Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, lots of video conferencing applications have become extremely popular and successful. Zoom, FreeConference, Microsoft Teams, and other apps have everything an average user needs — and more. But they aren’t good enough for companies that handle sensitive data, use specific equipment for video conferencing, or need low-latency communication.
To work with such clients, it isn’t enough to simply create a Zoom-like app for video conferencing. In this article, we discuss how to create custom video conferencing software tailored for a specific industry or client. We also overview industry requirements for such applications, must-have features to ensure comfortable communication, and cybersecurity mechanisms that help to protect video conferences.
The events of 2020 made us move most of our activities online. Whether we want to participate in a business meeting, see a doctor, or go to a concert, we simply need to launch a video conferencing application. That’s why the market for this type of software skyrocketed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Verified Market Research estimated the market size for global video conferencing at $4.02 billion in 2019. They expect it to reach $8.35 billion by 2027.
The competition among general-purpose video conferencing solutions is extremely high. Replicating the success of Zoom, software which went from 37,000 daily active users at the beginning of 2020 to 1.6 million by the end of the year, is an alluring yet highly challenging prospect.
Despite Zoom’s popularity, general-purpose video conferencing applications aren’t the best choice for everyone. Organizations from many industries require features and capabilities that an average video conferencing solution like Zoom can’t provide: enhanced security, close to zero latency, support for industry-specific devices or software, advanced file storage, etc.
Let’s take a look at the key benefits of building your own custom video conferencing app and several examples of specific requirements for such applications.
Developing custom video conferencing software helps you stand out among competitors, find your target audience, and deliver the best service to your customers. It's quite challenging process, but it’s rewarding in the end. Here are the key reasons to build a Zoom-like app for a specific industry or customer:
- Satisfy specific customers' needs — Some organizations require video conferencing software with specific features that are unavailable in general-purpose solutions. For example, record labels use specific equipment to ensure the best possible quality of their recordings. That’s why they require a video conferencing solution that supports this equipment. Also, they need software with low latency to be able to rehearse in real time.
- Provide high-quality video conferencing — Popular video conferencing applications like Zoom and Skype often have issues with video and audio quality or have high latency during calls. Such issues not only irritate users but can disrupt their work. With an improved quality of video conferencing, you can help call participants feel like they’re in the same room.
- Enhanced cybersecurity — Cybersecurity issues are common for general-purpose video conferencing solutions. Many users avoid using Zoom for security reasons. In custom software, you can implement advanced security measures alongside compliance requirements: encryption algorithms, access management capabilities, administrative features, etc.
Besides video calls and messaging, various industries have specific use cases for video conferencing software that result in specific requirements:
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Music and cinematography
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General-purpose software typically can’t meet these highly specific requirements. To meet their needs, businesses can build custom video conferencing software.
Later in this article, we’ll take a look at features that implement the specific requirements mentioned above. For now, let’s overview some must-have features when creating a video conferencing app.
No matter your software’s target audience, you need to ensure your software is comfortable to use, compatible with popular devices and operating systems, and secure.
When making any Zoom-like video conferencing app, make sure to implement such features:
- User profile management. This feature includes user registration; setting up, editing, and deleting user profiles; changing user statuses; etc. The more options users have for managing their accounts, the better.
- Contact list. This list helps users find each other by username, email, company, city, or other search parameters.
- Video and audio call management. Video conferencing software usually supports both one-on-one and multipoint calls up to a certain number of users. Audio and video quality are the key parameters of a call. The software has to allow for scheduling and recording calls, sharing screens, and more. Also, users appreciate when conferencing software allows them to use masks and backgrounds during calls.
- Text messaging. Users need to exchange text messages both during and outside of calls. The software has to allow them to chat with each other, create group chats, and receive push notifications about new messages.
- File sharing. Users need to exchange files to conduct productive meetings. You can implement peer-to-peer file sharing (users store shared files on their computers) or copy shared data to a cloud or private server.
- Dashboards. Dashboards help software administrators analyze statistics on daily video conferencing use, the most common challenges, and possible improvements. You can augment dashboards with artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities to make software analyze data from dashboards and provide predictions automatically.
- Cross-platform capabilities. To be able to connect users with various devices and operating systems, your video conferencing software should support various platforms like Windows, Linux, macOS, Android, and iOS.
- Scalability. When designing the software’s architecture and infrastructure, take into account possible needs to scale up or down in order to provide services to new customers without quality disruptions.
When implementing these must-have functionalities, make sure to customize them. Figure out which features your audience values the most and carefully balance the app according to their requirements. Here are several questions you can ask yourself to figure out those requirements:
- What sorts of files are your users going to share?
- Do users need specific dashboards?
- Do users require specific messaging capabilities like emojis or custom stickers?
- What’s more important for users: a stable connection, good video quality, or both equally?
- How many users are going to be on the average call?
After you’ve outlined the key features of your software, you can move to your audience’s specific video conferencing requests. In the next section, we’ll overview the eight most common functionalities and ways to implement them.
Making a video conferencing app with custom functionality is usually a complicated but rewarding process. Here are several examples of features you can implement in industry-specific solutions:
- AI-based video quality improvements. Video production companies use conferencing applications to record content. For example, the BBC recorded the award-winning series Staged via conference calls. To do that, they use professional cameras, but they also need software that can process and improve high-quality video in real time. Using AI to upscale video allows you to truly improve the quality instead of simply increasing the resolution.
- Advanced noise suppression. A lot of popular video conferencing applications have noise reduction filters, but they aren’t good enough for professional audio and video recording. Software for such purposes needs noise suppression mechanisms that can cancel surrounding sounds without harming voices and musical instruments.
- Low latency. Latency and freezes in video conferences are generally annoying, but they can be especially disruptive in professional video conferencing. To deliver real-time conferencing, you need to develop specific communication protocols, implement streaming frameworks (GStreamer, Apache Storm, etc.), or even create custom drivers to handle audio and video streams.
- Advanced file storage system. Many organizations use video conferencing not only to communicate but to share materials. They need a system that stores data for a long time and allows them to manage and sort that data, configure access to shared files, etc. To work with such organizations, you need cloud-based or server-based software (we’ll describe implementation options later) with robust data storage and management options.
- Feature set for conducting webinars. Organizations that conduct webinars often need a specific set of configurations. Firstly, they need payment functionality to conduct paid webinars. Then, a webinar has to be scheduled, with the ability for participants to subscribe and get a notification. During the webinar, the speaker or administrator needs to be able to manage participants’ privileges, share their screen, create whiteboards, conduct polls, and so on.
- Integration with industry-specific software. There’s a high chance your clients use customer relationship management systems, enterprise resource planning systems, electronic health records management systems, and other industry solutions. They will appreciate the ability to integrate video conferencing into them. For example, a doctor may need to review patient records before a call, or a mortgage broker may have to analyze a client’s financial records before discussing mortgage options.
- Support for devices. Video conferencing software has to support corporate video conferencing hardware and specific user devices: professional cameras, microphones, mixing tables, virtual reality (VR) headsets, etc. Not all of those devices have drivers that allow them to be used for video conferencing. That’s why you have to foresee compatibility issues and implement support for such devices in your software.
- Support for electronic signatures. The ability to review and sign documents while video conferencing is particularly important for financial organizations, law firms, and institutions in the public sector. Electronic signatures are based on the digital signature encryption mechanism, which is considered an alternative to physically signing a document. Implementing this mechanism in your video conferencing software allows users to witness and sign documents and record the signing process as additional proof.
- VR integration. Hosting events in VR is getting more popular because of the pandemic and severe limitations on real-life gatherings. Events organizations stream concerts, festivals, and stage performances in the form of 360-degree real-time video. To do that, they require software capable of processing and streaming large amounts of data that supports both PCs, smartphones, and VR headsets and provides high-quality audio and video.
It’s best to figure out the set of general and specific features you need to implement before you start building a video conferencing app. This way, you’ll save hours of development time and deliver software to your customers within the deadlines. Another thing you need to ensure is the security of user communications. Ensuring the security of communications is as important as making communication comfortable. Let’s review the key features to improve protection of your software.
Popular video conferencing applications are widely known for suffering from cybersecurity issues. Zoom is infamous for its numerous exploits and compromises. Reportedly, SpaceX even banned its employees from using Zoom because of privacy issues. A vulnerability in Microsoft Teams allowed hackers to get access to all Teams accounts of an attacked organization. Skype provides hackers with mechanisms to spoof and spear phish users.
Because of such incidents, businesses that work with sensitive data look for more reliable communication solutions.
You can ensure strong protection of your software with the following features:
- End-to-end (E2E) encryption. This type of encryption protects data transmitted between two endpoints. The first endpoint encrypts the message and only the second endpoint can decrypt it. E2E is considered one of the most secure types of encryption, as no one in the communication chain (service provider, cloud provider, server, unauthorized intruder) other than the two participating endpoints can read the message. Keep in mind that this type of encryption has its limitations: it’s challenging to implement call recordings, facial recognition, noise reduction, or image improvements with E2E.
How to Ensure Chat Security with OpenSSL
- Multi-factor authentication (MFA). MFA is an additional access control measure that helps to verify the identity of a user trying to log in to software. MFA can verify a user with three categories of parameters: knowledge (credentials or additional questions), possession (phone or safety token), or heritage (fingerprints or other biometric data). Biometric MFA is the most reliable, but keep in mind that a user needs a fingerprint scanner, high-end microphone, or camera to pass this authentication.
- Smart contracts for data protection. Applying blockchain technology in video conferencing provides lots of security benefits: decentralized data storage, protected data processing and transfer, and user confidentiality. Also, it’s possible to gain extra marketing points for using cutting-edge technology or implementing blockchain-based monetization. However, blockchains have issues with processing vast amounts of data in real time (for example, streaming 4K video or sharing big files), administering corporate communications, scaling, and complying with regulations.
- Corporate and private domains. Private domains allow organizations to customize security and operational settings according to their needs. For example, they can allow access to the domain via invitation and create groups of users with configurable access rights.
- Configurable administrator settings for calls. Administrators that manage online meetings with many participants need advanced settings to manage calls. They need to manually allow users to join calls, schedule speakers, mute or ban participants, moderate chats, and so on.
- Robust privacy policies. Security policies allow software administrators to configure video conferencing software according to the needs of the organization or a particular meeting. For example, admins may need to enable or disable E2E encryption and file sharing, configure general user rights, and manage users that join private domains and groups.
The features we’ve discussed above are required for most video conferencing applications as they ensure security, smooth operation, and a comfortable user experience.
When you’ve figured out the full feature set for your software, it’s time to discuss the way you’ll be implementing it with your development team. Let’s take a look at common ways to create a Zoom-like app along with their pros, cons, and use cases.
In the past, video conferencing solutions were divided into hardware-based and software-based. Hardware-based solutions required specific devices. They provided better video quality and secure communication, but they were more expensive than software-based solutions. To use a software-based solution, users needed simply to install an application.
In modern solutions, this separation has disappeared for two key reasons:
- Developers of software-based solutions have greatly improved the quality of communication
- Webcams and microphones that provide decent video and audio quality have become more affordable
Today, there are three major options of how to build a video conferencing app:
Peer-to-peer software routes video conferencing traffic between the endpoints of users participating in the communication. There’s no interaction with a server, cloud, or any other third party. Usually, such solutions are based on WebRTC, XMPP protocols, Jitsi, Peer'Em, and other communication software. To build a peer-to-peer solution, you’ll need to design, implement, and support the application itself, its infrastructure, and cybersecurity mechanisms.
Here are the key benefits of building peer-to-peer software:
- Secure communication. Since there’s no intermediary in the communication, it’s harder for a hacker to intercept or listen to traffic. If the communication is protected with E2E encryption, hackers have little to no chance to intercept it.
- High quality of one-on-one calls. User endpoints usually have no challenges in sending and interpreting communication data in direct communication. The only limitations here are the capacity of a user’s webcam and microphone.
When it comes to advanced multipoint communication, peer-to-peer implementation poses the following limitations:
- Unpredictable quality of multipoint calls. Call quality depends on the number of call participants, their bandwidth, and device limitations. For a developer, it’s challenging to manage and improve the quality of multipoint calls.
- Implementation of file sharing and call recording. Implementing these features is challenging since peer-to-peer software doesn’t use servers. Files shared by the user are available until the user renames or deletes them from the endpoint. Recording a call will use additional resources on a user’s endpoint.
- Little control over the conference. In peer-to-peer communications, developers can’t implement algorithms that improve audio and video quality.
Pros and cons of peer-to-peer video conferencing software
Unpredictable quality of multipoint calls
High quality of one-on-one calls
Impossible to implement file sharing and call recording
Little control over the conference
Cloud-based software uses communications platform as a service (CPaaS) or similar cloud solutions to deploy the server side of the solution and maintain the infrastructure. This type of video conferencing software is the fastest to deploy because the developer only has to create the client side and sign an agreement with a cloud provider. Examples of such providers are AT&T, Bandwidth, Infobip, and Twilio.
Hosting your video conferencing application in the cloud has the following benefits:
- Short time to market. Implementing cloud-based video conferencing apps requires less development effort compared with implementing peer-to-peer and server-based apps.
- Ability to process communication data. Before routing calls to user endpoints, the cloud service processes communication data. That means developers can manage the quality of calls, record them, implement data storage features, and more.
The disadvantages of this type of software are common for any cloud-based applications:
- Dependency on the cloud provider. Changing the cloud provider when you have already deployed and released your application can be challenging and painful.
- Poor scalability. You can’t use more server resources than the provider is able to provide. Also, scaling your software may lead to changes in cloud service pricing.
Pros and cons of cloud-based video conferencing software
Short time to market
Dependency on the cloud provider
Ability to process communication data
Server-based software requires a dedicated media server to handle and redirect data streams during a call. This is the best implementation option for a custom video conferencing solution because it provides developers with the following benefits:
- Total control over the software and its data. As the only owner of both the server and client sides of the application, you can implement any features you need, protect your data with necessary cybersecurity mechanisms, add support for any devices, and scale according to your needs.
- High audio and video quality. You can enhance your media server with any video and audio improvement mechanisms discussed above to provide your clients with the best possible quality of communication. Also, you can scale video down according to users’ device capabilities to reduce bandwidth.
Here are the key challenges of creating a server-side application:
- The need for an expert development team. Since you have to implement each feature by yourself, you need a development team that’s up to this task. Based on your needs, the team may need to include AI and blockchain experts, embedded software and driver developers to ensure support for specific devices, cybersecurity engineers to design data protection, etc.
- Full responsibility for the software. In the software-based model, you don’t share the responsibility for the performance or security of your solution with a cloud provider or peer-to-peer communication protocol developers.
Pros and cons of server-based video conferencing software
Total control over the software and its data
Need an expert development team
High audio and video quality
Full responsibility for the software
As you can see, each implementation model has major benefits and limitations. The choice between them should be based on your client’s needs, the abilities of the development team, and your project’s budget.
Although video conferencing is a highly competitive and rapidly changing market, there is still a lack of highly protected and customized video conferencing solutions like Zoom. That’s why many businesses consider developing software tailored to their industry and customers.
Building your own video conferencing system means you need to:
- equip it with advanced video conferencing features to ensure a positive user experience
- protect data with cybersecurity mechanisms requested by customers or required for compliance with industry regulations and standards
- add specific features that help your customers work
- choose a relevant implementation model
At Apriorit, we have deep expertise in remote access and management solution development, video delivery, and cybersecurity, allowing us to produce video conferencing software that meets all your needs. Thanks to our experience in low-level driver development, we can also build all drivers and codecs necessary for handling different types of audio and video streams.
Feel free to contact us and discuss your future project!