WebRTC (and how Twilio helps make it work on any platform) as well as the company’s future plans.

Topics: Voice, video, cloud, Mobility, WebRTC, Use Case