We all love video. It gives us the power to make an immediate, personal connection to our family, friends, colleagues, partners and clients.
The demand for conferencing tools has never been greater. As I’m writing this, the world is suffering from COVID 19. Remote communication is of the essence because of social distancing. But after the pandemic is gone, the trend of remote collaboration will become even stronger, as experts say.
That’s why creating an app with the video feature seems like a promising venture. For building one, you’ll most likely need a solid video chat SDK and API (for iOS, Android or websites). But what solution to choose?
At Riseapps, we made a little research on video call SDK and API providers and shared our experience in choosing a suitable tool. Be you a start-up owner or CTO working for a worldwide in-house center, hopefully, find some useful information here. Let’s get started!
What are SDKs and APIs?
In case some of our readers are not tech-savvy, here’s a very short explainer.
An SDK (software development kit) is a set of tools that makes building of the apps easier. Imagine your developers wrote their code from scratch for every app feature. It would be extremely time-consuming and tedious! This is where SDKs come in – with tools like libraries (pieces of code), visual editors (e.g. to layout graphical elements), debuggers, and… APIs.
An API is an interface allowing different types of software to communicate with each other and exchange data. Simply put, an API provides a technical infrastructure helping different tools to work together – in our case – for building the video chat feature.
Need For Video Call API and SDK
The video communication platform as a service (PaaS) market has been constantly evolving, being reinforced with new players. And it’s exactly self-service APIs that drive this market.
The reason video call APIs and SDKs are in high demand are twofold:
- Faster software delivery
The tools dramatically simplify the process of building cross-platform live chats. The robust APIs are easy and quick to implement. As a rule, using them also means you’ll have fewer bugs.
- Saving resources (workforce, money)
With a suitable video call API and SDK, developers can focus on building your app instead of becoming experts in creating specific chat solutions.
Let’s say you need to add a video chat to your PHP (with mySQL) site. Some basic integration procedures might take a few hours, while building your own communication tool could require a couple of months.
If you need any help with integrating a video solution into your app, feel free to contact us, and we’ll do our best to assist you.
Video Calling SDK and API Features
To create a rich experience for app users, video calling SDK and API providers usually pack their tools with a variety of features. We’ll list some of them here.
- Various conferencing formats
You can implement one-to-one, group chats or large scale broadcast sessions in your tool.
- Screen sharing
When hopping on a call, users of your app will be able to present their screen, draw on it, etc.
In a video session, your app users will be able to send data and chat messages to each other.
Your app can have the built-in recording function.
- Voice feature
Chat sessions can be video and voice, voice-only or mixed.
As we’ll see below, the functionality provided by various solutions is the first thing we might pay attention to when choosing a video SDK for Android, iOS or websites.
How to choose the right Video Chat API (SDK) for your tool?
Developing your own tool with a video feature, you might come up with a question: how to choose the right video chat SDK/API?
We addressed this question to Dmytro U., a senior react native developer at Riseapps. Giving the answer, he started with a short foreword that I included as well.
Here’s what he said:
“All SDKs use such thing as WebRTC under the hood which is basically a protocol for transmitting streaming data. Many popular products implement video calls using pure WebRTC.
As for the video chat SDK/API market, there are dozens of solid tools like Twilio and OpenTok. I must admit most of them have very similar functionality. However,
- the capabilities of the platform are probably the first thing to pay attention to. Does the tool support all the features you need? Check out the free trial opportunities of the platform. Video chat API and SDK providers usually give free minutes for you to do preliminary testing and validation.
- Price is another thing to consider, as a tool can be overpriced.
- Finally, the tech support of the platform matters. In case their SDK has some bugs, you’ll have to communicate to the provider, probably, more than just once.”
Following Dmytro’s advice, let’s explore some of the video chat APIs and SDKs.
List of Top Video Chat API and SDK
Twilio is a San Francisco-based developer platform for communication.
Among its products, Twilio offers Programmable video API for building real-time applications using WebRTC and cloud infrastructure.
Key features of Twilio
Key features of Twilio’s solution for video chats include
- Peer-to-peer communication: for up to 4 participants
- Group Rooms: scales up to 50 participants
- REST orchestration & webhooks: developers can control when a room is created and completed via REST API
- Layout and media control
- Co-browsing and screen sharing
- Recordings: storing is available in the Twilio cloud
Sidenote: Since we mentioned WebRTC once more in this article, let’s give a short explanation of it. This tool allows you to add real-time communication capabilities to your app that works on top of an open standard. The technology is available on all modern browsers as well as on native clients for all major platforms. The WebRTC project is open-source and supported by Google, Apple, and Microsoft amongst others.
Can I build a HIPAA compliant tool using Twilio?
As noted, you can create ‘a HIPAA-compliant workflow’ using Twilio’s offerings. Twilio’s Programmable Video claims to be “HIPAA eligible” offering “next-generation HIPAA-compliant patient care”.
The list of HIPAA Eligible Products and Services includes “TURN Relay”, “Peer to Peer Rooms” and “Group Rooms” for implementing programmable video.
How much does Twilio cost?
Twilio’s ‘Programmable video’ pricing starts at $0.004/min per participant for Small Group Rooms (up to 4 participants).
‘Peer-to-peer Room’ pricing is based on the number of minutes your participants are connected to a Room. As of March 2020, it’s $0.0015 per participant per minute.
If you happen to wonder about the Quality-Price-Ratio of Twilio or any other tool, feel free to contact us, so we could share with you our experience and assist you with choosing the most suitable SDK and API provider.
Vonage Video API (formerly TokBox OpenTok)
In February 2020, as we prepared our take on HIPAA compliant API and SDK, this particular solution went under the name of TokBox OpenTok, based on simple Java API.
As of March 2020, however, this toolbox already appears on the web as Vonage Video API. (Disclaimer: New-Jersey based Vonage acquired TokBox in 2018).
Key features of Vonage
The main functionality of Vonage Video API includes
- Supporting video use cases with one-to-one, group chat or large scale broadcast sessions.
- Screen and content sharing between session participants
- Video and voice, voice-only or mixed chat sessions.
- WebRTC and telephony interoperability with Voice API
- Data and chat messages exchanged between all participants in a session.
Can I build a HIPAA compliant tool using Vonage Video API?
As noted, Vonage Video API security features enable healthcare organizations to build HIPAA compliant apps, including receiving BAAs (additional service).
Read Also: HIPAA Сompliant Video Conferencing: All You Need To Know
How much does Vonage cost?
Vonage Video API pricing starts at $ 9.99/month 2,000 streamed subscribed minutes are included in all plans.
Agora is a popular voice, video, and live interactive streaming platform that made its presence known a few years ago.
Among its products, Agora has Video chat SDK that includes all the development tools and cloud infrastructure with support available in Slack.
Key features of Agora
- One-to-One Calls
- Group Chat Calling
- Integration with 3rd party SDKs including face recognition, background segmentation, stickers, etc.
- The Network: Agora claims its SD-RTN™ to be the world’s most advanced RTC network in the world.
Is Agora HIPAA compliant?
Agora platform claims to be HIPAA compliant. It’s also noted its servers do not store any voice or video content.
It’s noted that the Agora SDKs send some info to its servers for troubleshooting, but do not collect information that affects privacy, such as login, identification, and payment.
How much does Agora cost?
Agora Video pricing starts with $3.99 per/1,000 minutes ($0.00399/minute). It’ll enable customers to use group video chat, conference meetings, virtual classrooms, remote assistance, call centers, and more.
Video HD+ (Above 720P), however, costs as high as $14.99 per/1,000 minutes ($0.01499/minute).
Vidyo conferencing company has been a pioneer in video collaboration, operating since 2005. In one of the recent Video Communication PaaS Market 2020 reports the platform is listed as a top manufacturer.
Among its products, the tool offers Vidyo Chat APIs to embed video communication into websites, mobile, or desktop apps.
Key features of Vidyo.io
Top features are not listed by the vendor, but it’s emphasized that its SDK is mobile optimized. They also mention “extreme reliability” of the tool and that it’s “fully customizable.”
Can I build a HIPAA-compliant application on Vidyo.io?
Vidyo.io claims to be a HIPAA-compliant chat API platform.
How much does vidyo.io cost?
Vidyo.io offers monthly subscription plans for $65 per month with 6,500 participant minutes included. If you use more than 6,500 minutes in a single billing period, you’ll be charged $0.01 per minute in overage.
New accounts on Vidyo.io come with 4,000 free minutes to get started.
We’ve explored 4 solutions out of dozens available on the market. If you are still hesitating whether a particular toolkit is suitable for you, let us assist you with a piece of advice.
Our experience in using Video chat API and SDK
At Riseapps, we have considerable experience of implementing video call API and SDK for iOS, Android and websites, primarily in the healthcare industry.
For example, not a while ago we built Kego – an online urgent care clinic where patients can see a doctor via video conference using our secure HIPPA compliant app.
We used a Programmable video SDK of one of the tools mentioned above to implement robust one-to-one calls.
Needless to say, security and compliance were the most important for us in this case. We didn’t have the requirement to implement features like screen sharing or video recording. However, it was theoretically possible within the SDK provided.
The video feature in Kego was implemented for both – website and mobile (iOS, Android) platforms. This call functionality made all the difference for a robust and easy-to-use tool that seamlessly connects patients with their caregivers.
To wrap it up, video chat app SDK and API for iOS, Android and web are golden, as they help save time, money and workforce. Since they allow implementing video features from a third-party tool, your developers don’t have to build them from scratch.
Basic functionality of a video chat API and SDK, price and support level are the key factors to pay attention to when choosing the appropriate solution.
There are a lot of players on the market. In this article, we’ve listed 4 of them featured by providers like Twilio, Vonage, Agora and Vidyo. Having similar functionality, they all can be used for building a HIPAA compliant tool.
If you have any questions about choosing a Video Chat SDK and API for your particular tool, be sure to contact us!
Our expertise allows us to take on the most sophisticated projects and work with the latest technologies. Let us help your big idea come into life! Also, we recommend reading the article about how to build a video chat app.