Web conference: from R&D notification at the service of

As chamadas de vídeo com várias pessoas, via internet, utilizando computadores e smartphones estão tão presentes no dia a dia do nosso "novo normal" que parecem ser fruto de uma tecnologia simples, que existe desde sempre. Mas não é bem assim que a banda toca. Para dar início à nossa série de matérias sobre os serviços oferecidos pela RNP que tiveram origem no Programa de P&D, vamos falar do Conferência Web, que, durante a pandemia do novo coronavírus, se tornou essencial para instituições de ensino e pesquisa e cujo uso segue crescendo exponencialmente.

Senta que lá vem história...

Era uma vez o ano de 2010. Como fazia anualmente desde 2002, a RNP lançou um edital para fomentar Grupos de Trabalho visando o desenvolvimento de projetos colaborativos que demonstrassem a viabilidade no uso de novos protocolos, serviços e aplicações de rede e que possibilitassem à organização ampliar a oferta de serviços através da parceria com a comunidade de pesquisa.

Eis que surge uma proposta da Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS), coordenado pelo professor Valter Roesler, com o objetivo de desenvolver um sistema completo de webconferência com capacidade de interoperar transparentemente entre computadores conectados na web e dispositivos móveis ligados nas redes de telefonia. A ideia era surfar a onda da expansão da banda larga no Brasil, tanto para o acesso fixo quanto, principalmente, para o acesso móvel, através do uso das tecnologias 3G (vejam vocês).

O projeto foi selecionado, pois se encaixava perfeitamente com o momento vivido no país, no contexto da expansão da rede. E o grupo ganhou o nome de GT Sistema de Multiconferência para Acesso Interoperável Web e Móveis ou apenas GT-Mconf para os íntimos.

“Precisamos fazer várias escolhas tecnológicas ao longo do tempo. Uma das principais foi a escolha de cooperação em uma plataforma de código aberto que também estava nos seus primórdios no início do projeto, em 2010. Essa plataforma é o BBB (BigBlueButton). A parceria

Video calls with many people, via internet, using computers and smartphones, are very present on the day by day of our “new normal” that seem to be result of a simple technology, that has always existed. But it is not true. To start or series of articles about the services offered by RNP originated from R&D Program, let’s talk about Web Conference, that, during new coronavirus pandemic, became crucial for education and research institutions, and its use grows in an exponential base.

It seems like a history is coming...

Once upon a time in 2010. As habitual since 2002, RNP launched a notice to finance Work Groups aiming the development of collaborative projects demonstrating the feasibility of the use of new network protocols, services and applications, allowing the organization to enhance the offer of services by partnership with the research community.

Now comes a proposal from Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS), coordinated by Professor Valter Roesler, in order to develop a complete web conference system, able to interoperate in a transparent manner between computers connected on web and mobile devices connected on phone networks. The idea was to surf on wide band expansion wave in Brazil, either for wired access or, mainly, for mobile access, through the use of 3G technologies (see by yourself).

The project was selected, because it fits perfectly with the moment of the country, in the context of network expansion. And the group was named GT Multiconference System for Interoperable Web and Mobile Access, or GT-Mconf only.

“We were forced to make a lot of technological choices along time. One of the main was the choice of cooperation on an open source platform, which also was in blueprint in the beginning of the project, on 2010. This platform is BBB (BigBlueButton). The partnership for developing MConf/BBB code was successfully. Other major challenges were because of the technology itself. Versions of mobile devices change constantly.  Next the device changed from “develop different applications for different devices” to “develop a single application in different sizes of screen, with fluid layouts”. In business field, challenges were of the businessman who founded Mconf Tecnologia Ltda. Spin-off of PRAV (Audio and Video Projects) Lab, of UFRGS. Felipe Cecagno and Leonardo Daronco had to “change the mind” of a functional prototype to a market product, and it is a major step, considering that it involves problems of profit, sustainability, team hiring, marketing, etc.”, tells Valter, GT-Mconf coordinator.

Time elapsed, the proposal came to reality and the project evolved. On 2013, GT-Mconf application was incorporated to RNP as experimental service and, in next year, it evolved to a pilot, then passing to in-house production in the organization. On 2016, it became to be the official web video conference service of RNP, replacing the previous one, provided by Adobe Connect.

Evolução do Conferência Web GT-MConf

O

The service was maintained in constant evolution, a fact crucial to reach terrific year of 2020 prepared for the greatest challenge since its creation.

“None (challenge) is comparable to the challenge faced in the beginning of pandemics, the need to escalate the solution for a great number of simultaneous users. From one week to another one, the number of users of the service grown more than ten times, and, to serve this demand, an extraordinary effort of the whole team was necessary, and also trust that the challenge will be surpassed - and the numbers of the services are the proof of the success of this work”, highlights Felipe Cecagno, one of the partners of Mconf. Tecnologia Ltda.

In order to get a better understanding of the huge challenge coming with new coronavirus pandemic, check out the numbers below:

Números mostram crescimento vertiginoso do uso do Conferência Web entre abril e maio.

 

One of the answers to meet the exponential growing of the demand for this service was the availability of streaming functionality, enhancing  the participation on virtual meetings to two thousand participants, beyond the limit up to 75 participants per virtual room.

Check out this and other new functionalities watching the video below:

Web Conference was not intimidated and controlled the situation. And, as everything in life, the larger is the obstacle, the larger is the gratefulness feeling when surpassing it.

“I believe that one of the goals of every human being is trying to “leave a legacy”, either as success children, education for students, guidance, etc. I am very proud to have participated in the creation of a product very important today, used by more than half million people in Brazil and worldwide, which gives support to multiple uses related to education, health, meeting of professionals in several areas, in summary video collaboration in general. Today, when someone asks a typical question about researcher’s life “what are the most important jobs in your professional life?”. I have an easy answer”, promotes Professor Valter Roesler, supported by Felipe Cecagno, his student on UFGRS.

“It is so much gratifying know we developed a product which may aid several institutions to continue their activities, in despite of the difficulties created by pandemic. A situation in this severity affects the whole society in many modes, creating many kinds of losses including economic. A tool that allows communication and collaboration between people, while need of physical distancing still exists, aids a lot to minimize these negative impacts. Keep this in mind motivate us to work and improve even more”.

From RNP standpoint, Web Conference Success is a combination of competences beyond the R&D Program itself. It is the result of excellent researches applied in partnership with the full range of academy construction, open innovation of structured RNP that is under enhancement, every member of the work group (WG) and partner startup, new products or improvements of existing products made feasible and the whole team of the organization involved in the technological development process. 

“Web Conference is crucial, and every time more strategic for the whole RNP System, and it is important, because the users are who really make it relevant. And the engagement of everybody involved for delivery this service is undoubtedly the reason to surpass every day the challenges of this exponential growing, reinforcing this importance. I remembered a lunch at UFGRS cafeteria, seating at table with Professor Valter Roesler, coordinator at this time of GT-Mconf, talking about the opportunity of the students to create a startup on 2012. In the same lunch, also Felipe Cecagno and Leonardo Darong, Valter students, members of PRAV Lab and GT-Mconf, and they become founding partners of Mcong Technology! I celebrate the conquest of everyone and all of us until now. I’m glad for helping to write this history! Go forward”” celebrates RNP R&D manager, André Marins.

To infinity and beyond
Considering the ten-year route, since the proposal presented for the R&D notice, coming to current days,  with the service becoming essential during pandemic, and with half million users, where Web Conference may arrive?

Two of the creators will now address us:

Valter Roesler: “I would like to see Mconf, in future, massively internationalized. Maybe RNP is able to aid in this meaning. There are still some technological challenges to achieve this level, but certainly we have a product in international level on our hands.”

Felipe Cecagno: “There are multiple opportunities for improvement and innovations in the service, either in term of new functionalities for collaboration on virtual classroom, or regarding improvement of functionalities and management resources already existing - specially mobility and integration between RNP services. The current moment show us the great potential of video collaboration usage in education and research institutions in the country, and we believe in progressive and continuous increase in the demand for the service, as more disclosure is done inside the community, and Web Conference still delivery a high quality service”.

Did your institution already adhered to Web Conference, but you do not know how to use it? Lean how with the tutorial made by Universidade Federal Fluminense (UFF).

Curious facts

First version of Mconf on 2011 and first GT team on UFGRS:

Primeira versão do Mconf em 2011 e primeira equipe do GT


From Left to right: Arthur Rauter, Felipe Cecagno, Fernando Bottin, Giancarlo Rampanelli, Leonardo Daronco, Valter Roesler and Alessandra Leonhardt.

Professor Valter Roeler makes a presentation about the application in WRNP on 2012:

Professor Valter Roesler faz apresentação sobre a aplicação no WRNP em 2012

 

Team on opening of new headquarters of Mconf Technology, 2019:

Equipe na inauguração da nova sede da Mconf Tecnologia em 2019

 

Chinese university uses the same platform of Web Conference for classes during pandemic

Plataforma do Conferência Web em universidade da China


 

;