We are now almost two years into the pandemic. After multiple lockdowns, work from home, remote education and, frankly, remote everything, there is no industry that was left untouched. The communications industry has been paramount to continue many activities by shifting them to virtual and remote scenarios. Doing this so quickly was possible in part due to the communications platform-as-a-service, or CPaaS, vendors.
Along the way, new market segments, use cases and requirements came to be, which have changed the focus and trajectory of the CPaaS market. Let's look at the CPaaS trends shaping the market in 2022.
1. Engagement and insights
CPaaS was mostly transactional in nature until recently. When I discussed 2020 CPaaS trends, I mentioned the shift toward omnichannel to support multiple communication channels. This shift is continuing today as well, but we are also seeing a shift toward customer engagement.
The most prominent example of this shift was at Twilio's 2021 Signal event, where the company announced a pivot toward a customer engagement platform with CPaaS as the foundation. This shift goes after the contact center adjacency, which is a continuation of omnichannel, and adds an engagement layer with the ability to provide insights into customer engagement and the agent experience.
Twilio has been the CPaaS poster child, which will surely push other CPaaS vendors that have taken the omnichannel route toward customer engagement as well.
2. Low-code/no-code development
Low-code/no-code is here to stay. While most CPaaS providers target developers as their main user base, there is a growing demand in simpler offerings with low-code or no-code tools to write and perform communication tasks.
This started with scripting products, such as Twilio Markup Language, or TwiML, and continued with drag-and-drop Flow builders that define the actions to take with incoming communications. Now, we are seeing UX/UI low-code offerings for video calling services, for example.
There are two main reasons for the demand of low-code/no-code offerings:
- Reduced development time and effort. CPaaS is there to facilitate faster development, and if low-code/no-code services can help, then they make great tools to adopt and offer by CPaaS vendors.
- Increased number of direct users for CPaaS vendors. No-code offerings can be used by nondevelopers, which increases the reach and usability of CPaaS platforms to a larger audience.
Expect to see more in this space moving forward.
3. Increased scale
Ever since the pandemic came to our lives, we are communicating more online. We are doing more IP-based calls for longer periods of time, with a larger number of participants. All this boils down to CPaaS vendors needing to scale up their services to cater to and support new use cases, including the following:
- more data centers in more geographic regions to address the growing amount of communications;
- larger capacities for concurrent sessions;
- longer duration of sessions, which can now stretch to hours on end, especially for systems that try to simulate the chatter and communications taking place in an office space; and
- larger sessions, with hundreds or more participants in them.
CPaaS vendors have started ramping up their scale and will continue to do so in 2022, especially when it comes to video, which is the next CPaaS trend.
4. Video services
More than 1 billion people across the globe have learned how to conduct video calls over the internet. From kindergarten students to grandparents keeping safe at home to remote employees communicating with their teams, all have done their fair share of video communications in the past two years. And many are finding it useful moving forward.
This has driven demand for video communication services and, with it, the need for CPaaS vendors to offer video APIs to their customers. Vendors that haven't provided any video capabilities are adding them to their set of tools. Those that offered video services are under pressure to increase their scale. I expect this CPaaS trend to continue well into 2022.
5. Machine learning-based media processing
Machine learning and AI are still strong in CPaaS. That said, I want to shed more light on a subdomain of machine learning in CPaaS that was mostly neglected up until now. That is the ability to use machine learning in the media processing pipeline itself.
Now that many people are working from home, there is a lot less control over the user's environment in a communication interaction. That leads to environments that are noisy -- both in audio and video. To that end, we are seeing more demand for capabilities in the form of noise cancellation and virtual or blurred backgrounds.
In a similar fashion, the need for better diversity and inclusion is bringing with it the need to be able to improve camera lighting, real-time transcription and language translation.
6. CPaaS whitewashing
In recent years, we are seeing many new entrants into the CPaaS space. Some are fully fledged, like Amazon's Chime SDK and Microsoft Azure Communication Services, while others are less so. Many of the entrants to the CPaaS market are trying to bring new thinking and differentiation to the space. Others are just trying to whitewash their existing products with the CPaaS acronym to make their offering more attractive to potential customers.
The pandemic has accelerated digital transformation plans for many companies, which, in turn, caused many providers to try and grab a piece of that pie. This means that many are now coining themselves as CPaaS vendors, and this will continue through 2022.
When evaluating a CPaaS vendor, ask yourself if that vendor is truly offering CPaaS. Find out if the offering is generic and flexible enough for your requirements, how well documented the APIs are and how easy the service is to use without relying on the provider's support team.