Ranganath Jagannath, Director, Agora explains the dynamics of his solutions and how they are helping remote work and online education in the current situation.
What are the solutions and services in the Agora Portfolio?
Agora provides a Real-Time Engagement Platform for meaningful human connections. We pioneered Real-Time Engagement Platform-as-a-Service (RTE-PaaS). People engage longer when they see, hear, and interact with each other. So with Agora, you can embed vivid voice and video in any application, on any device, anywhere.
Our products span across voice call, video call, live interactive video streaming, live interactive audio streaming, real time messaging and recording. We help customers embed real-time voice, video, and messaging into their apps to drive deeper connections between people worldwide. Agora is helping customers across various segments such as gaming, education, retail, telehealth, among others.
Agora is a developer-first company. We solve developers’ challenges enabling high quality video engagement inside their apps. It provides endless solutions in the field of socializing, gaming, retail, education, healthcare, and work life.Our mission is tomake communication effective with the assistance of several services thereby increasing productivity and expanding networks.
Who are your marquee customers and what are their use cases?
Upgrad, an online higher education platform, is one of our leading customers. upGrad introduced the new upGrad Live platform, which is built to replicate a real-time classroom learning experience for upGrad learners by providing greater interactivity, real-time doubt resolution, in-class concept check and session analytics. This is an example of how education service providers are already using real time engagement platforms to revamp and re-strategize their learning modules in the current scenario.
MixPose, a streaming platform for yoga instructors and fitness professionals, used Agora’s API to build live streaming into its platform for yoga instructors leading real-time classes, allowing instructors and viewers to capture the experience of a guided session. Agora’s video SDK pairs with MixPose’s AI functions to evaluate the yoga poses of participants, helping to offer guidance and track progress.
Socializing while distant:
VirtualTaproom, a video chat network, pioneered the application of video chat to connect craft beer enthusiasts for networking and virtual brewery experiences. With Agora, VirtualTaproom took the craft beer tasting experience online with live-streaming virtual “taprooms,” digital “tipping” and other interactive features. In connection with this year’s Craft Beer Professionals Virtual Conference, VirtualTaproom welcomed 5,000 attendees to a virtual afterparty and trade show.
VirBELA, an immersive platform that offers virtual campuses for offices and educational institutions, is redefining the future of business, events and education with Agora’s RTE capabilities. Using 3D technology, VirBELA creates dynamic virtual campuses that allow groups of people to engage in real-time through avatars.
Immersive Virtual Events:
InEvent, a virtual and hybrid event platform, used Agora’s SDKs to add real-time engagement features to its platform, which provides a no-code way to create immersive virtual event experiences complete with live-streamed speaking sessions. InEvent’s engaging, easy-to-use platform provides a virtual solution for summits and conferences derailed by social distancing restrictions.
What kind of infrastructure do you have that helps to provide real-time engagement?
Real-Time Engagement (RTE) is about creating a shared experience and living the “now” moment together.In particular, real time engagement with live video is a game changer. While voice chat allows you to hear someone’s tone of voice, and messaging includes expressive visuals, the sheer density of information that comes across on live video chat makes it the clear winner for engagement. On a video call, you not only hear the other person’s words and tone of voice, but you can see their expressions and body language.
Our platform provides developers with simple-to-use, highly customizable, and widely compatible application programming interfaces (APIs) to embed real-time video and voice functionalities into their applications without the need to develop the technology or the underlying infrastructure for real-time engagement themselves.
Real-time data transmission throughout RTE-PaaS is handled by our proprietary Software-Defined Real-Time Network (SD-RTN), which is a virtual network overlay running on top of the public internet. The Agora SD-RTN runs on more than 200 co-located data centers worldwide.
Using sophisticated algorithms, the SD-RTN continually monitors and optimizes data transmission in order to minimize latency and packet loss, soling one of the biggest challenges that the public internet faces when it comes to video and voice transmission: lagginess and delays.
Agora is the first RTE PaaS that enables the full spectrum of human interactivity that can be fully contextualized and embedded into any application, on any device, anywhere.We are easier to scale than traditional Communications Platform-as-a-Service and closer to absolute real time than traditional Content Delivery Networks.
How Agora has stepped up to meet the demand of video, voice, and messaging?
Building real-time voice, video and messaging into applications is just plain hard. It is complex and it takes a lot of time. By providing easy-to-integrate, low-code SDKs and APIs, we help app developer teams speed up and simplify the process of adding these high-demand features into their apps.
More so, we have been able to scale to meet the high demand for streaming with our proprietary Software-Defined Real-Time Network (SD-RTN), which is a virtual network overlay running on top of the public internet. The Agora SD-RTN runs on more than 200 co-located data centers worldwide. Using sophisticated algorithms, it monitors real-time data transmission in order to minimize latency and packet loss. This solves one of the biggest challenges related to hosting video, voice, and messaging over the public internet — lagging, delays, and buffering.
How has the demand for collaborative solutions accelerated during the pandemic and what are Agora’s use cases here?
During the pandemic, many companies rushed to meet their customers online and turned to our SDKs to meet this demand extremely quickly. To put this into perspective, Agora grew its customer base by 85.5% year-over-year as of June 2020.
The use cases that we have helped power through the pandemic have been extremely diverse. From filling in crucial gaps in online education and remote work, to powering meaningful substitutions for in-person socializing and connection, Agora has highlighted the ability for Real-Time Engagement to bring people from all corners of the globe together through shared virtual context.
We have also teamed up with Pragli, a virtual office solution for remote teams that powers dynamic remote office environments. Users can host quick audio calls and schedule video meetings, all while using personalized avatars as a fun way to let their co-workers know when they are at their desks, in a meeting, or simply taking a break. Within just two months of COVID-19 stay-at-home orders, Pragli’s user base grew 20x.
Our use cases, however have not all been only focused on keeping business-as-usual. They have been rooted in spreading joy, too. For instance, we have helped VirtualTaproom take the craft beer tasting experience online with interactive features like live-streamed virtual “taprooms” and digital “tipping”. Also, the platform was able to successfully welcome 5,000 attendees to a virtual afterparty and trade show during this year’s Craft Beer Professionals Virtual Conference, where VirtualTaproom welcomed 5,000 attendees to a virtual afterparty and trade show.
What is the GTM strategy that Agora follows for the Indian market?
Our strategy is two-pronged. On a daily basis, we engage with key business and technology decision makers. Our technology can be used to power so many different use cases, so we believe it is important to connect with prospects regularly to discuss their pain points, suggest solutions and help develop go-to-market strategies alongside them.
Simultaneously, we remain focused on keeping a strong presence within the developer ecosystem. We pride ourselves on being developer-friendly and want to continually explore how we can make our products easier to use on the ground level. This includes bringing developers up to speed on the latest innovations on the Agora technology stack, hosting developer-focused events and running several developers’evangelists’ programs.
How do you ensure the security aspect at all times?
At Agora, we provide built-in encryption methods that developers can use out of the box. We also enable customized encryption that developers can implement for higher levels of security. Since every use case is different, we engineer our products for optimal security, but give our customers ultimate control over how they design for it.
What are the key practices followed for optimal and economical collaboration experiences during the pandemic?
The key to creating a successful virtual experience during the pandemic is developing the platform or application with Real-Time Engagement in mind. Instead of asking end-users to partake in monotonous one-to-one video, developers using our technology can create environments that include and engage individuals in immersive ways.
To pull this off, you must set the stage for shared context. For example, our partner and virtual event platform Run The World uses powerful interactive features to transform event attendees into active participants versus passive bystanders. With interactive polling, “Groupfies”, virtual cocktail hours and “match making,” guests can immerse themselves in an experience — instead of sitting idly behind a screen for a dry live stream of a conference.
Next, you need to ensure end-user experience is top-notch. No one buffers or lags while engaging in real-life, so your online experiences built to the specifications of Real-Time Engagement should not buffer or lag, either.
This also extends into scalability. Whether there are one or one million participants involved, the quality of the experience you provide should not be compromised. From an economic standpoint, this has proven crucial during the pandemic. Brands that were not able to handle massive influxes of traffic to their platforms suffered greatly and had to quickly find solutions to mitigate issues with their UX.
What are going to be Agora’s key focus areas for the next 12-18 months?
In the next 12-18 months, we will continue to focus on key verticals where RTE makes a huge impact like remote education and virtual events. Online learning is a huge area of opportunity where organizations can improve the experience, they provide to create quality educational environments. Even beyond the pandemic, we see a hybrid in-person and digital schooling model being widely adopted.
In light of the successes (and failures) virtual events have seen in 2020, we see many opportunities in that industry for organizations to expand their reach beyond borders and offer richer experiences. Historically, geography has limited the ability of many to participate in events around the globe. With the advent of more engaging event platforms that are truly borderless, we are seeing these limitations fall away.
That being said, we are not restricting ourselves into any one industry. We are in the business of fostering engagement across all the environments people live, work, and play in. We welcome any and all developers and enterprises to reach out and explore how we can help them make a digital transformation.
India is also witnessing an uptake in adoption of watch parties as well as integration of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) in daily lives. Few months back, a leading financial daily in India reported that how multi shooter gaming platform, Fortnite hosted the first event of the year in digital universe (Metaverse). In a post pandemic world, India will witness an upward trend in adoption of AR and VR tech as businesses will come up with innovative solutions to operate in the new normal. This is something which we are excited about,partnering with businesses to integrate real time engagement solutions.